The rest of this week we will examine four “constants” for discipleship. We’ll draw this from Matthew’s gospel; who is exceptionally interested in what it is to be a disciple of Jesus. This outline is originally from my father who also taught at ANCC (1964-1998).
The first step in discipleship is to “respond to the great invitation.” Jesus makes this invitation in Matthew 11:25-30.
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus praises his father that it is not through human intelligence or wisdom that the gospel is found but through God’s gracious favour towards the weak and vulnerable: the little children (vss. 25-26). In a phrase that recalls the Great Commission (vs. 27; cf. Matthew 28:18), Jesus reveals that it is He who is the way to know the Father. All the would-be disciples need to do is recognise their need and respond in faith (vs. 28). They do take Jesus’ yoke upon themselves but that yoke is shared with Jesus (vs. 29) and is not burdensome. The analogy is of oxen ploughing together with a young ox learning from the older ox. The older ox does most of the pulling.
So what do we learn from this about discipleship? Firstly, when we become disciples of Jesus, it is not through our wisdom but through his revelation. Even our recognition of need is a gift from God. We need to respond in reliance and faith to find rest. Secondly, all disciples have to go through recognition of need. Whether it is a sudden crisis moment or a slow dawning of the necessity, we must move from self-reliance to reliance on Christ. Thirdly, this is not a ticket to heaven or a free ride. There is obligation to turn to Christ and take up his purposes in the world and not our own. The kingdom of Heaven is at hand and by turning to him in need we also turn away from ourselves.