Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Mt. 28:18-20
What does joining God’s Story entail? First you become Jesus’ disciple, and then you make more disciples. This is what Jesus described in his Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) to the first disciples.
In Mk. 2:13-17, Jesus calls Levi to become his disciple. Levi worked in the tax collector’s office in Capernaum. Capernaum was a town on the Sea of Galilee and was Jesus’ headquarters for ministry. One day when Jesus was walking by the tax collector’s office, he commanded Levi to follow him. Levi knew exactly what was at stake, got up, and became Christ’s disciple. It seems from this story that Jesus and Levi had seen each other before. Levi may have observed Jesus’ miracles, heard his teaching, or seen him expel demons. Maybe they had talked.
The words follow me indicate following as a disciple (the Greek verb form is in the present continuous tense). Levi heard it this way, “Follow me and keep following me.” This implied a relationship of learning from Jesus, and joining his ministry’s team of disciples.
Follow me implies, “walk with me, and go where I go; find out what I’m doing and do it with me; obey my teachings and become like me.” Jesus gave the command and Levi obeyed. Jesus invited Levi; now he is inviting you. Will you join him?
There are those on your campus today who will intellectually agree that Jesus is a great man, or made a great contribution to the world. They may even agree in principle with the gospel message. Being a disciple of Jesus takes more than intellectual agreement with the gospel message, or that Jesus is a great man. Being a disciple means joining your life to the resurrected Jesus who is King of all. It takes committing your entire life to obeying him as your master.
There are too many Christians who treat Christianity like a church potluck where they eat only the foods they like. They pick and choose from the bible what they want to believe and obey. They may want answered prayer, but not suffering and persecution. They may want forgiveness, but not a life of making Jesus known throughout the world.
If you follow Jesus, you are choosing to die to your self-will. This is what Jesus demands:
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels,’” (Mk. 8:34-38).
He demands identification with his suffering and his work of atonement on the cross. He died for your sins, now you die to your self-will, and live for him. When you come to Jesus, you must want him more than you want anything else, and you must give him control over every aspect of your life. He is your Lord and master.
Discipleship Was Common in Jesus’ Day
In Jesus’ day, sons were trained in their father’s occupation. Joseph was a carpenter, so he taught Jesus the skill of carpentry. Boys would sit under the teaching of a local rabbi; they were that rabbi’s disciples; they learned his spiritual discipline. This form of father-son, teacher-pupil or craftsman-apprentice training was common in Christ’s day.
The same thing was true in the intellectual realm before Christ’s time. Socrates had discipled young students who wanted to learn his way of thinking. The apostle Paul, before he was converted, was a disciple of the Rabbi Gameliel, possibly the greatest rabbi of his day. It was a common everyday thing, and Jesus’ disciples knew what it meant to be a disciple. It meant being an apprentice, learning a skill, being trained, learning the discipline of their master and becoming like him. This is what Jesus called each of the first twelve to become. It’s what he calls you to become. Very importantly, he also wants you to invite others to be a disciple of Christ.
Jesus Helps You Every Step of the Journey
Some may be a little hesitant or frightened by the serious nature of making disciples. Some may feel guilty about their failure, or lack of obedience to Christ’s command. But Jesus promises that you don’t have to make disciples by yourself. Jesus is always with you (Mt. 28:20). Christ calls you to obey only what he promised to enable you to do. Christ’s calling is Christ’s enabling.
You Are Christ’s Ambassador
You continue Jesus’ mission in the world. You are his ambassador; his highest legal representative. It is you who proclaim his word, and do his works on the earth. You are his ambassador. This is what 2 Cor 5:14-21 says:
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus chose you to do his work? This has been his method from the beginning. He knew that his love and his Spirit would transform the way you think and feel. He knew that he could effectively love each person on the planet if each of his followers showed his love to those they saw every day.
Jesus wants you to lead friends and classmates to him. He is always with you, and he will enable you to lead others closer to him. He is the living water; you are the pipeline through which he flows. It’s not about how smart, experienced or gifted you are; it’s about whom you trust. Jesus is trustworthy.
Make Disciples of All Nations
Jesus wants you to make disciples of all nations (ethnic-linguistic groups). His goal is to have worshipers from every tribe, tongue and people (Rev. 5:9-10 and 7:9-10). The scope of Jesus’ command is global—every ethnic group on planet earth. For Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19) to be fulfilled, you must be dedicated to getting the word to everyone, everywhere. The university campus is an excellent place to start because students from many tribes, languages, and nations gather to learn. Investing in relationships with students from all groups will cause the gospel to spread when they return to their own people.
Jesus Wants Every Generation to Follow Him
Not only does Jesus want people from every ethnic group to follow him, he wants people from every generation to follow him. When you have children, be good moms and dads. When you go to university, be good spiritual parents to your fellow students. A generation is a short time on a university campus (perhaps 4 or 5 years). Do you care enough about this year’s freshmen that you will train them to reach next year’s? And the next year’s? What you say, and how you live, will greatly influence your fellow students, and the generations of students after them.
What is Your Vision for Reaching Your Campus?
What is your vision? How far does your vision go? Two years? Fifty years? One hundred? Until the job of world evangelization is completed? Jesus said in Mt. 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Jesus’ vision goes through the end of time.
Work Yourself Out of a Job
Discipleship is transferring the leadership when the time is right. Have you ever watched the Olympic Games? One of the events is the 400-meter relay race. Four team members run as fast as they can for 100 meters, then pass a baton to the next runner. Each runner must do two things extremely well; run fast, then make sure the next runner receives the baton. Do you see how this applies to making disciples? You must be an excellent disciple of Jesus, then you must pass on everything you have learned to those you are discipling.
You can read in Acts 9-13 about the marvelous relationship between Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas is not remembered as greatly in history; it’s Paul’s name that everyone knows. But there would have been no Paul without Barnabas. Barnabas took a chance on Paul when no one else did. He trained and encouraged him in such a way that Jesus could use him to be the greatest missionary of all time.
Barnabas took Paul on many ministry experiences. At first he led the way. As Paul matured as a Christ-follower, Barnabas gave him the leadership. You must do this as well. Train others in such a way that they can do your job. Work yourself out of a job!
Lead by Serving
Jesus calls us to exhibit servant leadership for those we are training.
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mt. 20:25-28).
You act as a servant by training others to do all that you can do for Jesus. You train someone to take your place; you transfer the leadership when the time is right.
This is what Jesus did with his disciples—he trained them to take over when he went back to heaven. This is what Paul did wherever he and Timothy went to plant churches. Jesus wants to provide for the discipling of his people. He wants there to be smooth transitions. You are to love the next generation so much that you prepare for them now. What are you doing or will you do in your ministry to ensure that discipleship is actively taking place 2 years from today? Fifty years from today? One hundred? Now is the time to prepare.
Think back to the earlier times of your Christian experience. Maybe it wasn't too long ago. Who invited you into a discipleship relationship? What was your experience growing in Christ like?
The text gives a definition for what it meant to follow a rabbi in Jesus’ context. Who do you follow?
Has the great commission been of little, medium, or great importance in your christian life so far?
Who are you passing the baton to? Who are you seeking out to disciple?
Used by permission from Michael Mowry; Chi Alpha Director Central Washington University