Disciples' Practices (5)
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

A Greek class at a preaching school was given the assignment to analyze the grammar and structure of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  They were to do this in order to gain insights and to explain the meaning of the parable more effectively.  Then each student was to give an original translation of the passage.  On the day the assignment was due, three of the students in the class decided to try something.  One boy became the victim, and the other two were his attackers.  The attackers ripped up a shirt and then rubbed his pants in the dirt and added ketchup, grape juice, and mud to them.  The victim's face was then marked up to the point that he was barely recognizable.  The victim laid down in a path that went from the dormitory to the classroom, and he began moaning and groaning and wailing as if he was in great pain.  As the other students were making their way to the Greek class with their completed assignments, they walked around the victim, stepped over the victim, and a few even spoke to him, but nobody stopped and stooped over to offer him any help!  They had learned the parable academically, but they had failed miserably in applying it practically!  We preachers can be pretty insensitive at times.  We've all been looking at the topic of discipleship.  Maybe we've gained a little more insight intellectually, but have we been able to apply it practically in our own world and in our own lives? 

“A disciple was a learner.  A man was known as a disciple when he bound himself to another in order to acquire his skills and knowledge.  The word was sometimes nearly synonymous with the term “apprentice”.  There was never a disciple without a master or teacher” (Deffinbaugh).  So, the disciple becomes a lifelong student of the master or rabbi under whom he studied.  The disciple was one who followed, questioned, discussed, and walked in his teacher's ways.  “A disciple of Rabbi Jesus is one who totally surrenders to Him and His way of seeing and doing things.  As such, a disciple comes with a willing desire to conform all aspects of his or her life to the authoritative Lordship of Jesus Christ” (Greenwold).  Disciples have about five tasks: they submit to their master's will; they memorize their master's words, they learn their master's ways, they imitate their master's life, and they grow to the point that they can become teachers themselves.

Now have these actions permeated our relationship with Christ, and do we teach others who are unbelievers that such actions should be a part of their relationship with Christ if they would be His disciple?  We've noticed how being Jesus' disciple can transform our minds when we listen as Jesus listened, think as Jesus thought, and believe as Jesus believed.  We've seen how being Jesus' disciple can transform our character when we live as Jesus lived, pray as Jesus prayed, and obey as Jesus obeyed.  We've discovered that being Jesus' disciple can transform our relationships when we care as Jesus cared, love as Jesus loved, and forgive as Jesus forgave.  And we learned last week that being Jesus' disciple can transform our morality when we pursue holiness as Jesus pursued holiness, battle as Jesus battled, and watch as Jesus watched!  We are tying to apply a simple principle: to rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus' life.  Today we want to look at three more practices which we can imitate. 

The first practice is this: we should seek as Jesus sought.  There are three actions that we find Jesus doing very often: walking with others, eating with others, and sharing with others.  These are ways that He sought, and ways that we can practice as well.

Walking with others is seen clearly in at least two examples.  The first involves that short chief tax-collector named Zacchaeus, who climbed up in a sycamore tree to get a view of Jesus.  Suddenly, Jesus tells him to come down because He wants to go to his house.  How far did both of those men have to walk to get from that tree to Zacchaeus' house?  The text doesn't give us the distance, but it does say that the crowd was pretty critical of Jesus for His wanting to spend time with this man because everybody knew that this extortioner was a CPA who kept four sets of books and exploited every taxpayer to the hilt!  What did they talk about as they walked?  Out of all the people in Jericho, why did Jesus chose to take some time to be with his man?  Isn't it amazing how the Holy Spirit has a wonderful way of getting sinners and saints together?

Jesus' visit with this rich man was not in vain, and He must have done a great deal of plain teaching because the next words from Zacchaeus show some radical repentance—he wants to give half his goods to the poor and is willing to pay back anybody he's cheated four times as much!  Jesus compliments him and affirms that His mission has been to come in order to seek and to save those who are lost!  Will you follow in Jesus' steps? 

Walking as Jesus walked might not make you very popular.  Are you ready for the heat and the criticism?  Walking as Jesus walked will lead you to some strange places with some odd smells.  Walking as Jesus walked will lead you to some confrontations with death.  Walking as Jesus walked will lead you to some very hurting and troubled people.  Walking as Jesus will take a lot of humility.  A second example is the time in Luke 24:13ff where Jesus walks up and joins Himself to two disciples on the the road to Emmaus asking them why they are sad and what's going on.  They tell about how the Jewish rulers handed Jesus over to be crucified, how they had hoped that Jesus was going to be the Messiah, and some women showed up making silly assertions that angels said He was alive.  Then Jesus mildly rebukes them and starts explaining what the Scripture taught about the Messiah, about His sufferings, and about His glory.  The two persuade Jesus to remain with them to eat, and at that moment when He breaks the bread, they realize Who He really is!  As you walk with others like Jesus did, are you willing to take some time, to listen to what they have to say, and to discover how they feel?  As you walk with others like Jesus did, are you ready to share in their sadness, their heartaches, and their griefs?  As you walk with others like Jesus did, are you prepared to help them see their misconceptions by using the Scriptures to explain the truth to them?  Seek as Jesus sought by walking with others!

Jesus also ate with others.  Someone has calculated that there are eight times when Jesus and eating are mentioned together in the Matthew, Mark, and John, and eight similar meal stories in Luke.  Jesus was not afraid to eat with others. Sometimes it was with only a few, and sometimes it was with thousands.  Sometimes it was with those classified as “sinners,” and sometimes it was with those classified as “Pharisees”. 

Sometimes is was with close friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and sometimes it was with His own disciples.  How willing are you to eat with others?  Can we feel comfortable, like Jesus was, in eating with all types, kinds, and numbers of people?  Can we even use the meal time to become a teaching time, as Jesus also often did?  Did you know that most of us have meaningful relationships with about 30 people in our lives?  We know these people pretty well, and they know us pretty well.  These are people we support, and we share our beliefs and leisure time with them. 

These are people with whom we can eat meals together.  Why not start inviting some of those people to our potlucks?  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we imitated Jesus and could see the same diversity at these meals as Jesus had at His meals with others?  Now another idea is this: why not invite a friend to share a cup of coffee or a snack with you and another Christian?  If you'd do this several times, guess what would happen?  When you do invite your friend to come worship here, they'll already have gotten to know some folks and won't feel like a stranger!  Seek others as Jesus sought by eating with others! 

Jesus also shared with others.  Look at Luke 11:37-41: “And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him.  So He went in and sat down to eat.  When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  Then the Lord said to him: 'Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.'”  Jesus had something to share on this occasion, didn't He?  The Pharisee marveled that Jesus didn't wash, and we marvel that Jesus can speak so boldly and get right to a rebuke about the Pharisee's life!  Look at another example of Jesus' sharing in Luke 8:22ff.  Jesus tells His apostles to cross over to the other side of the lake.  A storm blows in, and the disciples call for Jesus to help them.  He then rebukes the wind and the waves.  After getting through that storm, a different kind hits them.  On the shore, a demon-possessed man confronts them, one with no clothes who lived among the tombs. 

The disciples must have been thinking, “Whoa, out of frying pan and into the fire!” Jesus then heals this man, allows the demons to go into a herd of pigs, and the people in the area tell Jesus to leave because they are afraid.  The healed man would like to have joined Jesus and His disciples, but Jesus gives him these instructions in verse 39: “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.”  And the man does just that!  Now look at something interesting here.  Why did Jesus tell His disciples to go cross the lake?  It looks like to share His healing powers and grace with just one or two people!  Isn't that amazing?  God will go out of His way to share personally with just a few!  Will you do that?  Do you see the value of each individual soul?  Seek as Jesus sought by sharing with others!  Jesus came to seek and to save the lost by walking, eating, and sharing with them, and this must be our mission as well if we would be His disciples!

The next practice is to serve as Jesus served.  Much could be said, but three ideas are essential.  We see that Jesus' service meant finding the need, submitting to the task, and following through! 

In John 13, we find that great example where Jesus washes His disciples' feet.  A servant was the one who usually performed this courtesy, but none was supplied, so Jesus takes it upon Himself to do the job.  You see, He saw the need before anyone else did.  And how He could even think about such on the night of His upcoming betrayal is indeed truly amazing and shows what self-control He had as He faced the most trying hours in His life.  Do you look for opportunities of service like that?  Can you see the needs that others have?  Notice what Romans 5:6-7 states: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” 

Listen to that verse; it describes us as being without strength and ungodly.  That's pretty needy isn't it?  We needed help and forgiveness.  And in that needy and helpless condition, now note what verse 7 affirms: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.”  We didn't merit being called good or righteous.  Yes, we were really in need, and Jesus didn't ignore this, but He recognized it, just as He had recognized the need to wash His disciples' feet.  To serve as Jesus served is to find and to recognize the need. Then we see that John says that Jesus took the towel and basin upon Himself, and He began to wash the disciples' feet, even Judas' feet were included, and even reluctant and vocal Peter's!  What an example for us—Jesus submits Himself to the task!  Romans 5:8-9 also underscores how Jesus submitted Himself to another more difficult task: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”  Remember that fellow in New York City who saw another man in the subway having a seizure and falling onto the tracks?  Remember how he jumped off the platform and covered the man with his own body in the drainage trough as the subway train rolled over them, and then both arose unharmed?  That was a very noble rescue effort, but notice how Jesus provided us with an even more noble rescue effort—He submitted Himself to the cruelty, the mockery, and the agony of the cross to save us from having to know  God's wrath!  Now if Jesus could submit Himself for us like that, why can't we submit ourselves to whatever task that might need to be done?  Sure, there are some tasks in the world that just aren't very pleasant to perform: some look bad, some feel bad, some smell bad.  Just remember that the cross was all of those, and any task done in Jesus' name, no matter how menial or disgusting or humiliating, will not lose its reward (Matthew 10:42)! 

To serve as Jesus served is to submit to the task, whatever that task may be. To serve as Jesus serve also means following through.  Jesus washed ALL of the disciples' smelly feet before telling them to wash one another's feet.  He didn't just talk service, He demonstrated it!  Romans 5:10-11 also emphasizes how Jesus followed through on our behalf: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation!”  If God loved us so much while we were still enemies that He gave His own Son to make us His friends—and this is the difficult part, then His rescuing us from the coming day of judgment will be a cinch—that job will be the easy part (Wright)!  Jesus followed through with His resurrection, and God followed through by making us righteous and His friends!  Will you imitate them and follow through in your service to the Lord?  Someone has observed: “To submit and to serve the unlovely and the unloving is one of the fundamental calls made to the disciple of Christ ... [treating] people by their needs rather than [by] their treatment of you is the way of Christ (McGuiggan).  Serve as Jesus served by finding the need, submitting to the task, and following through!

The third practice is this: rejoice as Jesus rejoiced!  In what did Jesus find joy?  At least three things come to mind: He rejoiced in the advancement of God's kingdom, in His victory over death and the world, and in that fact that His disciples had their names written in the book of life.  Let's look at each of these ideas quickly.

First of all, He found joy in the advancement of God's kingdom.  Right after Jesus' 70 disciples returned saying that the demons were subject to them, Luke 10:21affirms: “In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.'”  Jesus rejoiced to see man's spiritual enemy being defeated!  Something similar happens in the early church in Acts 15.  Here is where the big question arises if Gentiles must become Jews in order to be Christians.  The elders in Jerusalem decide that such is not necessary, but they ask Gentile Christians to avoid a few specific actions that they know will upset Jewish Christians.  They wrote a letter with their decision to some of the Gentile congregations.  When the letter was read to the church in Antioch, verse 31 reports: “When they read it, they [the Christians in Antioch] rejoiced over its encouragement.”  When these Christians heard that Gentiles did not have to become Jews, they rejoiced at the progress made by the Gospel!  You should rejoice too every time you read a missions report, when you hear of a congregation's growth, or when you learn of someone else being added to the church! Rejoice as Jesus rejoiced by rejoicing at the advancement of God's kingdom!

Next, Jesus found joy in His victory over death and the world.  In John 16:22, Jesus tells His disciples that one day they will have a great joy that can't be taken from them—that joy was the reality that Jesus Himself would triumph over death!  He also tells them plainly in verse 33 to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world, which means that He has conquered all evil!  Because of Jesus' victories, you can be victorious as well!  This world is not your final destination, and death is not the final chapter of your life!  “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  Rejoice as Jesus rejoiced by rejoicing at His and our victory over death and the world with its evils!

Then, Jesus rejoiced that His disciples have their names written in the book of life.  Jesus told those 70 disciples these words in Luke 10:20: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven!”  Those whose names are written in the book of life will inherit the new Jerusalem, but Revelation 20:15 tells us that anyone not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire!  When your name is written in the book of life and remains there, your reservation for the eternal heavenly banquet with all the redeemed is secure!  Rejoice as Jesus rejoiced that your name is written in the book of life as you continue to be a faithful disciple!

“There were once two Christian men who worked at a loading dock for a trucking company.  One of these men came from a minority group and had just completed an associates degree in transportation and wanted to make the transportation business his full-time career.  The company they were working for just so happened to have some new positions to fill, so this Christian put in his resume and got an interview.  The other Christian asked him how the interview went, and he replied that it went great and the position was in sales and offered unlimited opportunities.  The other Christian became excited, but the one who had the interview told him that he wasn't going to take the job.  He explained that although the job had everything he wanted, he would have to give up his Bible class at church in order to fill the position.  He didn't want to do that and said he would wait until some other position would open up that would still allow him to teach his class.  He sacrificed his chance to leave the sweltering docks and gave up a brand new career in order to continue teaching his class” (Mitchell in Larson/Elshof).  Now there's a great example of discipleship for us!  Talking about Jesus and caring for those in his class meant more to him than personal earthly advancement and gain, and He was willing to suffer and to wait for something else.  He let Jesus transform his mind by listening, thinking, and believing as Jesus did.

He let Jesus transform his character by living, praying, and obeying as Jesus did.  He let Jesus transform his relationships by caring, loving, and forgiving as Jesus did.  He let Jesus transform his morality by being holy, battling, and watching as Jesus did.  He let Jesus transform his priorities by seeking, serving, and rejoicing as Jesus did.  “Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  The key verb in this passage is “make disciples,” and the other verbs are parts of that process: going, baptizing, and teaching.  Our primary job is to make disciples, and hopefully this series has helped us to understand a little more about what is involved in fulfilling Christ's great marching orders in some practical ways!

If you are not a disciple of Jesus, why not become one today by being baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

If you are a disciple but really haven't let Jesus truly transform you, why not ask forgiveness and rededicate your life to applying ALL that Jesus has commanded to do?  Whatever your situation, why not become a life-long learner, a disciple dedicated to imitating and rearranging your life around the practices of Jesus' life?