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From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
The context for this verse is in John 6 after Jesus had said some bizarre sounding things. It was seemingly too much for many of those that followed him that in effect they stopped. This was a tragic day, because on that day many of his followers stopped being his disciples.
See not following Jesus is tantamount to not being his disciple.
A deeper look at the word disciple indeed reveals the root word from the Greek (machetes) means one who is learning or studying Christ. Thee early disciples akin to the fashion of rabbinical discipleship would literally “follow” Jesus every where he went. Indeed it was the job a disciple to study his master by following him continually, thus studying him in real life situations, and learning what it would be like to be exactly like the teacher.
Thus when Christ in Matthew 28 instructs his most closest disciples to go into all the nations and make disciples, he is asking them do what He had done. Raise up followers who would follow them, exactly like they had follow him. See these 12 disciples were the ones who had learned to follow him the most. They embodied what it meant to be a fully committed follower of Christ, and thus had earned the right to be able to reproduce themselves in others. And since they were now like Christ, he was sending them, just as the father had sent him.
In following Christ very closely, they had earned the right to be called disciples, following close to the master so much so, that he sent them forth as apostles to continue his redeeming message of kingdom coming.
Our mission in today’s church is no different than that of the early disciples, to raise up others who will follow Christ.
Yet many churches struggle with the mandate to make disciples because of a less than clear picture of who a disciple is. There seems to be two types of people in the church, those who follow Christ closely and those are comfortable with following him as long as its comfortable. We call them both disciples, however I wonder if Jesus would beg to differ. With this latter group, please note I am not referring to a new believer who is just learning to follow Christ, and thus is not mature enough to be called a disciple in the full sense of the word. I am referring to those who are comfortable attending church, but not growing in their commitment to faith in God, and service of others. Pastors seem to entertain having these comfortable so called disciples in their church purely for body count reasons.
Jesus said whoever wants to be his disciple must take up his cross. Meaning that there is never a good time to decide not to follow him anymore. Once you are committed to Christ, and you achieve disciple status, you are in it for life. A disciple replicates the attributes of his master, and thus true disciples of Christ, will love, act, live, like Christ and ultimately draw other people to do the same. They will desire to grow in their faith and commitment to Christ, and will extend their efforts and impact towards serving others.
Can I ask you a question? How close are you following Christ? Is it so close that he can feel your breath, or is it a safe comfortable distance, where you are still prone to doing things your way when it suits you.
Following Christ closely is what it means to be a disciple. What will you give yp today, that hinders you from taking that step closer to him. May the risen Christ give you the strength to take up the painful crosses in your life, and really follow him, proving yourself to be a disciple of Christ.
– Pastor Olu Jegede