The first command Jesus issued to his disciples is “Follow me” (Mt 4:19; Mk 1:17). Note that the command to follow Jesus precedes the task they were called to. Who we are (followers of Jesus) defines what it is that we do (proclaim the Good News) and never vice versa. We don’t become followers of Jesus by obeying, but show that we are followers of Jesus by our obedience. Just as marriage is a genuine expression of love and commitment, so too is obedience a genuine expression of discipleship.
The word “disciple” in the Greek is “μαθητής”. As a verb it means “to learn and conform to” and as a noun it means “a pupil.” Therefore, a disciple was one who adheres to someone’s teaching or instruction. In fact, it was a common first-century designation given to students. We find that there were disciples of John the Baptist (Mt 11:2), disciples of the Pharisees (Lk 5:33), and disciples of Moses (Jn 9:28). Being Jesus’ disciple is not merely gaining knowledge about him but integrating what is learned into our lives. We want not only to be informed of our Master’s life, but transformed by it as well. Jesus says that a “disciple [μαθητής] is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Lk 6:40).
The first command (“Follow me”) is surely a prerequisite to fulfilling the last command Jesus issued (Mt 28:18-20). We must first be followers of Jesus before we can make disciples for Jesus. If our disciple making is not fruitful could it be we are failing in following Jesus?
To Consider: Control is a deadly enemy to spiritual formation and disobedience or the desire for autonomous living apart from Jesus is merely an attempt to gain or maintain control over our lives rather than pattern our lives after Jesus’ commands.