What's a Disciple?


Recently, the United Reformed launched "Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today", which is a "focus" on lifelong Christian discipleship.

At Trinity, we decided to use this as the theme for our morning service on Sunday 2nd September.

Everyone in the congregation was given a little cord with a pair of feet attached you can see the cord and some of the congregation holding them in the pictures. As you read on, you'll see how this prayer cord, a bit like the rosary used by many Roman Catholic people, helps our walk with Jesus, by helping us focus our minds on prayer.

We began with the stories of how Jesus called some of his disciples - first, two pairs of brothers - Andrew and Peter, then James and John, followed by Matthew.  We thought about how, in John’s Gospel there is an account of the calling of Philip and Nathanael. We have no details of how the other disciples were called; they are simply named in a list:  Thomas, James the less, Simon the Zealot, Judas (son of James) and Judas Iscariot. We only know that they were chosen by Jesus and called to follow him.

Collectively the disciples were a mixed bag: there were four fishermen, not too surprising given that fishing was big business in Galilee; there were at least two seemingly surprising choices – Matthew, the tax collector, not a job likely to make him popular with the local population and Simon the Zealot a former freedom fighter, not likely to make him popular with the authorities. Importantly they were a collection of ordinary working men. They were not chosen for their social standing nor for their religious training.

Just like us, individually each of them was a human being with strengths and weaknesses. Peter was a natural spokesman but sometimes he got things wrong and attracted Jesus’ reproof, for example when he refused to accept what Jesus said about his forthcoming suffering and death, and sometimes he got things spectacularly right, as when, in response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” he replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

John was described as the disciple whom Jesus loved, yet he incurred Jesus’ displeasure, when he and his brother James requested to be placed at Jesus’ left and right side when he came into his kingdom.

Clearly, Simon the Zealot had originally had very different ideas about what God wanted his people to do with regard to the Roman occupation, but his important quality was that he was an activist. He didn’t just moan in a corner; he was prepared to act on his conviction, which must have made him an amazing asset to the group.

One of the interesting aspects of the calling of the disciples is their eagerness to introduce others to Jesus.  Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter, Philip told Nathanael and Matthew invited Jesus to a meal to meet other tax-collectors. The work of spreading the good news started immediately; it was instinctive.

The  Greek word for disciple is mathetes; the literal meaning is “one who learns as he follows”. By responding to Jesus’ call to follow him, the twelve disciples gave themselves the opportunity to listen, watch and discuss with Jesus. It was this process of learning while following that ultimately enabled them to carry on his work.

In those stories of Jesus calling his disciples, we find two key words that Jesus spoke to those first disciples, and now they strike at the foundation of our faith, “Follow Me”. We can’t just hear these words, we have to obey them, meaning we need to demonstrate our words through practice and action. We can’t lead others to Him if we don’t know the way ourselves, and, in order to know the way, we must have knowledge. Knowledge comes from experience, and experience comes from discipleship.

Growing in Christ is the key to being disciples in a growing church.

So, being a true disciple means having a willingness to trust in Jesus completely in all aspects of life. We are to trust Him even when we don’t know or understand when or where He is leading us. As we grow in Christ, we have to keep our eyes on Him, in doing so, we will be of better use to Him.

God simply asks us to be disciples. Discipleship is modelling and teaching Christians the precepts of the Bible, prayer, doctrine, and Christian living, which means having a heart that worships Christ.

Simon Peter was one of those early disciples who heard Jesus say, “Follow Me” and after many years of experience he knew so much more about the implications of that invitation. In the Bible we find two Epistles (like letters) from the Apostle Peter. In the first of these, chapter 2, verse 21, Peter summarised both the costly sacrifice of Christ on our behalf and the challenging call to every one of His followers saying; “For to this you were called because Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example that you should follow His steps”. The Greek word “to follow” means “to take the same road” as someone else, so, a Christian is one who does just that —  following in the footsteps of Jesus down the same road of life.

So, Let’s think of how WE can follow in the footsteps of Jesus!

This is where we come to the prayer cord  . . . . we can place knots in the cord, holding it while we pray.

The first knot….. We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His Priority. God was first in the life of Jesus. The concerns of serving God took priority over everything else.

The second knot….We also Need to Follow in the Footsteps of Prayerfulness. Prayer was absolutely central in the life and ministry of Jesus. His example as a person of prayer stands as irrefutable and undeniable proof that prayer is vitally important in the life of a Christian, remembering those in need as we pray.

The third knot….We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of His People-Centredness. People were important in the life and ministry of Jesus. Theologians describe Jesus as “a man for others.” He was definitely people-centered, not only did Jesus love little children, but big sinners, and His worst enemies, too. So, are people important to us? Do we care that literally millions of people in our own country, and indeed in the entire world don’t know Christ? We need to follow His example of reaching out again and again to draw all ages, all classes and all races of people to Himself.

The fourth knot……..We Need to Follow in the Footsteps of Purity. When we read the Gospels, we see Jesus as a person of purity. During his earthly ministry he was pure in mind, pure in speech pure in heart and pure in action……the perfect example.

The fifth knot…..we need to follow in the steps of Perseverance and Proclamation. In the Bible we find an Epistle addressed to "The Hebrews" The writer of this letter understood very well the perseverance and endurance of Jesus. The letter described Jesus as “one who endured the cross and hostility" ……Jesus endured to the end, and he challenges us to do the same.

Sometimes serving God is like walking through a minefield. But take heart, His footprints are before us. He challenges us to follow in the footsteps of His priority, His prayerfulness, His people-centeredness, His purity, His perseverance and His proclamation. Follow in His footsteps and you arrive safely home.









For some it's short, for others long

Depending on The Way

Yet each may sing the self same song

Of "Trust Him and obey"


Displayed beyond the realm of time

Beyond man's wildest dream

When practiced; love is sublime

An act of faith supreme


Obey The Lord of righteousness

Trust Jesus whilst we might

Past transgressions through Christ confess

And walk within The Light


Let not this life be lived in vain

No longer play the clown

Let love instead be seen to reign

Let wisdom wear a crown


Consult The Lord in all you do

Reflect before you speak

Consider Christ God's Lamb & Son

All seven days a week


So take this little prayer cord

And with grateful thanks we say

We will walk with you dear Lord

And pray to you each day


The place for you and I is here

The time is right today

God's calling loud through Jesus clear

To trust Him and obey…..


Page last updated: 14th Sep 2018 4:14 PM