Jesus Bade Them, “Follow Me”

In scanning this week’s lesson title, “Jesus Bade Them, Follow Me,” what were your first thoughts? Did you actually want to know more about following Jesus? Or perhaps you thought about the first disciples of Jesus? Maybe these words have a long ago and far away connotation and you are in the now, so perhaps they do not seem to have much implication in your present context. Let’s take a look at what these words meant when Jesus first spoke them and how they also comprise how we view the process of discipleship, or in other words, how we respond to Jesus and his bidding to follow him.

Primarily, Jesus’ words, “Go, and make disciples,” (The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20) are intimately related to Jesus stating, “Follow me.” A historical contextual review of what discipleship encompassed when Jesus stated, “Go and make disciples,” is foremost in considering what implications this might have for our response to follow Jesus in our very own circumstances. Therefore, it is essential to know what it means to respond to the call of becoming a disciple of Jesus and going out to make disciples.

Jesus initially spoke the words, “Go, and make disciples,” to men who had experienced an apprentice relationship with him. As young people say, back in the day, agreeing to enter into a disciple-discipler relationship involved serious commitment on the part of both parties. It was commonly accepted that very few men would have this kind of desire, passion and time commitment to follow through and become the disciple of a rabbi/teacher.

In this historical context what was the process of becoming a disciple? For the would-be disciple it meant placing himself under the shaping influence of his teacher by spending day in and day out quality of time with him, watching, observing, and imitating his teacher’s actions and words. Discipleship was a process of transference of ideas, beliefs, heart and vision that came about as the would-be disciple went through the process of internalization that led to the day when he had become like his disciple/teacher and the teacher/rabbi could now say to him, ‘you are ready, go and make your own disciples.’

Note the life-upon-life dynamic and the intentional teaching/equipping process, within the framework of the purpose (becoming like the rabbi) that looked towards a completed outcome; becoming a discipler yourself.

A transformational whole life discipleship for adults today still needs to have all of the same elements that a historical disciple/apprentice relationship encompassed: passion to become a disciple, life-upon-life apprenticeship, a process of intentional teaching and equipping to make another disciple, and a stated purpose and goal.

Note that I did not mention the word program. Instead described a ‘process’ where transformation into Christ-likeness is an ongoing experience of moving the individual more deeply into the life of following Christ and becoming a discipler, that is ready to go out and make disciples.

Let’s pause and take a look at the core word in the process of discipleship and that is the word, experience. Woven into the fabric of the words, ‘go and make disciples,’ and ‘follow me,’ is another word called relationship. Following Jesus and going out to make disciples as depicted by its historical context is in essence the portrait of what an intimate relationship with another human being looks like. It could be no other as a historical disciple lived and shared their everyday life with the master discipler while surrendering their own ideas, beliefs, heart and vision in exchange for his. This is how their passion was expressed, and how life-to–life apprenticeship took place with the goal of becoming transformed into the likeness of the rabbi/teacher.

In our own present contemporary reality, this is where many of us balk, and where Jesus’ words to follow him as disciples, is difficult. We might ask if Jesus is really expecting us to share our lives with others, no matter who they are, and most of the time it seems that it is people that are difficult to love and intimately share our lives with, and yet, Scripture and Jesus do not depict any other kind of expectation in their use of the phrase, ‘go and make disciples.’

This week’s lesson began with a descriptive of the Good Shepherd portrayed in John 10. This chapter is part of John 9 and the story of the blind man. It was because of the initiative of Jesus that the miracle of sight was given to him. What ensued with the religious leaders demonstrated their spiritual blindness and in John 10, Jesus further inferred that although the religious leaders may have thought they were the spiritual shepherds of the people, they in fact demonstrated they were not, in their treatment of the blind man and their actions of throwing him out of the synagogue. In contrast his depiction of “the sheep recognize his voice,” is again a beautiful illustration of familiarity, intimacy and relationship to the point of willingness to follow.

Following Jesus is discipleship and discipleship in summary is a relationship and experience of familiarity, intimacy, and relationship, first, with Jesus and also a relationship that we are to pursue with others in our commission to make disciples.

What might the experience of discipleship really look like and feel like? A contemporary example of this might be observed in the 12-step recovery program of Alcoholic Anonymous. (I know you are surprised I said this, keep reading). When an individual has hit a ‘bottom’ experience with the consequences of addiction and they are ready to begin to climb out of the pit of despair, confusion and chaos, they seek what is called a sponsor within ‘the program.’ This is a mentor and someone who is further along in their experience of recovery. This sponsor takes this individual and begins to work with them and begins the process of ‘working’ the 12 steps of recovery.

Sometimes and many times, the alcoholic regresses and drinks again, and yet the sponsor loves him/her and continues to take the time to share of their life and experience of recovery. On the part of the sponsor, this is a time when they are willing to give up control of their very own life and time, and many times they don’t even want to go to the lengths that it takes to save an alcoholics life from the brink ‘of hell.’ Yet, they do it. They are serious about saving another’s alcoholics life. It is in the doing that recovery takes places. Let me illustrate.

Sponsor ‘Bob,’ was called by a man he was sponsoring to go with him to the hospital as his mother was dying. This man, ‘John,’ is a big burly contractor, yet at this moment, in fear, he is calling out for support. His sponsor Bob agreed to meet him there. While in the hospital room, John was noticeably agitated, and nervous. Bob came over and said, “John would you like to pray?” John nodded yes, and Bob took his hand and while he was praying for him, began to feel the tension in John’s hand lifting and dissipating as the grasp of his hand began to loosen. This is intimacy when you are close enough to another life, that you can experience their response to God, when you are living your support for them and at that moment also teaching them how to experience relationship and unconditional love. As John continues to grow in his recovery, he will down the road also sponsor another alcoholic and he will know what to do when he is called to be of support in a hospital room. He will know how to love unconditionally, he will know what relationship looks like and the experience of intimacy. He will also know that his time is not always his own in his work with others. Yet, he knows no other way of being the instrument of recovery in another alcoholic’s life.

The principles of discipleship and recovery are the same. Follow with passion, give up your life, time, and comfort in service and unconditional love for another, no matter who that other might be. Share experience that becomes familiar, intimate and relational. The goals of Alcoholics Anonymous are to restore the alcoholic to sobriety and save them from the path to sure death. The sponsor is an indispensible tool in this process.

We too, can become indispensible tools (disciples) in the life of another soul. In a shared experience of what it looks like to follow Jesus: familiarity, intimacy and relationship with the goal of re-producing the same.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you, Maria, for a fine reflection.
Dare I say, I was surprised at two places in your essay. Number 1 were you contrasted program vs. process. Certainly a valid point - but “program” would never have occured to me in this context. Maybe I am not Adventist enough. :wink:
The second place was your seemingly apologetic introduction of the AAs to make your point. I thought to myself: “Why should I be surprised and need encouragement to read on?” Certainly the AA movement is an excellent example of what discipling is all about - and in fact, the Oxford movement it grew out of was quite serious about discipling…
Thus indeed a timely reminder - when in our church relationships have become secondary at best…

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Sometimes discipleship means a warm greeting and a sincere thank you. They mean welcome and open the door for conversation. A helping hand is different than a handout. My Uncle was areligous but he covered his bets. he gave $100 to Ingathering and attended The Catholic Church twice a year. TZ

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Andreas –
I dont know if you have Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings that are similar to Stateside meetings.
The formats I have been to in several states with my AA and NA friends have this format.
Opening hello by the moderator for the meeting [they are changed around]
Everyone introduces themselves by first name at each meeting.
Sitting around in a circle, preferably with tables aligned in a circle or square so every one
can see each other and talk and listen to each other. Eye contact. [NOT in pew formation]
A 15 to 20 minutes period of reading from the Book. Several may read during this time.
Sharing for about 40 to 45 minutes about the Reading or about something personal that
is concerning them.
Closing with prayer, standing in a circle, holding hands, and repeating together either the Lord’s
Prayer, or the Serenity Prayer.
[of course they always pass around the donation basket at each meeting.]
Everyone is encourage [pretty much mandated] to have a “Sponsor” and to keep in contact
with the Sponsor. Also the Sponsor encourages the Sponsee to DO and Complete the 12 steps.
IF a person does NOT do the 12-Steps they most likely Will NOT be successful.
AND, if a person does stumble [take a drink or more, use drugs] they are welcomed back.
It is customary to forgive themselves by picking up a White Chip in front of the group. And
start over. No one is looked down upon for having a failure, even if it occurs 17, 20 years later.
Just pick up a White Chip and continue the Journey.
The AA/NA “Program” is a Christian “Program”

  1. Admit I am powerless over Sin, and life has become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe a Power greater than myself could restore me to Sanity. 3. Made a DECISION to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understand God. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. 5. Admitted to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. 6. Became entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character. 7. I humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons I had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong promptly admit it. 11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, as I understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, I try to carry this message to other Sinners, and to practice these principles in all of my affairs.

I like this story. An artist was showing a large stone carved horse.
A man asked him how he was able to get it so “Life-like”.
The artist replied:- "I just chipped away everything that wasn’t a horse."
This is what we ask God to do for us.

Maybe if Church was more like AA/NA there would be more Power in the Church.

Sirje — YES. There is the PRIVACY issue with a lot of people. The individual has to Request the assist of a Sponsor. BUT, there IS Talk-Time before meetings, Talk-Time after meetings. We have to realize that one addiction is sometimes given up for another – Coffee [caffeine], Cigarettes [nicotine]. Coffee time and Cigarette times are good times to chat with people. Their “guard” is usually down at these times.

If SDA churches had Snack Times, sitting at tables, along with drinks available, between S.S. and Church and after Church, there would be a lot more socialization of members, and time for members to get to know each other on a personal level. ==== Snacks and Drinks allow people to let their guard down and talk “personal” things about what is going on. a SHARING TIME in an intimate moment.

When Jesus formed his rag-tag entourage he wasn’t initiating a “program” through which the needy would find salvation. Jesus’ disciples never understood his mission until it appeared that the “program” had failed. Among other reasons, the disciples were chosen as representatives of “the needy”. Jesus peered into the souls of the men he called to follow him, and recognized there, a need he was prepared to meet. Not until our own soul finds refuge and sustenance in Christ, are we equipped to minister to another.

Christ sends us out, not as promoters of a “system” of redemption like “Weight Watchers” organizing a program for a healthy weight. We have often used various human needs to make inroads into people’s lives, and have created an actual pattern - a template of behaviour - by which we hope to “make disciples”. Some describe that pattern as creating “cookie cutter Christians”. We pass out these patterns like uniforms by which we recognize each other. A problem has arisen, however. Not everyone seeking salvation, wears this uniform; and now the church has become confused as to “who are the real Christians,” in its quest to form “the perfect program”.

Jesus tells us the only means by which we can identify eachother is if we detect an encompassing love in our midst. Love can’t be programmed through a “ten-step” behaviour modification system. Human need is the only thing we all have in common. It’s the only marker of the humanity we all possess. If one of us finds “a way through the maze”, Jesus tells us we need to share it. According to the Bible we all read, Christ has blazed that way.


There is a problem showing up. Andreas - to my experience and opinion - about relationships becoming secondary within our church - is right. But programs ? Fit elseswhere in the world ?

We had the experience decades ago, you know, Fifve Day Plan to Quit Smoking, buddy program : Introduce yourself to your neghbor, exchange telefoner numbers, for mutual help - - -Here in Austria the pepole saw this as a threat to their porivacy ! (And most of them did not have the opprtunity to repond to privete calls during work, some did not even have telephones !)

And pray with your buddy - sponsor ? You have to live in a society where the offer of having a prayer together is known and without questioning accepted. “- the Lords Prayer or Serenity Prayer” - if nobody - even in the SDA Church does know these prayers ?

For a close very personal and intimate help we here have other means - or have to look out for finding some.
(One dear dedicated deacon in our church was converted by an SDA he was together with in a foxhole on a battlefield somewhere in Italy in WW II ).

Post scriptum : Did we not read in our SS Quarterly, English Teachers Edition some weeks ago about a ministers visit to a family after their teenage daughter had committed suicide - and he sat there with them,

just sat there with them, for quite a long time, , joining their grief and sorrow - without saying anythinmg ?

Thank you very much for stressing the vision on “discipleship” : education. guiding - trnsferriung values to the nex generation, yes, also to converts - is “encounter” and not “teaching”. That is also dermeanor, attitude, being present, openess fpor problems - - reliability, confidence, compassion - - AND JUST BE AVAILABLE !