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Lesson 1: An Overview of Discipleship *

Introduction: Last week we finished our series of lessons on suffering. We ended with a call to reflect Jesus' love and sacrifice for us in our dealings with others. What could lead more naturally into our new series of lessons on discipleship? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What examples do we have? What should motivate us to be a disciple? Let's dive into this study on discipleship and begin to learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus!

  1. The First Disciples

    1. Read John 1:19-20. Who were the Jewish leaders anticipating? (They were looking for the Messiah to come. When John the Baptist created a stir in the nation, they sent representatives to determine whether he was the Christ, the Messiah.)

      1. What does that suggest about the mood of the Jewish nation at that point in time?

    2. Read John 1:23-27. What was John's relationship to the Messiah? (He was not the Messiah, he was preparing the way for the Messiah to come.)

    3. Read John 1:29-31. Who did John the Baptist identify as the Messiah? (Jesus.)

    4. Read John 1:35-37. With this background, tell me what you think motivated these two disciples to change allegiance from John to Jesus? (They heard John say Jesus was the "Lamb of God" - which meant He was the Messiah. They wanted to follow the Messiah, not the one who was preparing the way for the Messiah.)

    5. Read John 1:40-41. Who seems to be motivating the switch of allegiance? Who is the moving force? (The disciples themselves.)

    6. Read Matthew 4:18-20. What different light does Matthew put on this? (Jesus called Andrew and Peter to be disciples. It is clear from John's background that the two already believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Thus, this was not a blind agreement to follow just any fellow.)

      1. What task did Jesus offer Andrew and Peter?

        1. What do you think they thought this role would mean? If Jesus was the Messiah, what would it mean to be "fishers of men?"

    7. Read Matthew 4:21-22. What did discipleship with Jesus require? (The text notes that they left their occupation without hesitation and they also left their father.)

      1. Read Mark 1:20. Was their father, Zebedee, left helpless? (Mark adds the important point that Zebedee had help. Apparently, this was a successful fishing company.)

    1. In the previous verses, we saw that Jesus clearly called James and John. What do you think motivated them to leave so readily? Even leave their father?

    2. Read Matthew 20:20-22. What answer does this suggest?

    3. Read Acts 1:1-6. Note that this text takes place after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. What seems to have generally motivated the disciples to follow Jesus? (Self-glory.)

      1. There is no doubt in my mind that the disciples followed Jesus in part (you decide how large a part) based on their belief that He was the Messiah and they would be getting in on the ground floor of the great new kingdom that Jesus would establish on earth. Do you think God intended to use that motivation to attract disciples?

        1. If so, what do you think of such motivation?

        2. How much of your motivation to do good works is based on hope of self-glory?

    4. Read Mark 8:31-32. Why do you think Peter rebuked Jesus? (Peter did not want Jesus saying that Jesus would be killed. Jesus was the Messiah who would set up a grand kingdom on earth.)

    5. Read Mark 8:33-35. Jesus now rebukes Peter. What is the reason why Jesus rebuked Peter? (Jesus says that self-sacrifice is the key to following Jesus.)

      1. Stop and think carefully about this. Is this a bait and switch? Did Jesus appeal in His call for discipleship to self-promotion? Does He now deny that motivation?

        1. Why does the Bible (Revelation 21) talk about all the gold and precious stones in the New Jerusalem?

        2. What does the motivation of the disciples teach us, if anything?

    6. Read Matthew 16:26-27. Is the explanation found here? If so, can you explain it? (It is a fact that Jesus appeals to our self-interest. However, the Christian disciple's approach to serving his own self-interest is different than the approach of the world. We advance our self-interest by advancing the interests of others.)

    7. Read Luke 18:10-13. Is this a variation on what Peter said to Jesus? Do you see this kind of thing in your church? In the church down the road?

      1. Is there a more subtle way of saying this that goes on in your church? That goes on with you?

      1. What did Jesus think about this kind of behavior? (Read Luke 18:14.)

        1. Wait a minute! Did Jesus prescribe a way to be exalted?

    1. What should you conclude about the proper motivation for discipleship? (God appeals to us to follow Him based on a benefit to us. He appeals to our desire for self-glory. But, when we dig deeper into what it means to truly be a disciple, we find that self-sacrifice is the key to our ultimate benefit.)

      1. Is this just a formula? Just a matter of getting the correct order to things? For example, if I say (like the Pharisee) "I'm great and the rest of you are slobs," that would be the wrong way to be exalted. But, if I'm smart I say, "You are great, I'm a slob and unworthy." That would be the correct thing to say to have Jesus exalt me. Is that the lesson here? (These are not mere words, not a mere formula. Jesus is looking for an attitude among His disciples of self-sacrifice. But it is self-sacrifice with the (permissible) goal of ultimate glory.)

  1. The Nature of Discipleship

    1. Read Luke 14:25-26. Jesus is teaching what it means to be a disciple. How does this sound to you?

      1. Does Jesus literally mean what He is saying? If so, does this mean that denying ourselves is a call to denying our immediate family?

      2. If it is, why did Mark ( Mark 1:20) seem to explain that John and James did not hate their father?

    2. Read Matthew 15:4. How do you explain this text? Was Jesus just having a "bad parent day" when He said what He did about hating parents in Luke 14:25-26?

    3. Read Matthew 10:37. What does this add to our search for what Jesus meant about hating our family? (When Jesus tells us to "hate" our family, I think He means it in the sense of "loving them less." If not, then Matthew 15:4 and Matthew 10:37 are inconsistent.)

    4. Let's look at the context of Luke 14:25-26 to get the bigger picture. Read Luke 14:16-20. How does this story introduce Jesus' discussion about "hating" our family? How would you now understand Jesus' statement about "hating" our family?

    5. This story about the wedding feast sounds very much like the story Jesus told in Matthew 22:1-14. Let's read in detail the last part of that story. Read Matthew 22:10-14. I'm sure that almost everyone who reads this recognizes that the "point" of this story is that we enter heaven by accepting the invitation and wearing the robe of God's righteousness, not because we are good people. What should we conclude from considering all of this? Is there a difference between being a disciple and being saved?

      1. Are we saved merely by acknowledging Jesus as Lord and accepting His life and sacrifice on our behalf, i.e., accepting His robe of righteousness? But, being a disciple is this hard business in which you have to "hate" those who you love the most in this world?

      2. The Bible Exposition Commentary says that a "disciple" is "a learner, one who attaches himself or herself to a teacher in order to learn a trade or subject. Perhaps our nearest modern equivalent is 'apprentice.'" Is it fair to say that when we are saved we are called to be a disciple, one who learns the way of self-sacrifice?

        1. Or, when Jesus talks about "hating" our family and denying yourself, is He merely talking about the initial decision for salvation? Is He saying "Don't let your family or your selfish plans stand between you and accepting the invitation to the wedding and choosing to put on the robe of righteousness?

    6. Friend, will you decide to study with us the next several weeks to find out what, exactly, it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

  2. Next week: Discipleship Then and Now.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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