Foundations of Discipleship
Discipleship is obedience to the call to follow Jesus. But what gives Jesus the right to make such a call? Why should we listen to him when he tells us to reorder our lives to be centered around him? These are fair questions. Anyone who doesn’t know or follow Jesus would naturally ask them. And anyone who already follows Jesus would do well to reflect on them.
As with any command or call, it is as only as strong and binding as the clout behind it. This is why Teddy Roosevelt pushed hard to build up the US Navy from virtual nonexistence into the most powerful modernized navy in the world. To subdue rising tensions in the Pacific, and to prove the US Navy’s strength and range as a peace-keeping force, President Roosevelt sent a fleet of 16 ships on a 14-month, 43,000 mile cruise around the world. The sailing of “The Great White Fleet” to this day “is widely considered one of the greatest peacetime achievements of the US Navy.” (https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/c/cruise-great-white-fleet-mckinley.html)
President Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet on its voyage in 1907, one year after he had negotiated a peace treaty between Russia and Japan. He understood that to enforce that peace, someone had to be the one to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Big-Stick-policy)
So, returning to our original questions, what kind of authority does Jesus have that we should follow him? Here are three reasons that Jesus has the clout and the right to make such a radical command:
1) Jesus is God - Although some debate that this claim can be substantiated by the Bible, they do so based on a weak, selective reading of certain portions of only some of the gospels. No honest reading of the New Testament can come to any other conclusion (John 1:1-18; 5:16-18; 20:30-31, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:3-4). Jesus is God himself, the creator and sustainer of all things, and he therefore has the right and authority to command and order all things as he sees fit.
2) Jesus is King - This truth is less debated, because it is abundantly clear throughout the entire New Testament (Matthew 1:1; 2:1-12; 21:1-11; 28:18-20, Ephesians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:5-11, Revelation 19:11-16). But we struggle to apply it because it is such an unfamiliar concept. After all, Americans have not had to pay any attention to royal edicts or decrees for quite some time. But even in nations where there are still monarchies today, they have nothing close the same royal power exercised by the kings of the ancient world. When we read the Bible, Jesus is speaking. When Jesus speaks, everything he says carries the full weight of the rightful, sovereign ruler and monarch of all nations, all people, and all of creation.
3) Jesus is Savior - Jesus’ word as God and as King is more than sufficient to claim our immediate obedience, but Jesus did not come demanding obedience by force. Jesus did not come with clout; he came humbly and gently. Jesus did not come carrying a big stick; he came carrying a cross. The fact that Jesus came to us as one of us to experience our pains, to bear our burdens, to pay the price for our sin, and to bring to us the free gift of eternal life should fill us to overflowing with love, and joy, and passion to serve him! The fact that Jesus has absorbed the cost of our weakness, disobedience, and failure to follow him should make us all the more confident and committed to follow him wherever he leads! What Jesus did for us at the cross has freed us from the power of sin in order that now we can live for him (Romans 6:17-23; 8:1-17, Ephesians 4:1, Titus 2:11-14, 1 Peter 2:9-12)!
So now that you understand the authority behind the call, now that you see who it is that is calling, and now that you know what he has done for you… Will you follow him?