Disciple - Following Jesus

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

Darrell Stetler II

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Does the idea of “following Jesus” seem confusing in this day of social media? What does it mean to follow Jesus? To check in occasionally and “like” his posts? In the first-century Jewish world, the challenge of understanding discipleship didn’t exist. Rabbis were quite common, and their followers traveled with them, learning from and imitating them.

In Jesus’ day, everyone knew what it meant to follow a Rabbi and to be a disciple. So when Jesus gave the invitation: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, ESV), the Jewish people would have understood exactly what he meant. However, we don’t see many traveling rabbis moving about our towns today, so we need some context.

Rabbis were Jewish teachers, and their students were called their disciples. The word disciple means “learner.” In Jesus’ day, Jewish children would begin Sabbath school at age 4-5 and memorize huge amounts of Scripture. The best students would move on to the next level, while a few, the best of the best, would be chosen to follow a Rabbi as he traveled about teaching the Torah. A Rabbi would only select the ones that he felt had the potential to become like him—the ones who didn’t make it would usually go back home and help with their family business.

When Jesus chose his disciples, they were fishermen, already helping with the family business.
But when a rabbi came by and said, “Follow me,” they knew what was happening! Here was a rabbi who believed these men could travel with him and BE LIKE HIM. By inviting them to follow him, Jesus was expressing his confidence in their ability to become like him. This is a profound truth!

Jesus is quite confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to make you like him. When he extends an invitation to discipleship, he’s not inviting you to a once-a-week church service or occasional volunteering. He is expressing his confidence in the power of grace to make you 100% like him.
Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t simply a learning program or a mental belief in Jesus. It is, however, a commitment to follow and be like him. Jesus doesn’t invite you to just believe in him. Jesus invites you to travel with him, to adopt his agenda, and to imitate him in every aspect of your life until his transformation in you is complete.

Today, meditate on this question as you go about your day. What does it mean that Jesus invites you to follow him? Why does he believe I can follow Him?


About the Author

Darrell Stetler II is the creator of NewStart Discipleship, which helps local churches create a clear discipleship pathway for brand new Christians. You can download his free discipleship tools here, including his free Bible reading plan for new believers. He is married to Liz and they have 1 daughter and 6 sons, so he’s blessed and tired. Out of his efforts at family discipleship, he’s developed Discipleship In the Home resources.

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