Discipleship Can Hurt

Luke 9:57-62, NIV

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

There’s to be no whitewashing the way of discipleship–there’s no glamour, no special recognition–no acclaim in it. I guess this is the “real” way of being His follower. The path Jesus has for me demands I give Him my whole heart. Heart enough to turn it all to Him. Heart enough to give Him total commitment.

Jesus seems to make it hard–we can see this in His responses to each prospective disciple. His statements to each possible follower seem harsh, difficult, and a bit “unreasonable,” but He doesn’t receive these men unless they do what He says.

Discipleship demands that we give up what we hold dearest.

What happened to these three “would-be” followers? Did they return home dejected and frustrated? To follow in Jesus’ footprints means we give up our personal agendas, and turn our backs on what is closest and dearest. We must renounce everything, and give Him preeminence over all.

These are hard verses with profound implications. But this passage is given to us for a reason. We dare not minimize what it means to be a disciple. We must grasp the plow with both hands, and we can’t look back.

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When Jesus Cleansed the Temple

John 2:14-17, NCV

 “In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves. He saw others sitting at tables, exchanging different kinds of money. 15 Jesus made a whip out of cords and forced all of them, both the sheep and cattle, to leave the Temple. He turned over the tables and scattered the money of those who were exchanging it. 16 Then he said to those who were selling pigeons, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place for buying and selling!”

17 When this happened, the followers remembered what was written in the Scriptures: “My strong love for your Temple completely controls me.”

He used a whip. The text tells us that Jesus carefully took cords and braided a whip. What can I say? I’m amazed at His reaction to what He saw going down in the Temple. What Jesus saw grieved His heart so intensely that there wasn’t anything else He could do.

There seem to be three distinct whips I think we need to consider.

  • The one Jesus carefully braided to “cleanse the Temple.”
  • The one used on Jesus’ back as part of our atonement. (Isaiah 53:4-6).
  • The one that believers experience in the ways God disciplines us as His children.

All three are critical to see and know. Each carry a significance to this teaching. All three carry their own “pain.” The Temple becomes “pure.” His pain becomes our salvation. And I get discipline to become “holy.”

There are times when Jesus uses the whip on me! Not a leather one mind you, but a braided cord of discipline. What He saw taking place in the marketplace of “me” (my temple) brings Jesus grief and sorrow. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, and He fully intends to make me pure inside. Hebrews 12 tells me what to expect as a son.

“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”

Hebrews 12:7-8, (in context)

It’s best to remember that Jesus was beaten almost to death for my sin. So whips often happen when the Will of God happens. It’s His way of cleansing through the effort of the Holy Spirit. I believe that certain “things” will only take place when the whip is cracked.

Think about this for a moment.

But he was wounded for the wrong we did;
    he was crushed for the evil we did.
The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,
    and we are healed because of his wounds.

Isaiah 53:5, (context. 4-7)

Yes a whip carefully used is needful, and it brings pain. But the three can show us spiritual realities. It’s through each that we see God doing His work. I should warn you–this is not a “prosperity” gospel. There’s not “a blab it and grab it” theology. Just reading Hebrews 11 and 12 should alert you to what’s real.

When Water Became a Sidewalk

Matthew 14:24-31

“The boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared to death. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.”

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

Peter is speaking:

It was the dead of night–the fourth watch, sometime between 3-6 a.m. The crossing was going all wrong, the water and wind were contrary, and we were exhausted. We had worked hard and made little headway. I seldom have seen anything like this, and the waves were pounding our boat. We had no idea how long we could keep this up.

Someone shouted and started pointing; he saw something! We all looked, and quickly came to the realization that it was Jesus–but that was impossible. It had to be His “ghost..” He was walking on water, calming striding toward us. As absurd as it seems now, we believed that. After all, what we were all seeing defied reason. No way, it was impossible!

As He got closer to our boat the apparition shouted to us.

We all knew Jesus’ voice—and He was telling us not to be afraid, He understood our fear and He wanted us to know that we were in God’s hands. Our terror got mixed up in skepticism. After all, it had been a long day and this just doesn’t happen. Besides we knew that Jesus was left back in Gaiilee.

I don’t know why to this day where my courage came, but I needed to be with Jesus. Maybe it was curiosity, maybe it was more than that. Somewhere I came up with this wild idea that if He was really Jesus then He could allow me to walk on the water. I know that seems bizarre, but my “faith” in Him was greater than anything else.

Jesus told me to join Him.

So guess what? I stepped out of the boat.

What I found was that the water was hard. It was as solid as if I were walking on land! I couldn’t figure that out, it was impossible. Completely unbelievable. I saw the waves and felt the wind–My eyes shifted from Jesus and it was then I began to sink. The water was becoming water, and I began to sink.

“Jesus, save me!”

If there was any lesson that cry moved the heart of Jesus. Perhaps that’s what has shaped my ministry today. The cry of desperation has become an integral part of my walk. At that moment I realized that is my best prayer. “Master, save me!” I use it a lot. Especially when I’m “sinking.”

Jesus grasped my outstretched hand.

I was pulled up and out of the water to safety. He gently spoke a rebuke–a kind word of instruction and direction. But I learned something.

Following Jesus is a supernatural walk.

It can’t be done in any other way. And you must get out of the safety of the boat, which must come at His invitation. He wasn’t angered by my unbelief, but I believe He was encouraged by my faith, and the lesson was clearly understood by the disciples still in the boat.

The steps of faith fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath.

    John Greenleaf Whittier