Jesus told two very short parables in Matthew 13:44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
It’s interesting that Jesus mentions that the two men in the parables had to go and sell everything they had in order to buy the field and the pearl. Sometimes I think we hold back from the ‘everything’ so that we can just ‘get by’, but still hold on to that which is dear to us.
John Wimber addresses this issue in “Everyone Gets to Play”
“The economy of the Kingdom of God is quite simple. Every new step in the Kingdom costs us everything we have gained to date. Every time we cross a new threshold, it costs us everything we now have. Every new step may cost us all the reputation and security we have accumulated up to that point. It costs us our life.
“A disciple is always ready to take the next step. If there is anything that characterizes Christian maturity, it is the willingness to become a beginner again for Jesus Christ. It is the willingness to put our hand in His and say, “‘I’m scared to death, but I’ll go with you. You’re the Pearl of great price.’”
Discipleship – The First Twelve
Christian discipleship is a concept that was born when Jesus hand-selected his first followers. A disciple, by definition, is a learner. In the case of Jesus, his disciples were those who followed him while he was on earth, as well as those who continue to follow him and his teachings today. Christian discipleship began, according to John’s Gospel, the day after Jesus was baptized (John 1:35-39).
According to this passage, the first two men to follow him heard John the Baptist declare that Jesus was the Lamb of God. Andrew and his friend (most likely John) believed what they heard and followed Jesus. Before long, they were telling others about this amazing Man of God! Andrew recruited his brother Simon (whom Jesus called Peter); the next day Jesus found Philip in Galilee; Philip found Nathaniel and soon a movement was born. Not everyone came easily or willingly at first. However, before long, Jesus had twelve disciples.
Discipleship – Fulfilling the Great Commission
Christian discipleship is summed up in the Great Commission. After the resurrection and before he ascended into heaven, Jesus appeared onelast time to his disciples. This is the moment that he delivered the famous calling for disciples known as The Great Commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20)
Christian discipleship continued to grow when the followers of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem and Peter outlined criteria for selecting a twelfth disciple to replace Judas Iscariot. The Scripture says they drew lots and the lot fell to Matthias. These men, who had previously been disciples, or followers of Jesus, were now to become apostles, or messengers. Their intention was to spread the Word, and beginning with Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and invaded them for the first time, they did! (See Acts 1 and 2)
Discipleship – Devoted to the Master
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24)
I am convinced that the words spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are the most important and transforming words that exist. They are a blueprint to a radical Christian life worth living and dying for. A life lived faithful to these commands will change the world far more than any “Occupy” protest will. If you look at Matthew 5-7 you can see a direct challenge to build on Jesus the rock by finding practical ways to live out these teachings, here and now.
Take for instance the words “No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money.” I understand this to mean that I should devote my entire being to serving others in simple daily acts of love rather than seeking physical comfort and pleasure – what someone has called “random acts of kindness”. In contrast to a nation that seems committed to the pursuit of material happiness, this is counter-cultural and requires sacrifice. If the words of the Sermon on the Mount are to be taken seriously though, everything must be given up for the promised goal: the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Another verse from Matthew 5:8 confronted us: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” For me, this means resisting the natural urge to fall into sin. If I have pure thoughts and am free from vanity, I will find the spark of God that is in every person and focus on that. Genuine, honest words and actions must rule my life. It is impossible for any person to be perfect in this regard, but I believe a bold commitment to purity is a necessity in truly following Jesus. This struggle for purity starts with self-respect and reverence for the fact that the Kingdom of God is found within everyone.
Reading further through Matthew, do I pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done…” and mean it? Sincerely asking for God’s will – not my will – to be done tests my willingness to listen to him and follow my conscience. Everything else will become nothing if I truly hunger and thirst for the justice and love promised when God’s Kingdom comes to earth. God’s will can be done if every day I pray for guidance to do my part.
Following the Lord’s Prayer come the words, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Thinking about this, I am slowly grasping how many opportunities I have each day to forgive instead of holding grudges and building walls of mistrust and tension. Each time I let an angry thought or minor disagreement come between myself and someone else, I am giving the devil a foothold.
The Sermon on the Mount raises so many questions, questions that speak directly to us today: What does it mean not to worry about food and clothing when the gap between the wealthy and the poor in our nation widens every year and people throughout the world are starving? Do I always go the extra mile? How do I turn the other cheek? How and where does “love your enemies” apply if I care only for the people from whom I will get something in return? These are some of the questions we really need to be grappling with.
I believe the Lord wants to inspire us to let this kind of discipleship transform our lives. And the more we read and think, the more we will realize that the Sermon on the Mount needs to apply to us today as much as to the crowd that surrounded Jesus on the mountain side 2000 years ago. If we allow this to happen, not just with our heads but with our hearts, it will transform us and the world. We have all heard these teachings. Now is the time to build on the rock.
The Cost of Discipleship
Some years ago, in “The Cost of Discipleship”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”