“Disciple” is an odd word. We don’t typically use it in our everyday vocabulary. It seems old and archaic. The word “discipleship” is not even in the Bible. I think of a disciple as someone who is devoted to something or someone. Honestly, I picture the Karate Kid learning from the old man and waxing and waning over and over again. I am not entirely sure what disciple or discipleship means because there is not one passage in the Bible that clearly lays this out, yet Matthew 28:19-20 calls us to “make disciples”. I am called to do this – to make disciples. But, how? This is where we look to Jesus, who clearly teaches us how to make disciples through His life. Jesus is the ultimate model and example of an effective, loving, and true disciple-maker, and we’ll learn from His example in Luke 5:1-11. Jesus calls His first disciples after beginning His public ministry.
He Got in the Boat
The first thing Jesus did to model disciple-making is get in the boat with the fishermen. Now this was no cruise on a yacht. It was probably covered in slimy fish guts, had no dry place to sit due to slow leaks, and was less than roomy. Jesus got on their level and in their mess in order to form an authentic relationship with these men. This boat belonged to Simon, who would later be called Peter (John 1:42) and the rock on which the Church would be built (Matthew 16:18). However, before he became all of that, Peter worked an ordinary job as a fisherman and caught stinky, smelly, gross fish all day long. Just take a second to imagine how disgusting a fishing boat must have been. Then Jesus, the holy, perfect Son of God literally stepped into his filthy boat and entered his life.
Most of us don’t have fishing boats today, but our messes are the same. We have unconfessed sin, divorced families, and less than perfect relationships to navigate and find Jesus through the pain. That is the first step in being a disciple-maker. You have to get into the fish-smelling guts of someone else’s life. You have to be willing to get into the boat. You have to be willing simply to hug the girl whose father just walked out on her and explain to the girl who is battling loneliness that there is hope. I began to be discipled my freshman year by a woman who I did not know incredibly well. She stepped into the mess of my insecurities, sin, and friend issues and was willing to speak truth to me. She got into my boat.
He Taught Them
The second thing Jesus did to model discipleship is teach them. The passage does not tell us what He taught or even give us a sneak peek into what He said to these men, but it was life changing. After He finishes teaching, we see Jesus give them a command to put out their nets and catch fish. Simon obeys because he trusts in the word of the Lord: “…but at your Word, I will let down the nets.” Discipleship is about allowing someone to speak truth into your life for the sake of revealing sin. That is what Jesus does here. When Simon obeys Jesus’ words and puts out his net, he witnesses the miracle that Jesus arranges by allowing fish to fill their nets. Simon encounters God in such a real way that he sees his sin in comparison to the glory of Jesus. He cries out, “I am a sinful man”. Truth is spoken, and sin is revealed. That is the model of discipleship that Jesus takes. He gets into the boat and teaches the Word of God so that Simon will see his sin and repent.
For me, this looked like meeting once a week to open up the one year chronological reading plan I was reading through and talk about what I was learning, how I could apply it to my life, and ask all the questions that I had. Through this simple process, I began to understand fully who Jesus was in comparison to myself, which led to me seeing the sins of pride, religion, and selfishness more clearly in my heart. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), and the Word reveals sin in our hearts in order for us to repent and become more like Jesus. That leads us to the last step of discipleship.
He Commissioned Them
The purpose of discipleship is to make other disciples, and Jesus clearly tells Simon, James, and John that this is what they will be doing. Jesus invested His life and ministry into these men so that they would turn around and pour their lives into others. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus give these men opportunities to do ministry with Him (John 6) and then send them on their own to do ministry (Luke 10). Before Jesus calls these men to follow Him, He modeled the method and purpose of discipleship to them for the sake of multiplication. This is the calling Jesus has entrusted to each of us (2 Timothy 2:2). Discipleship has a purpose, and it is to help others see Jesus more clearly. It is our responsibility to carry this mission out.
Jesus’ life is the picture of discipleship. We are commanded to be a disciple and make disciples, and we are to look to Jesus as our model and example. So, I want to challenge you. Are you living in obedience to the call of discipleship that is placed on your life? Have you ever been discipled? Are you making disciples? Trust me. This is a scary process. I was right where you are sitting a few years ago. I was unsure about this whole process and did not know what it even looked like. It takes a lot of guts and openness to allow someone into the mess of your life. It takes even more for you to be the person who leads out in discipleship. But let me tell you that obeying Jesus is worth it all. To pursue discipleship is one of the best decisions I ever made. The Lord challenged me, convicted me, and blessed me for obeying Him. Jesus devoted His entire life and ministry to making disciples, so look to His example and follow Him. If Jesus was doing it, then I want to do it too! I am praying for you as you decide to obey.
Father, I pray that You will burn the desire of discipleship into our hearts. You have so beautifully modeled this through Your life. You got into the boat. You taught. You revealed sin. You commissioned them. I pray that we will take the next step of obedience and be a disciple or begin to make disciples. May we look to You and You alone to model our own lives after. Thank You for who You are – the first Disciple-Maker. Thank You for giving us the design. I love You!
Growing Up by Robby Gallaty
Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman