“As Jesus was strolling along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he noticed two brothers, Simon, also known as Peter, and Andrew, who was Simon’s brother. Because they were fishermen, they were lowering a net into the water of the lake. Jesus called his disciples to accompany him, saying, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” They immediately dropped their nets and started following him. As he continued from that point, he came across two more brothers: James, son of Zebedee, and John, who was James’ brother. They were getting their nets ready while they were on a boat with their father, Zebedee. They responded instantly to Jesus’ summons and abandoned the boat along with their father in order to follow him. (Matthew 4:18-22 NIV)
Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.–Jesus
The Gospels document several occasions on which Jesus issued invitations to his disciples to follow him. One of the most famous accounts is this one. It says that they immediately dropped their nets and began following after Him. When Jesus calls James and John, who are also fishermen, they immediately drop everything to follow Him.
The instantaneous response that the disciples gave to this call is one of the most stunning aspects of it. They give up their jobs and businesses, as well as their families and their previous way of life, to follow Jesus. They are not guaranteed riches or luxury; instead, they are summoned to a life of service, sacrifice, and even persecution in exchange for the promise of eternal life. And yet, they don’t question their decision to follow Him.
The Jewish concept of discipleship, also known as talmidim, was a common practice in the time of Jesus. It involved a student or disciple following a rabbi or teacher in order to learn from them and become like them. This practice was a natural part of Jewish culture, as education was highly valued, and the role of the rabbi was to pass on his knowledge and wisdom to his students.
The relationship between a rabbi and his disciple was one of respect and devotion. The disciple would follow his rabbi closely, not only learning from his teachings but also observing his behavior and lifestyle. The goal of discipleship was not simply to gain knowledge, but to become like the rabbi in character and behavior.
In order to become a disciple, a person would have to demonstrate a deep commitment to their rabbi and his teachings. This commitment was often tested through a process of rigorous questioning and debate, as the rabbi would challenge his disciples to think deeply about the meaning of the Torah and how it should be applied to their lives.
Jesus’ call to discipleship, therefore, would have been familiar to his Jewish listeners. However, his approach to discipleship was unique in several ways. For example, he did not simply teach his disciples about the Torah, but claimed to be the fulfillment of it (Matthew 5:17). He also invited a diverse group of people to follow him, including fishermen, tax collectors, and even a zealot (Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9-13; Luke 6:15). This would have been unusual in a culture where social and religious boundaries were often strictly enforced.
Jesus also challenged his disciples in a way that went beyond the intellectual debates of traditional Jewish discipleship. He asked them to leave behind their homes, families, and livelihoods in order to follow him (Matthew 8:18-22). This would have been a radical and even scandalous request in a culture where family and community ties were highly valued.
Despite these differences, Jesus’ call to discipleship was rooted in the Jewish concept of talmidim. He invited his followers to become his students, to learn from him and become like him in character and behavior. His message was not just about gaining knowledge, but about entering into a deep and transformative relationship with him as Lord and Savior.
To be a disciple of Christ means to follow in His footsteps, to take instruction from Him, and to pattern our own lives after the way that He lived. It requires a profound devotion to Jesus as our Lord and Savior and a readiness to put our faith into action in several spheres of daily life.
We learn from the Gospels that following in Jesus’ footsteps requires a commitment to some fundamental principles.
To begin, it’s necessary to have a one-on-one connection with Jesus. We can have a personal relationship with Jesus just like the first disciples did by praying, reading the Bible, and being a part of a community of other believers. Just as the first disciples walked and talked with Jesus, so can we.
Second, a commitment to obedience is required in order to call oneself a follower of Christ. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” This indicates that as followers of Jesus, we are to make it a priority to obey the teachings of Jesus and to carry out His mandates in our day-to-day lives.
The third requirement for becoming a follower of Christ is to make a commitment to love. In John 13:34–35, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, which was to love one another. You must love one another just as I have loved you. It is required of you. If you love one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. This is how they will recognize you. As followers of Jesus, we are obligated to love God and one another in the same way he has loved us.
A fourth requirement for becoming a follower of Christ is a dedication to personal development and advancement. When we decide to follow Jesus, we give ourselves permission to change because of the truth and love that He embodies. This indicates that we prioritize developing our faith further, becoming more like Christ, and putting our faith into action in various ways in our daily lives.
The road to being a disciple of Christ consists of following Christ, gaining wisdom from Him, and modeling our lives after the way He lived his life. It is a journey that everyone who is willing to follow Him with their whole hearts and lives can take, and it is a path that brings about transformation, joy, and eternal life.
This invitation to become a disciple was not merely a one-time occurrence but the beginning of a lifelong path of following Jesus and gaining wisdom from Him. The disciples were able to personally witness His miracles, his teachings, and his compassion for those who were broken and lost as they walked alongside Jesus. Because of His example, they learned how to love God and one another and put their faith into practice in meaningful ways.
The invitation to discipleship is still just as relevant and transformative for us as Christians living in today’s world. Like the original disciples, we must abandon our previous ways of thinking and behaving to follow Jesus with all of our hearts and for the rest of our lives. In Matthew chapter 16, verse 24, we are instructed to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.” This may require us to give up our own wants and priorities to serve God and other people, as well as take a leap of faith to communicate the gospel message to those in our immediate environment.
The invitation to become a disciple is not always simple, but it is a journey that ultimately results in transformation, joy, and eternal life. When we commit to following Jesus, we open ourselves up to the possibility of experiencing the transformative power of God’s love, grace, and truth in our lives and those around us.
The idea that following Jesus requires one to make sacrifices and commitment is referred to as “the cost of discipleship,” and it is a prominent element in Jesus’ teachings. In the book of Luke, chapter 14, verse 27, Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” To put it another way, if you want to call yourself a follower of Jesus, you must be willing to suffer for your faith by submitting to challenges, enduring difficulties, and even being persecuted.
In the parable of the pearl of great price found in Matthew 13:45–46, Jesus also addressed the expense of following him as a disciple. In this fable, a merchant gives up everything he owns to purchase a pearl of exceptional worth. Jesus told this tale to emphasize that for us to become his disciples, we must be willing to forsake everything that we possess and hold dear in exchange for the greatest treasure that exists: the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
There are a variety of ways that one’s discipleship can cost them. To answer Jesus’ call, it may be necessary for some people to give up their jobs or other personal goals. Others could have to deal with the disapproval or hostility of family members, friends, or even society as a whole as a result of their decision to follow Jesus. Matthew 16:24 says that if we want to follow Jesus, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This is what it means to follow Jesus.
The rewards of becoming a disciple are beyond measure, despite the sacrifices and difficulties that come with it. Jesus makes the promise that those who choose to follow Him will be blessed with eternal life (John 3:16), the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), and the joy and peace that come from having a healthy relationship with God (John 15:11). We also become a part of a community of other believers who help one another grow in their faith by providing support, encouragement, and constructive criticism.
The commitment and self-sacrifice necessary to be a disciple of Jesus are the price that must be paid. It requires us to forsake everything we have and cherish for the sake of following Him, and it often entails enduring tribulations and suffering at the hands of His enemies. On the other hand, the benefits of being a disciple are invaluable and include not only eternal life but also the gift of the Holy Spirit and the joy and serenity resulting from a healthy relationship with God.
Deciding to follow Christ as your leader is the first step toward becoming a disciple. It enables us to examine our reasons for following Jesus and the degree to which we are committed to doing so and to recommit ourselves to doing so. When we think about what it means to be a disciple, we are reminded that it is not just a one-time choice or a haphazard commitment; instead, it is a journey that lasts a lifetime and entails continual personal development and alteration.
When we think about our decision to follow Christ, we are likely to be reminded of the sacrifices that being a disciple requires of us. Jesus forewarned us that following him would not be an easy path and that we would need to make sacrifices to walk that path. In fact, He instructed us to “take up our cross and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24) when He told us that we would have to do so. This means that we must be willing to give up whatever prevents us from following Jesus, whether it be money, personal aspirations, or even our own lives. This includes both the physical and spiritual aspects of our existence.
However, the benefits of following Christ far outweigh any temporary sacrifices we may have to make in order to become disciples, even though the cost of discipleship may appear to be high. As followers of Christ, we are confident that we will spend eternity with Him, the peace and joy that come from maintaining a healthy relationship with God, and the companionship of other people who have put their faith in Christ. We also have the promise of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the ability to put our faith into action and to produce fruit for the sake of the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:22–23).
Ultimately, the choice to adhere to Christ’s teachings and become one of his disciples is the most consequential choice that any of us can make in our lives. It challenges us to examine our priorities, values, and aspirations and adjust them so that they align with God’s will. It needs us to be willing to make sacrifices and suffer hardships, but in exchange, it promises us the greatest prize, eternal life with Christ. As we think about why we chose to follow Christ and what it means to be one of His disciples, may we be inspired to recommit ourselves to Him and follow Him with all our hearts?