The Call to Discipleship - page 1

From the Winter 2011 issue of Knowing & Doing


The Call to Discipleship: Luke 9:20-25, 51-62 Timothy Keller

by Timothy J. Keller, D.Min.
Founding Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City, NY

There is a growing recognition in churches today about the need for discipleship. In what follows, I would like to describe from the Gospel of Luke what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Luke has some helpful insights about discipleship. The first eight chapters are focused on “who is Jesus?” But there’s a shift in chapter 9, where Peter with the help of the Holy Spirit realizes that Jesus is not one more in a succession of prophets and teachers. Peter says, “You are the Christ of God.” You are the Messiah, the one who is bringing the ruling power of God back into the world to heal and repair all the brokenness—whether it’s spiritual, psychological, social, or physical.

From the time Jesus’ identity is revealed, he begins to say, “Follow me.” If he is who he says he is, what does it mean to follow him? Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means setting a new priority, finding a new identity, and living a new mercy. All three are critical; they all fit together. Let’s look at them.

Setting a New Priority
Being a disciple means setting a new priority. In Luke 9:57–62 Jesus meets three eager men, all willing to follow him. Jesus’ responses to them are surprisingly blunt.

The first man says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus says, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “There’s nothing wrong with what you just said, but I discern a wrong attitude underneath your statement. Do you know what kind of Savior I am? I’m not the kind that rallies constituents, pulls together armies, and then triumphs. I am a Savior who saves through being condemned, through dying, through giving my heart to be broken. Let’s apply this to one area of your life: I see that you have a home, a nice standard of living. Are you willing to put me before that? Are you willing to lose those things for me?”

Then Jesus addresses two other men, similarly concerned with their families. One says, “I’d love to come with you, but first I have to bury my father.” The other says, “First let me go back and say good-by to my family.” There is nothing wrong with having a funeral for your father or going back to see your family, but behind these requests Jesus sees a wrong attitude of heart. He’s saying, “For you to go to your father’s funeral—or back home—would be a bad idea. I must come first.” Notice their language. In both cases they say, “Lord, first, let me do this.” Jesus says there can’t be any but first. “I must be your first priority.” That’s what he means when he says: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

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