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Being a Disciple of Christ

Maurice Blumberg

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and
sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross
and come after me cannot be my disciple…. Everyone of you who does not renounce all his
possessions cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, 27, 33)

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be
my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love
one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one
another.” (John 13:35)

“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:8)

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe
approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his
head.” Another of (his) disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus
answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” He got into a boat and his
disciples followed him. (Matthew 8:18-23)

“Do you believe you are called to be a disciple of Christ?” I think many of us might answer this
question something like this, “Of course, all of us are called to be disciples of Christ, However,
before we personalize this answer, we should look a “what it means to be a disciple”. To do
this, let’s first look at how Jesus defined some of the characteristics of a disciple:

• A disciple must love Jesus even more than his immediate family. (Luke 14:26)
• A disciple requires self-denial, complete dedication, willing obedience, and total
commitment – even unto death (Luke 14:27)
• A disciple surrenders everything for Jesus. (Luke 14:33)
• A disciple remains true to Jesus’ words and teachings. (John 8:31)
• A disciple loves others as Jesus has loved him. (John 13:34-35)

The Catechism defines a disciple this way: “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith
and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it” (Catechism of the
Catholic Church, 1816).
Do you believe you are personally called to be a disciple of Christ? Perhaps, after reading the
above definitions of a disciple, you are not so sure. That’s OK. It just means you have come to
realize that you cannot be a disciple on your own strength. This did not appear to be the case
for the two men who came to Jesus as told in Matthew 8:18-23. Perhaps, that is why he
challenged these would-be disciples so strongly. He wanted them to take a closer look at the
job description before they signed up!

It wasn’t that they were insincere. The scribe told Jesus eagerly, “I will follow you wherever you
go” (Matthew 8:19). But Jesus must have sensed he didn’t understand what that meant. He
might have followed him across the, lake-but would he follow him to Jerusalem? Would he
follow him to the cross? The other young man was already a disciple, and all he wanted to do
was bury his father – there seems to be a condition here. So why didn’t Jesus accept him
immediately? He was not against this man honoring his family, but he wanted to see where his
heart was.

As the example of these two men show us, discipleship depends on commitment. Though it
doesn’t always call us to travel to the ends of the earth or sever every family tie, it does require
something more difficult: surrendering our will to the Lord. We may have the best of intentions
and be very sincere, but we must also be willing to give up our strong attachments to this
world’s values and comforts. We can’t finish our journey with Jesus if we keep one foot on the
shore in case things get rough!

Being a disciple of Christ requires that we die to ourselves and embrace the cross. When we do
this, we find a new home in him. The sacrifices we make for him are nothing compared to the
rewards we receive as his disciples. No matter what storms are raging around us, we do have a
place to lay our heads. And it’s so much better than any comfort this world can offer us! Just as
Jesus did during his time on earth, when we are troubled or tired we can call on God our Father.
He will always refresh us and strengthen us. He will always empower us, by the power of his
Spirit, to be Jesus’ disciples.

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Maurice Blumberg is Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men Center.

[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to adapt material
from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion

1. What was your reaction to Jesus’ words on what it takes to be his


disciple? What about the definition of disciple from the
Catechism?
2. Why do you think Jesus challenged the two men so strongly in the
story in Matthew 8:18-23?
3. Do you believe you have been called to be a disciple of Christ?
Why or why not? If the answer is yes, how are you doing?
4. How do you respond to the statement of Jesus in Luke 14:33? Is
Jesus asking you to give up something to follow him more
completely? Are you open to hearing this call to sacrifice? Would
you be willing to give up what he asks from you?

PRAYER:
Dear Lord, by your grace, our salvation is free. We don’t earn it. We don’t have to try. Yet,
as we receive that salvation, we recognize that our lives will change, that there will be a cost
in our discipleship. It’s not the cost of earning your love, which has already been given to us.
But it is the cost of putting aside our old self so that we might be more fully devoted to you.

Help me, gracious Lord, to offer more of myself to you. Help me to give up those things to
which I am clinging. Help me to renounce my sin and turn from it. Help me to let go of the
possessions and securities that keep me from following you with abandon.

Jesus, I want to be your disciple, no matter what the cost. I believe this is your call for my
life, and I say yes to this call. Your grace is sufficient for me to be faithful to this call. Father,
your love is more than enough to sustain me. Thank you for giving me your peace, joy, and
rest. In you alone will I find fullness of life!”

O Lord, may I be more and more your disciple each day, by your grace and for your glory. In
your name I pray, Amen.
33 Inthe same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my
disciples.

Luke 14:33

37 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves
son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matt: 10:37

Practical explanation

In 1937, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer published a book called Nachfolge.
When this book was translated into English in 1948, it had a longer title, one that revealed the
book’s central message: The Cost of Discipleship. Though God’s grace is offered to us freely in
Christ, when we decide to follow him, there is for us the cost of putting aside our old life (the
old man) and putting on our new life in Christ. According to Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a
man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to
leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the
monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus
Christ, the death of the old man at his call” (Simon & Schuster, 1959, pp. 89-90).

Luke 14 consistently emphasizes the cost of discipleship. If we’re going to follow Jesus, if we’re
going to be citizens of the kingdom of God, then we are to humble ourselves (Luke 14:11),
“hate” our family (Luke 14:26), and carry our cross (Luke 14:27). To make matters even more
uncomfortable, Jesus says, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything
you own” (Luke 14:33). As Bonhoeffer recognizes, the first disciples had to do this literally in the
sense that they left home, work, and family to follow Jesus. While they hung on to a few
possessions, like their clothing, the original disciples paid a high price to follow Jesus.

Throughout the centuries, Christians have wrestled with how Luke 14:33 is to be interpreted
and obeyed by those who are not called to follow Jesus literally. Should we sell everything we
own or give it all away? Is this what Jesus wants from us? Given the broader teachings and
actions of Jesus, it does not seem that he requires literal abandonment of all possessions. Once
again, we see that Jesus is speaking hyperbolically in Luke 14:33. But, in a sense, when we
decide to follow Jesus, we do give up everything to him: our lives, our ambitions, our
relationships, our talents, and our stuff. We recognize that God is the true owner of all that we
consider to be ours, and we commit it all to him and his purposes.

Practically speaking, this means we will make tangible sacrifices in our lives, sometimes very
costly ones. We will give a considerable amount of “our money” to God’s work in the world.
Similarly, we will give a considerable amount of “our time” to the mission of the church, even as
we seek to devote every moment to living missionally in our part of the world. As we do, we will
discover the freedom and joy that comes from dying to ourselves and living to Christ.