Discipleship the Jesus Way
“...A crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:47-51, NLT)
The relationship between Jesus and Peter, I believe, is one of the best examples we have in the Bible of a mentor and their disciple.
In the Bible, we see examples of it everywhere: Moses trained up Joshua. Elijah taught Elisha. Eli groomed Samuel for ministry, who in turn, guided Saul and David. Paul wrote to Timothy to help mature him into his ministry.
Even right now, I’m sure someone is coming to mind as your spiritual adviser, your emotional
sounding board, or your big brother/sister in Christ. We all have them, whether it’s our parents, our pastors, a youth leader– the list goes on and on. And at some point, there might come a time where you become the mentor. Don’t get me wrong. That’s exciting, but we have to remember that while holding that role– being that safe place or that encourager to someone else– is also an important role to take seriously.
Too often, I think we’re eager to be that mentor because it feels good. It feels good to think we have it going on. It feels nice to think that we have valuable advice to give, but we have to remember that discipling someone is not a one-time occurence. It’s not a flippant commitment. It’s not something you get to back away from when that person is no longer this shiny, new thing to pour Jesus’ love into. As a mentor, you have to be just as willing to patiently lead that person through what they’re going through when things get real and inconvenient.
You can’t tap out when their depression is thick and heavy. You can’t stop loving them when they’re acting in disobedience. You still have to be there through the anxiety, through the neediness, and the heartaches of life.
And that’s why Jesus’ mentor-disciple relationship with Peter is the best example I can think of. For Jesus, discipleship had nothing to do with ego and everything to do with developing people into spiritual maturity. It had nothing to do with making Him look or feel good and everything to do with getting people closer to the Father.
And let’s be honest: Peter was probably more of a project than others. The verses above don’t say it, but we know from other accounts of the gospel that the man that chops off someone else’s ear is none other than Peter.
It’s easy to gloss over, but really think about it: Jesus is in the midst of being arrested. He’s been betrayed to die from someone in His inner circle. He’s been praying all night for the strength to face the road to certain death. He knows that the entire purpose for His whole life has been set in motion by this one moment. And what does Peter do? In a moment of emotional chaos and conflict, Peter fuels the fire by brandishing a sword and cutting off someone else’s ear.
I know for a fact that if most people were in Jesus’ shoes, they’d be frustrated with Peter. As if this moment wasn’t crazy and offensive enough, there goes Peter, making matters worse. After all the time Jesus spent teaching Him to be slow to anger! After all the time Jesus spent one-on-one pouring love into Peter, and now he chooses violence?
Most of us would turn to Peter and say, “I don’t have time for you right now. I have a lot going on and I can’t stop what I’m doing to deal with you.”
But instead, we know that Jesus, despite everything else that’s going on, uses this moment to gently teach Peter. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” (Matthew 26:52-54, NLT)
Jesus discipled Peter even unto the cross. Even when Peter denied Jesus. Even when Peter acted out in violence. Jesus had every opportunity to point to everything that was happening to Him as an excuse to brush Peter aside or condemn him for his disobedience. But Jesus still allowed Peter to learn at his own pace. He still loved Peter, in all his weakness.
So the most important thing to remember when discipling someone is this: this relationship that you commit to is your promise to be Jesus’ hands and feet extended. It’s your promise to be that reminder for someone to constantly be in pursuit of the Father, even in the moments that discipleship is inconvenient for you. And that, my friends, is just as much of a conviction for me today as it might be for you.