Jesus was quite explicit about the cost of following Him. Discipleship requires a totally committed life: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Sacrifice is expected: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus is my Master. I am His slave. That is the demand of discipleship.
Not all of Jesus’ followers were able to make such a commitment. There were many who left Jesus after a while. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).
As a disciple, am I learning from Jesus? The Greek term for “disciple” in the New Testament is mathetes, which means more than just “student” or “learner.” A disciple is a “follower,” someone who adheres completely to the teachings of another, making them his rule of life and conduct. The Pharisees prided themselves in being disciples of Moses (John 9:28).
Jesus’ followers were called “disciples” long before they were ever called “Christians.” Their discipleship began with Jesus’ call and required them to exercise their will to follow Him (Matthew 9:9). Jesus demanded they become slaves of the Master (aka Owner). This isn’t optional even thought it sounds repugnant.
- Matthew 10:24 (NASB) — “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.“
- Isaiah 8:16 (NASB) — Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
- Mark 2:18 (NASB) — John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
- Amos 7:14 (NASB) — Then Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs.
- John 9:28 (NASB) — They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.”
- 1 Kings 20:35 (NASB) — Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the Master, “Please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him.
- Luke 6:40 (NASB) — “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
- Isaiah 19:11 (NASB) — The princes of Zoan are mere fools; The advice of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers has become stupid. How can you men say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”?
- John 1:35 (NASB) — Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples.
Jesus used the term disciple but never Christian. The first instance of the word Christian is found in the book of Acts: “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Most Bible scholars agree that it is unlikely that the believers themselves thought up the name “Christians.” The early church had other names for themselves, such as “disciples” (Acts 13:52; 20:1; 21:4) and “saints” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1; Ephesians 1:1) and “brothers” (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Peter 3:8).