The disciples were so lost following Jesus around...they didn't get it. Jesus actually had to ask them a few times if they were just being stupid.
The truth is that the disciples were expecting something totally different.
If someone came along side of you and told you they were going to be the next LeBron James and you should start following them around...you might just do it.
So the disciples are pretty stoked right? Here’s this guy that is fulfilling the prophecy and as far as they know, based on what they have been told, this guy is going to be this amazing conquering king.
So naturally they want to be associated with him, he's going to be king and then they'll be right up there with the top dog. What a sweet set up!
So they do as he says and walk away from what they have so they can be in the king's court.
Think about Mark 8:32. Peter grabbed Jesus in protest after Jesus told them what was coming.
What Jesus foretold was not what these guys had signed up for.
This wasn't the kingdom they had in mind.
There was no fame in this.
I watch this country take Jesus and place him on a throne, but not an eternal heavenly throne.
One that oversees their schools, and government and workplaces and homes.
America is just another Israel.
Pining for a king.
And just like the Jews, they seem to be missing the point.
When reading the Old Testament vs. the New Testament, we see the distinct difference between the replaying dynamic of God’s people and what Jesus did to change that. That story is essential to the gospel and yet just like the Israelites, we keep looking for an earthly king. Generation after generation we want what we can see and relate to. God is so much greater and yet we often seek worldly satisfaction. Can we not see God’s will? Complacency is too easy isn’t it? Complacency is more than just a rut, it is a selfish lifestyle.
What we need is discipleship. What we need is training; a real education in biblical matters. We need a boot camp of sorts, for evangelism…American style. Why not go bold? Why not be in your face? I jest but the truth is that more Americans would relate to that kind of bold and extreme preaching if it were more prevalent. Instead, we get Westboro Baptist and their extremism and we become so turned off to the idea of radical evangelism because the groups that are doing it or have tried it, are so far out there that we simply regress to doing next to nothing.
Recently, I grasped the realization that the growth steps from Timothy to Paul to Silas to Barnabas are really not that obvious for a lot of people. It is with sadness that a lot of men are simply not turned on to the gospel of Jesus Christ and are therefore walking in blissful ignorance to what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. The disciples of Jesus struggled with this too and they got to walk and listen to Jesus for nearly 3 years!
After Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit and I have to believe that at that point, the words of Jesus really sank in. All those parables, all the healing, all the teaching, all the miracles…those guys must have been literally floored by what they recalled. Is it possible that many Americans walking around today have yet to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? The gift of discernment can only come with the Spirit living inside of you and it makes me wonder if many are simply not there yet. Certainly it would explain a great deal for me, maybe for you too, but it still leaves me wondering why more people are not praying then for the gift. Could it be that we live in a culture that suggests you really don’t need something as silly as the Holy Spirit?
Jesus discipled and taught 12 very ordinary men for nearly 3 years. During that time, that group of guys really struggled with a lot of what Jesus had to share with them. They doubted their calling, they doubted His words at times, they doubted why He was there and they were clearly very confused about this whole dying on the cross thing. But Jesus never gave up on that group of guys. He never said, “that’s it, I’ve had it with you bunch of idiots, I’m going solo”. Instead, He kept pouring into them, day after day after day, never relenting, until the day came when He had to be handed over to be crucified. And even after that He came back to be with them for more than a month before He returned to the Father. Jesus knew that in order to get inside the heads of ordinary guys, He had to go to extraordinary lengths to show them and teach them what it meant to be a servant.
In Acts, we see what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples. These ordinary men become kingdom superheroes who risk their very lives for the gospel. Ultimately, most of them end up dying very gruesome deaths just for the privilege of following the way of Jesus. Some of them made sure to write about their experiences and they left us with precious words of teaching and encouragement. What I long for now is an awakening of sorts. I long for a group of guys who would rise up for the kingdom with no fear, filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim that Jesus is Lord of all and that by His grace we are saved.
In order to get there though, we are going to have to spend some time discipling some men. It’s going to take years, not just some 4 week crash course. It’s going to take a radical shift in what it means to be in relationship with each other. We are going to have to dig deeper because the forces are against us, especially the very culture of America that surrounds us.
This is not some impossible task either. We have a road map that successfully guides us there and if we follow the leader, we will find that Jesus has already shown us the way. Being willing to follow is a bold first step. Committing to stick with it is a critical key. Understanding what is at stake will help your commitment level. Grasping the brevity of this in light of eternity is what will carry you through to the end.
One warning: this will not be easy. But have heart, because we know of the One who has overcome this world, and we have hope because of what He has done for us already. Pray for the Spirit to invade your life and pray for the courage to step out and be counted as a disciple. Our calling was never to be lost, but to be found by Him.