Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Triad of Discipleship: Believe in Jesus, Love Jesus, Abide in Jesus

Jesus in his last hours with his disciples taught them how to follow him even though he would no longer be with them in the flesh. He taught them by the use of rich and striking metaphors ("I am the way," "I am the the vine, you are the branches") that allowed the disciples to understand that they were being commissioned for lives that were entirely within the plan of God. That, in fact, what was about to happen was not an interruption of God's plan, but its crowning glory. That Jesus, by his going and in the manner of his going, would "lead many sons to glory," as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews would later put it. And that Jesus, despite all this talk about going away, would in fact be with them always.

This must have all seemed somewhat difficult to understand at the time. Jesus' words to his disciples there in the upper room (after the departure of Judas) begin with an announcement that he is going away, and that where he is going they cannot come (John 13:33), and end with a prayer to the Father that he, Jesus, would always remain "in them" (John 17:26). In the space between, Jesus unpacks for the disciples just what it will mean to be a Jesus-follower after he is gone. He explains to them the essence of their mission, the resources available, the nature of the resistance they will meet, and the end result of it all.

I've been stewing on these chapters for a while now, and I have come to the conclusion that we need more often to talk to one another (and "preach" to one another) in the manner that Jesus talked that night. That is, as disciples and followers of "the way," rather than simply as spiritual and emotional invalids desperately seeking happiness and peace. As carriers of Christ to the world, not simply receivers of his comfort.

What can we assume about the life of discipleship based on what Jesus said that night? If we were simply to scan this passage for a catalog of the activities and attitudes that Jesus enjoins the disciples to follow, it would look something like this (in no particular order):
1. Disciples believe in Jesus.
2. Disciples do the works of Jesus.
3. Disciples ask the Father for whatever they wish.
4. Disciples love one another.
5. Disciples bear fruit.
6. Disciples abide in Jesus.
7. Disciples keep the commandments.
8. Disciples have the joy of the Lord in them.
9. Disciples have the Holy Spirit in them.
10. Disciples love Jesus.
11. Disciples have peace.
12. Disciples have the Word abiding in them.
13. Disciples are friends of Jesus.
14. Disciples know the Father.
15. Disciples bear witness.
This is not a list of tasks, but a catalog of descriptors applied to the lives of the disciples. These are things we can assume to be true about ourselves, or at least available to us. But if the list seems nonetheless daunting, it can really be boiled down, I think, to three items. Or, in other words, all these descriptors hang upon or follow from three in particular. Those three are:
Believe in Jesus.
Love Jesus.
Abide in Jesus.
By a way of example, if we believe in Jesus, we will do the works of Jesus (John 14:12). If we love Jesus, we will have the Helper dwelling within us forever, helping us to keep the commandments (John 14:15,16). And if we abide in Jesus (and only if we abide in Jesus), we will bear much fruit (John 15:5). In actual fact, everything that Jesus says about the future life his disciples after his going away can be seen to follow from these three things. Believe in him, love him, and abide in him.

That's all for now. Have an abide-ful day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

plenty to think about here! thanks.