Reason #20: To Train Men.
What was Jesus’ number one focus throughout his three-year ministry?
To perform miracles? To preach on the Kingdom of God? I would argue that the number one focus was not on his miraculous interactions with individuals nor with the masses. Neither was it about any certain teaching points. It was to train up men who would later change the world.
Not long after Jesus met the disciples, he announced to them their new profession: to be fishers of men. But he knew that they would not be successful in their careers if they did not have the proper training. Can you think of any profession that does not require training?
Jesus was to the disciples a walking, living seminary. Everything Jesus did and said was done for them to grow and learn. In some of the stories in the gospels, we see Jesus relating to a specific person (such as the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, etc.), but let us not forget that the disciples were there, watching and learning how Jesus ministered to others. The things that they needed to learn could not be imparted overnight. They needed to know how to teach, how to face adversity, how to pray, how to listen to the Spirit. Most of all they needed to be convinced of what God’s kingdom was all about and that Jesus was Lord of all. One of my favorite authors, Christopher J. H. Wright puts it this way:
“[The disciples] were to be with him. That is, they would simply spend time with Jesus, learning from him, being trained by him, understanding his identity and mission, bearing the cost of radical discipleship, witnessing his life and teaching, his death, and above all his resurrection. This in itself made this group of twelve so unique, so much so that when Judas dropped out, the criteria they set for whoever should replace him included the same elements – he had to have been a witness of Jesus from the days of John the Baptist to the resurrection.” from The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, page 212.
Jesus knew that it would take three years of training. There are no short cuts or crash courses when it comes to preparing oneself to be useful in God’s Kingdom. We live in an age where we want everything NOW. I am often encouraged when I hear young people say they want to be great for God. This is a good desire, but if it is not matched with the willingness to spend time preparing, then their reach is often limited. The training that Jesus gave was not just about information, it was about transformation too. Take a look at this passage from John 13:
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (v. 12-14, NIV).
We see here that Jesus did not want his disciples to learn facts about serving, he wanted them to be transformed into servants. Information is one thing, doing is another. Doing is just what the disciples did when Jesus left them with the command: “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Without the disciples, “Christianity” would have been a short-lived movement. The gospels came about through the disciples’ writings, new churches were formed based on the disciples’ teachings, new areas were brought hope through the disciples’ preaching and travelling, and many became convinced of Christianity through the disciples’ dying as martyrs. I do not deny that it was God’s power working through them to do those things, but it was them carrying out those actions.
Above I mentioned the disciples were called to be fishers of men. In Acts, right before Jesus departed earth, he told his disciples they were to be witnesses, they were to testify of him. Interesting that Jesus’ first and last words to his disciples included giving them a job description. More than a job description, he was telling them who they were to be.
Questions to consider: Would you describe yourself as a fisher of men? A witness to Jesus? If you have a heart to do great things for God, are you willing to prepare? Who are you learning from? Who is learning from you?
For further reading: https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2016/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-disciple-and-to-disciple-others What it means to be a disciple, a blog entry by David L Talley https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/give-up-your-weak-definition-of-disciple-2/ Give up your weak definition of ‘disciple’, a blog entry by John Starke