There are many ways to serve one another in love, and one of the greatest aspects of this service is discipleship.
After being resurrected from the dead Jesus told the women at the grave to tell “His brothers to go to Galilee” and Jesus would meet them there. When they arrived at the place Jesus told them to go, Jesus was there, and it’s here that Jesus gives His disciples a message in Matthew 28:18-20:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
To many this is known as “the Great Commission”. Before we can totally understand discipleship and how it’s one of the greatest expressions of Christian love and service, we have to understand what a commission is. A commission is by definition “authority granted for a particular action or function” or for us military folk “a document conferring authority issued by the president of the U.S. to officers in the Army, Navy, and other military services, and by state governments to justices of the peace and others.” In military terms (terms I’m used to), a commission is when the President (who is the supreme power in the military) gives some of his authority to the people who work for him, in order for them to carry out his purposes, under his name. In the same way, Jesus is commissioning his disciples, who have spent 3 or more years with him at this point, to go out and make disciples of all nations in His stead, and under the Authority of His Name. Now, you can only give a commission if you have the authority to do so, and Jesus obviously has such authority, and he declares this upfront “All authority in the universe has been given to me…” Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He has all power, all authority, and can do ANYTHING He chooses with it. He could disciple the whole world by Himself, and yet He chooses to let his rag-tag group of disciples, who just 3 days earlier abandoned Him, do it in His Name. And that’s how a commission works. And this commission has been given not just to the disciples, but to all the Christians. Notice the last command Jesus gives in Matthew 28. He tells the disciples to “teach them everything I have commanded you”. He has commanded the disciples, among many things, to make more disciples! That means, the disciples taught their disciples to make disciples who taught their disciples to make more disciples and so on all the way down the years to you and me! So we have a commission from Jesus Himself, by His power and in His Name, to make disciples of all nations and to teach them everything He has taught us.
Why is this type of service considered love?
To answer that question, we need to look at the ministry of Jesus and how He discipled His followers. Jesus’ training of His disciples consisted of several ‘phases’. The first phase was the invitation to follow. Take a look at Matthew 4:18-21 and you’ll see an example of Jesus bringing those he would disciple under His wing. Nothing fancy, nothing incredible, simply a humble request to come and walk as He walked. Beyond that, He promised to make them able to ‘fish for men’, meaning, find and make even more disciples! Now, observe the types of people Jesus was choosing to have follow Him. They were fishermen, tax collectors, and later with Saul of Tarsus, He even chose a Pharisee! People from all walks of life and all different backgrounds, but they all share something in common: they’re not the people you’d expect the Messiah to choose. We’re talking the poor uneducated work-horses of those days (fishermen), the people who the public considered the greatest sinners (tax collectors), and the religious hypocrites! This goes to show you that you don’t know who God is going to place in your life to pass on what you have learned, so keep your eyes open because it could be anyone. You shouldn’t discriminate or hold someone back from being taught about God just because they aren’t like you, or don’t see things eye to eye with you. In fact, I’d argue that the people who rub us the wrong way the most are the people God wants us teaching to and learning from the most. It’s humbling really.
The next phase of the discipleship of the disciples was walking and talking with Jesus, or the ‘following’ phase of discipleship. It’s here where the learning and imitating happens. For more than 3 years Jesus poured His life and teaching in to His disciples. Not only did He teach them by words, but by His actions as well. It is this type of commitment that we have to have to the people who God places in our lives to teach and train. Let’s look at John 13:1-20 and see one of Jesus’ final lessons to His disciples. Here it is obvious that Jesus has loved His disciples to the very end of his ministry and beyond, and He demonstrates this by a metaphorical physical action. The washing of someone’s feet was one of the greatest acts of servitude one could bestow upon another, in fact, most of the time the servant of the household would wash the feet of the guests. Here however, Jesus who is Lord of all becomes that servant to show His disciples just what it meant to serve. If He was their Teacher, Lord, Master, then they would do what He has been doing. What Jesus had been doing all along was teaching them what they needed to know so that they could teach and train others to be just like Jesus.
The last phase of discipleship Jesus used we’ve already mentioned, it’s the Commission. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the person we’ve trained puts all of that training in to practice, finding others to teach what Jesus has taught us. It is the epitome of what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 1-2:
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
Devoting your life to serving someone, teaching them what has been taught to you, and showing them the way to carry out the Commission Jesus gave to them, is one of the greatest acts of love imaginable. It’s an act of service and love that keeps growing and growing, as the people you touch get to touch more and more people. So carry out your commission!!
Many people wonder “what do I teach someone?” and “how exactly do I do it?” but the answer is already in your commission. Everything. Everything pertaining to Christian life and godliness, which is to say, walk the way that Jesus walked. He spent time studying the Word of God (Luke 2:45-49
Matthew 4:4), Praying (John 17:1, Matthew 14:22-23), in Fellowship (Luke 22:14-15, John 15:13-17), and in Witnessing (Matthew 4:19). This is what we need to pass on to the people God entrusts to us. But we need to take our commission from Jesus and go out and seek those lost sheep, seek the people God has already prepared for us to meet, invite, teach, and ‘commission’ them by sending them out.
By acting out this love in to other people’s lives, other Christians and the world alike will know we are Jesus disciples. That’s how they’ll know we’re Christians, by our love.