Discipleship: Serve and Sacrifice
The role of discipleship is not one to be taken lightly or without serious consideration and “counting the cost.” Discipleship, especially in terms of Christianity, is not an attribute that can be easily taken off and put back on, but rather it is a full-time commitment that will guide every decision and direction of our lives. Our devotion to Jesus will motivate our thoughts, words, and actions to be found pleasing in His sight. The goal of discipleship is summarized by the apostle Paul – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a). We are not called to become disciples and then continue to live as we have always lived, but we are to be radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our discipleship has one aim and goal - to become like Jesus in every aspect of our lives! The apostle Peter spoke of the example given to us by Jesus – “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21). The apostle John wrote similarly – “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If we desire to imitate our Savior, then we need to draw closer to Him and learn from the decisions and actions He manifested throughout His life.
One of the greatest examples Jesus left behind for us to follow is His willingness to SERVE! Jesus’ served others by not limiting Himself to those who already had everything, but by going to the “have nots” and alleviating their greatest needs. Jesus told the Pharisees – “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). This compassion required of God throughout the Old Testament was fulfilled in the life of Jesus. He felt compassion for the entire nation of Israel, “because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b). Jesus was motivated by His compassion on two occasions to feed the multitudes who followed Him (cf. Matthew 14:14; 15:32). Jesus’ compassion was not merely manifested in serving others physically, but rather by also serving others and teaching them the principles of the coming kingdom (cf. Matthew 4:23, 5-7). We need to learn how to better serve others by teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not only serve others, but He was willing to SACRIFICE for others also. Jesus did not stop the multitudes from coming to Him, but instead He called for them – “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Can we even imagine how tiring some of His days must have been? Jesus would spend the entire day walking from city-to-city, and in-between taught, healed, and fed multitudes. Jesus never complained about having time off or being paid overtime, but rather said – “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (John 9:4-5). Jesus, who is better than anyone else, understood the value of each moment and what it meant to make the most of His time. Let us learn from His example of giving all in the service of His Father.
Jesus sacrificed much more than His time in the service of others. On a few occasions, Jesus did things that would have caused others to shutter in His sacrifice for others. Jesus was once approached by a leper who proclaimed, “If You are willing, You can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). The same “compassion” that motivated Jesus’ willingness to serve others, motivated Him to heal this leper. While Jesus had the power to speak and heal the leper, He did something out of the ordinary. The gospel of Mark records - “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed” (1:41). Why did Jesus touch the leper? Why was He willing to sacrifice His own safety/cleanliness to heal the leper? The answer to both questions is contained in the one word - “compassion.” Jesus went beyond the “cultural norm,” because He knew that the uncleanliness of leprosy was incapable of standing against His power. By Jesus’ example, we should realize that those deemed “less-fortunate” or “undesirable” are in need of the same grace given to us. We must be willing at times to sacrifice our perception of self-worth, and take the gospel to all who are in need. Jesus sacrificed His time and “self-preservation” to give us this supreme example.
These attributes of discipleship are not meant to be exhaustive, but they are the “hem of the garment” in comparison to everything Jesus’ has called for us to accomplish as His followers. We live at a time when men are selfish and desire to only serve themselves, but God has called us out of this world to live with a heart of compassion that is willing to serve others and make the necessary sacrifices to reach them with the gospel. Do others see Jesus living through my thoughts, words, and actions? Am I portraying the biblical model of discipleship, or am I still not willing to serve and sacrifice for His cause? May God bless our efforts to serve Him faithfully, and conquer our insecurities to serve Him fully!