When Jesus called His first disciples, He spoke the simple words, “Follow me.” A disciple is indeed a follower, one who trusts and believes in a teacher and follows that teacher’s words and example.
But those early chosen followers of Jesus took their time coming to understand who Jesus was, and coming to believe.
We may forget, though, that it took three years of intense relationship and, finally, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead for the twelve to know, without a doubt, that Jesus was in fact the Son of God, their Savior. In our own path of faith as Christians, the lifetime it takes to investigate who Jesus is in our own lives is to dedicate our lives to continually becoming a follower, a disciple ourselves.
“Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
There are special traits that mark our relationship—our discipleship—with Jesus, traits that we perhaps rarely consider because they are such a given in a life of Christian faith. As disciples of Christ, we listen to Jesus. We learn from Jesus. We do as Jesus asks of us.
To listen to Jesus as disciples, we practice our faith: attending church, reading the Bible and other spiritual works, reflecting on our lives and praying. Jesus can also be heard in the people around us, those closest to us and beyond. All of this leads to the great learning that is the foundation of our “work” as disciples. We grow, we mature in our relationship with God, and in our human relationships. This isn’t always a straight and steady path, of course. By nature, we take steps forward, and then through sin and failure we take steps back. Then we do sound spiritual work, and move forward again.
It’s that third characteristic of our discipleship—doing as Jesus asks, or “obeying” Him—that the interior work of listening and learning leaps into action. From the start, Jesus made it clear He was on a mission—and His disciples were as well. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Just as He left to return to the Father, He commissioned everyone: “Go into all the world, preaching the Gospel . . .” We may tend to focus on our private relationship with Jesus, but our faith is meant to go out and move and shake the world toward heaven. Following Jesus, being His disciple, is a relationship that gives us real work to do in the world.