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  • Writer's pictureNancy Martin

The Call to Discipleship




If you have been at church the last several weeks, you know that Pastor Doug has been teaching about discipleship. The basic principle of being a disciple is that you follow someone, learn from them, and do what they do. For Christians, it’s getting to know Jesus better, so that our lives begin to look like Him and we walk as He did on this earth. We should be doing what He taught, not just in His spoken teaching, but also what He demonstrated.

Most of us are familiar with “the Great Commission” in Matthew 28:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

As we are taking the time to learn more about being a disciple of Jesus, it has prompted me to look closely at the ones He deliberately chose to walk with Him for 3 years. The call to discipleship is both “Come” and “Go”. So for starters, I became interested in how He presented the call to them…this is the Come part.

We aren’t given a clear description of the call for each disciple, but it’s obvious Jesus called them to be in close relationship with Him, and to follow Him. Scripture does highlight a few of those encounters, and maybe we can learn a thing or two from those invitations.

The most familiar encounter of Jesus calling disciples is when He met Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. They were busy with a normal day...fishing. And it’s the account we hear most frequently...at least it’s what I’ve heard the most.

Several gospels give this story, but let’s read it in Matthew 4.

18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

This is the call that I’ve heard most from preachers over the years. Jesus told them to follow Him, and He would make them ‘fishers of men’. This had to pull on the hearts of Simon and Andrew, because they had probably been fishing all of their lives. It’s likely that they learned the trade from their father, and were well acquainted with all the best techniques of fishing. They knew the best places to fish...they knew how to mend the nets...they knew how to care for the boats...it was completely familiar to them. Of course Jesus would approach them this way! It makes total sense. And it’s absolutely great!

Let’s read a little more.

21 “Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”

Can you imagine the excitement they were feeling? If you read the story in Luke 5, it gives the perspective that this call to follow Jesus came after the miraculous catch of fish. The fishermen had been out all night, and really nothing to show for it except tired bodies and empty nets. But they acted on the word of Jesus and cast their nets again, only to have more fish than they could pull in to one boat. This encounter caused Peter to humbly kneel before the Lord and acknowledge that he was a sinner. That’s when Jesus made the call...come follow Me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.

These four fishermen: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, willingly dropped everything to follow Jesus. They heard a distinct call and responded quickly.

But as I have been pondering this, it has occurred to me that Jesus didn’t make this exact call of ‘I’ll make you fishers of men’ to the other disciples. At least not that it’s recorded. And why would He?

Yes - He definitely called each of them to follow Him. There’s no question about that. But the call came to each one individually. Jesus knew exactly how to speak directly to the heart. He still does. I think that is one of the lessons we can learn here.

When He saw Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, Jesus made a very simple call;

Come follow Me”. It wouldn’t have made any sense for Jesus to talk about fishing with a tax collector. That wasn’t his world. Matthew was direct and straight to the point, being a man of detail and financial accuracy. It was a clear call, short and direct. It’s exactly what Matthew needed...and his response was just as immediate as the fishermen before him.

(see Matthew 9:9) For someone who was hated by others, ridiculed and rejected by the normal Jewish crowd, all of a sudden Matthew was accepted and called by the One who mattered most. Here’s another lesson point...Jesus delights in calling the unlikely ones.

Incidentally, when Jesus made the call to Matthew (as well as the others) to “Come, follow Me”, it wasn’t a casual stroll through the garden that He was referring to. It was a lifestyle, and they knew it.

Let’s look at the call to Philip and Nathanael in John chapter 1.

43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Philip was from the Galilee region, just like Simon Peter and Andrew, so he could have been a fisherman, but there is no mention of becoming ‘fishers of men’. This notion of Jesus “finding” Philip intrigues me, because we know Jesus does nothing on accident. He didn’t just casually stumble upon Philip one day…no, it was intentional. It’s likely that Philip had heard Jesus teach, maybe even had conversations with Simon and Andrew. But Scripture shows that Philip was ready, he needed nothing more than a simple invitation, and he was all in. As a matter of fact, he immediately found (again, this is intentional effort) his friend and told him about Jesus. Of course we know Nathanael had a quick comment about the region of Nazareth.

46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”


The exchange between Jesus and Nathanael is interesting. Jesus doesn’t just simply give him an invitation to be a disciple. But He goes deeper, into the heart of Nathanael to remind him of his true identity. We aren’t told what he was doing under the fig tree. It could have been a time of self evaluation or of self pity. It could have been a period of rest after a difficult season. He could have been praying for the Messiah to come. Or it could have been as simple as a lunch break. Scripture doesn’t provide us that exact detail. The point is...Jesus knew him...and called him. And the words He spoke to Nathanael were different than what He spoke to the others. But the call remained to follow.

This is one of the things I love about Jesus. He chooses you and me, but He speaks to us individually. His call to discipleship is worldwide, throughout generations. But it’s never a dull, generic call. It speaks personally to the heart of each one of us. He asks me to follow Him in a way that I can understand, and at the same time He calls you to follow but uses language that will touch your heart. He is a very personal God.


Something else we can learn from this is to avoid comparison! It’s one of the tactics most used by the devil to bring division. Your salvation experience is unique, and it differs from mine. We should use that opportunity to rejoice in how God sovereignly redeems His people.

“Look with wonder at the depth of the Father’s marvelous love that He has lavished on us! He has called us and made us His very own beloved children.”

1 John 3:1 TPT


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