“What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?” We are exploring this question together during the Sunday assemblies here at Columbine. Although the word “disciple” is used about followers of Jesus before the word “Christian” (Acts 11:26), there is much confusion about what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
The word disciple expresses the most fundamental aspect of life with Jesus. Jesus defined discipleship as following Him (Luke 9:23) and becoming like Him (Luke 6:40). Discipleship is an ongoing, transformative growth process that has a goal of being like Jesus. Discipleship is more than a “decision” for Christ. Discipleship is walking along the narrow way of salvation. Following Jesus means a reorientation of life. One follows Jesus and does not adhere to any other master. This goal is achieved by hearing and doing the Lord’s word (Luke 6:46).
I believe that for Luke (and Jesus), the three concepts of following Jesus (Luke 9:23), becoming like Jesus (Luke 6:40), and hearing and doing what Jesus says (Luke 6:46) provide the foundational understanding of what it means to be a Jesus follower. The rest of the discipleship texts in Luke’s writings explain, illustrate, and elaborate on these three concepts.
The theme of “counting the cost” provides a primary color for Luke’s overall portrait of discipleship. Jesus extends the call to “count the cost” to all who desire to come after Him (both individuals and the crowds of people). “Whether disciples want to or not, they have to make a decision; each has to decide alone” (Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 92).
One of the unique features of Luke’s Gospel is the long central, travel section of Jesus going to Jerusalem that begins at 9:51 (Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem) and ends in 19:44 when Jesus makes it to Jerusalem (Luke 19:45 And he entered the temple). This section contains numerous references to Jesus and his disciples traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem (9:51, 52–56, 57; 10:1, 38; 11:53; 13:22, 33; 17:11; 18:31, 35; 19:1, 11, 28, 37, 41). Most of the material in this section is unique to Luke’s Gospel and deals with following Jesus. Also, Luke often correlates a travel notice with material on discipleship. What is important is that they are “on the road” because instruction leading to the formation of faithful disciples is provided on the journey. In other words, the conditions of discipleship are unfolded “along the way.”