What does a disciple of Jesus look like? I’m sure that many could come up with a list of attributes or attitudes that disciples of Jesus should have. But the Bible gives one description of the disciples and followers of Jesus that grips me:
“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid” (Mark 10:32, NIV).
The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize how important this description is. Another translation says, "Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear" (NLT). Another puts it like this, "Jesus was walking on in front of them; and they were bewildered and perplexed and greatly astonished, and those [who were still] following were seized with alarm and were afraid" (AMP).
You see, if there isn't a sense of awe in your walk with God—mixed with fear, astonishment, and perplexity—you might not truly be a disciple and follower of Jesus. If this doesn't describe you and I, it's a sign that we aren't living our lives in close enough proximity to Him.
At the time this verse was written, the disciples had been following Jesus for about 3 years. Day in, day out—they did everything that Jesus did. And it cost them dearly to follow. In verse 28, just a few verses prior, Peter had exclaimed, "We have left everything to follow You!" After leaving everything and following Jesus, they were exposed to a lifestyle that was mind-boggling; they experienced the most extreme supernatural workings of God, watching as Jesus raised the dead, turned water into wine, as He calmed storms with a word, as He walked on water, and as He set people free. The disciples themselves had even experienced the supernatural power of God flowing through their own hands as they watched food multiply, the sick healed, and the demonized set free (see Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:17 for examples). They experienced a level of supernatural experiences and of heaven breaking into earth like almost nobody on earth prior.
Along with these powerful displays of the miraculous, the disciples also received the call of Jesus to abandon earthly security. Jesus repeatedly gave them new rules for living His Kingdom way, and they were extreme: Don't worry about your life or about what you will eat, drink or wear; find your life by losing it for My sake; don't store up treasures on earth but store them up in heaven; love your enemies and do good to those who hate you; be perfect; and eat My flesh and drink My blood.
Jesus was inviting His disciples into a life of extreme miracles and extreme sacrifice, a life of blessing and of persecution. He called them to trust Him with everything and to not trust in anything else. The bridge from the way they were used to living into His Kingdom was all or nothing—not just once, but every day.
As I follow Jesus, I have found that He is the most thrilling person and the scariest person I know. He has the power to absolutely change my life and my circumstances like no one else can—but He says that I need to let Him run my life. Many times have I asked Him to bless my finances, and He speaks to my heart to give away what I have first. Every time I obey, the miraculous happens! But it's scary! He has asked me to go to some of the most dangerous places where I could lose my life—and those are the places where I've seen the greatest miracles. I feel the most alive when I am the most out of control and trusting that He is faithful.
In Mark 10:32, it gives the reason that they were in awe and fear: "Jesus [was] leading the way." They were going with His flow, at His pace, where He wanted to go. (And, in context, He was going to Jerusalem to willingly die.) If you are truly a disciple and follower of Jesus, this is what it looks like. He is out in front. He isn't just our "buddy" with whom we discuss our options of how to live. He isn't just a little splash of heaven to warm our hearts. He isn't just a little grace to cover our precious bad habits. No. If He's not in front, then we aren't followers.
I believe that we are living in a time where God is calling us back to the basics. Sometimes we can become so sophisticated in our spirituality that we can rationalize our way out of just obeying God. We are so padded by our repertoire of scriptural quotes and tweets from our favorite spiritual gurus that we don't drop our nets to follow Jesus anymore. Sometimes we forget that following Jesus is absolutely crazy—or at least it should look and feel that way. He chooses things that are foolish to shut up what seems intelligent. He does it on purpose because He likes it that way. He takes things that don't even exist yet and uses them to defeat His enemies. His ways are higher than all the ways we've learned, and they always are going to be better. He wants His heavenly Kingdom to be the authority over all—all earthly kingdoms and all my decisions.
As I read this simple description of the disciples, I am reminded that being a disciple and following Jesus is both awesome and frightening. If you've never had this experience, you might not yet know what it actually means to follow Jesus. You see, Jesus never asked anyone to pray a prayer, raise their hand while everyone's eyes were closed, or sign a decision card to become a disciple. He never counted His converts. That's not even in the book! It's a low-level substitute—a false security—that tells us we can have heaven while we still live the earthly lives we are used to. It's time for us to go back to what Jesus actually said and did: He promised us all of heaven and demanded that we follow, no matter the cost. For some people, that means Jesus will require us to forgive those who have hurt us so deeply. For others, it will mean that we will go live in a place that is far from home—or to stay when we would rather run. For others, it will mean cutting off relationships that distract us from Heavenly pursuit. It may mean giving away your furniture and your car. It may mean laying down your life. But if Jesus is worth following at all, He's worth following all the way. If you've never lived like this, now is a great time to start. Just tell the Lord, "Jesus, I may have prayed a prayer that you would forgive my sins, but I've never chosen to follow you and become a disciple. But I'm ready for the journey. I don't even know where we are going, but I trust that You are good and I will follow You."
Maybe you have chosen to follow Jesus and to become a disciple. But do a heart check. For me, if I'm not overwhelmed with awe and nervous at the same time, then that is a sign that I'm not following Jesus as close as I need to. Maybe I've stopped to smell the roses and gotten distracted. Maybe I've shut my eyes and covered my ears because it's hard. Or maybe I've stepped up to give Jesus my advice about where we ought to be going instead of following where He knows we need to go. If that sounds like you, it's time to become a follower all over again. It's a choice we make daily, not just once.
You see, there is something called the "fear of the Lord," and a true disciple has it. There is no better attribute of your life as a disciple. Without the fear of the Lord, I believe, we cannot even truly love God or worship Him in spirit and truth. The fear of the Lord comes with all of these promises and more:
- "The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love" (Psalm 33:18).
- "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" (Proverbs 14:27).
- "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them" (Psalm 34:7).
If you're in the middle of awe, astonishment, bewilderment, overwhelming fear, and perplexity—all because you've been so close to Jesus—you're right where you should be. And if you're not, I challenge you not to settle for anything less than awe and the fear of the Lord. I challenge you to make your discipleship look like scripture rather than what popular religion has stooped down to. Let your Christianity be defined by your likeness to Christ Himself. Let Jesus lead out front in your life, and follow Him as closely as you possibly can.
If you're in Northwest, Montana, I invite you to join my church family at The River. We meet on Sundays at 10:00 A.M. and we have several other opportunities to grow closer to Jesus throughout the week. Visit therivermontana.com for complete details.