“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)” (John 1:35-42).
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? For many, it may mean to be a part of a local church or the denomination to which that particular local church you attend belongs. Therefore, for certain people being a disciple of Jesus means being a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Methodist or a Presbyterian.
For others, being a disciple of Jesus entails being involved in full-time ministry. Therefore discipleship means being a pastor, an evangelist, a teacher or a missionary.
However, the biblical definition for discipleship is to be a follower. In the Christian context, discipleship means to be a follower of Jesus. It means to not only follow Jesus’ teachings but also to emulate or mimic his character.
In Jesus’ day, discipleship entailed literally following one’s master. You followed him as he walked, you ate when he ate, you sat when he sat and you slept when he slept. We vividly see this in today’s text from John 1:35-42.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Although the verb “follow” usually means “to follow as a disciple” in the writing of the apostle (v. 43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 20, 22), it may also have a neutral sense (11:31). The “following” here does not necessarily mean that they became permanent disciples at this time. The implication may be that they went after Jesus to examine him more closely because of John’s testimony. This event constituted a preliminary exposure of John the Baptist’s disciples to Jesus (e.g., Andrew; 1:40). They eventually dedicated their lives to him as true disciples and apostles when Jesus called them to permanent service after these events (Matt. 4:18–22; 9:9; Mark 1:16–20). At this point in the narrative, John the Baptist fades from the scene and the attention focuses upon the ministry of Christ.”
I have often heard that there are three types of disciples. First, there are false disciples. These are they who pretend to be a disciple of Jesus but in reality they are not converted. Jesus acknowledged this truth when He said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (See Acts 20:17-38; Jude 1-25). Judas Iscariot, though one of the original twelve disciples, was a false disciple (John 13:1-11).
The second type of disciple is the clandestine or secret disciple. This type of disciple, though truly converted, does not want anyone to know they are a follower of Jesus Christ. They remain secretive of their faith at home, at school, and/or at work. Joseph of Arimathea is described as such a disciple by the Apostle John in John 19:38 which says, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.”
Finally, there are the committed disciples. These are the ones who are truly converted and who boldly and fervently speak of and live out their faith in Jesus Christ. Of the original twelve, eleven were in this category. There was up to 120 disciples who comprised the original followers of Jesus (Acts 1:15) prior to the Day of Pentecost and the birth of the church (Acts 2).
Being a dedicated disciple does not mean that you never make a mistake or commit a sin. However, when mistakes and sins are committed, what follows is genuine confession and a repentant heart (John 1:9). Jesus spoke of such disciples when in Matthew 16:24 it records, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
John 1:35-42 mentions the first three of Jesus’ committed disciples. They are Andrew, Andrew’s brother Simon, who Jesus renamed Cephas or Peter, and John the Apostle, who is not specifically named. It was Andrew and ostensibly John who were two of John the Baptist’s disciples. When they heard John the Baptist declare that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the immediately began following Jesus.
The obvious question I ask of you today is what kind of disciple are you? Which of the three categories of disciples describe you? Are you a false disciple, a secret disciple or a committed disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Soli deo Gloria!