As I’ve said many times in confirmation class, there are two basic parts to the Bible: the Problem and the Solution. The problem is sin, death, evil, and chaos. The solution according to the Bible is something very specific, “a covenant for a holy people.” The Bible is the story of God’s promised work to make for himself people who have freedom from sin, death, and evil. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the center of this solution. Yet interestingly, though God in Christ surely could defeat the powers of evil without any help, Jesus invited people around him to join him in his work. He does this still today. We become part of a Covenant of Holy People, by being disciples of Jesus.
The word “disciple” means student or apprentice. Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus chose 12 very different men to follow him and journey with him as he taught and healed. We looked a little bit at the 12 disciples and noted that some were very prominent in the stories of Jesus and some we know very little about. We also noted that “the Twelve” were not the only close followers of Jesus. Luke tells us that at least 70 were involved in his ministry (Luke 10:1) –and they weren’t all men! Mary Magdalene, Mary & Martha, Joanna, Susana were among a number of women who followed Jesus (Luke 8:1-3).
But why were there 12 disciples noted distinctly from the rest? Again, we see that the life and work of Jesus “mirrors” the story of Israel in the Old Testament. The nation of Israel was composed of 12 tribes who each traced their ancestry back to the twelve sons of Jacob. So as Jesus begins his ministry, he has assembled a new symbolic community of God’s people. The work of Jesus wasn’t just to fix our problems, but to make us a new community with him.
A disciple learns and studies from his master, but Jesus doesn’t want us to just be students. He is actually seeking to make us his friends (John 15:12-16). God has come to us in Jesus Christ not just to teach us and correct us, but to build a relationship with us that we might know him and love him intimately.C.S. Lewis once said, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people, good. He came to make dead people, alive.” Being a disciple is about following after Jesus with all your heart so that your faith and trust lift you out of the life of sin and death, into a hope of an eternal life with God. This is our goal in confirmation. Not just to learn stuff about God, but to become friends of God.
Our prayer tonight is a fitting description of our hope and aim of the Christian life, to be part of God’s solution for the problem of the universe.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Journaling Questions this Week
- What does it mean to “follow Jesus”?
- For a middle schooler in 2016, what are “the nets” you might leave behind to follow Jesus?
- Who else wants you to follow them?
- What does it mean to be “a friend of God”?