The Key to Discipleship

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”    -Matthew 9:9-13

I’ve been sitting with this passage for the past few days and it’s had such an impact on me. Even though I’ve probably heard the principle beneath the surface several times before, this passage has taught me the key to discipleship. It’s a principle that could almost certainly be found other places in the Scriptures, especially anytime Jesus calls someone to follow him. Let’s take a closer look.

Up to this point, Matthew has been a tax collector. At the time of Jesus, tax collectors are known to be among the worst kind of people. They make their living by taxing people more than they ought. They either steal money from the poor or they make people poor. It’s gross. Anyways, that’s not the main point.

Jesus came to Matthew in his sinfulness and called him to be his disciple. Matthew got up and followed him. He left his entire livelihood behind at the sound of Jesus’ voice, the voice which can penetrate even the hardest of hearts. Powerful! What happened next is the main point I’m trying to get at. What did Matthew do when he began to follow Jesus? He ate with him and reclined with him. In other words, Matthew first rested with Jesus before doing anything else.

In our relationship with Jesus, we so easily get caught in the trap of thinking, “How can I serve you, Jesus? What do you want me to do for you? I’ll do anything if you just tell me to do it. What’s my vocation in life, anyways? What’s the mission you want to give me?” We’re so focused on serving the Lord that we forget discipleship begins with simply learning how to be with the Lord. Too many Christians have bought into the idea that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about working for him. If that’s all it’s about, then we’re nothing more than high-level servants of Jesus, but he wants so much more. He wants us to be his friends!

Discipleship begins with simply being, with spending quality time with Jesus. Once I learn my identity as a disciple of Jesus Christ, then I can go out and share in his mission. What is his mission? His mission is making more disciples, which means inviting more people to the table of Jesus! It means showing others how powerful it is to simply rest with Jesus!

The message of this passage is clear: disciples of Jesus Christ need to rest with their master, their friend, before they can do anything for him. Once they have rested, the work isn’t even done for Jesus, but it’s done with Jesus. Resting with Jesus can make a world of difference.