“The Master's Plan”
June 21, 2015
All disciples are called to be with Him, and sent out by Him.
I. Called to Him (Mark 3:13)
II. Appointed to be with Him (Mark 3:14)
III. Sent out by Him (Mark 3:14-15)
IV. It Began with twelve (Mark 3:16-19)
Last week we started our series on discipleship by looking at eight generations of disciple makers, taking us from the man who discipled me, Var Mazmanian to Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators in the 1930’s. It probably occurred to some of you that you could take the process even further back. In theory, each person has someone who evangelized them or discipled them, or both. There are a few who come to faith in Jesus just by reading a Bible, and some who’ve come to faith through radio, TV or the internet, but those are the exceptions. Almost universally, faith is passed down by personal investment.
So it would be possible, if you had the data, to trace your spiritual genealogy back century by century, to the reformation, the Middle ages and the early church. Ultimately you would arrive at a group of twelve people, sitting on a mountain in the Galilean sunshine, being chosen to be with Jesus and make him known. That’s where we want to go today, to the beginning of discipleship, to Jesus himself, to see what he was up to, because what he was up to is still important. We’ll find that all disciples are called to be with Him, and sent out by Him.
Twelve people were called up the mountain, but I want to focus on Peter the disciple. Peter shows us how Jesus works in ordinary people, calling them to himself and sending them out to be disciple makers. Do you remember how it began for Peter? You’re probably thinking of this wrong episode: “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” This is an important incident because Peter was an ordinary fisherman. He was not a theologian, a Pharisee, a TV evangelist or any kind of teacher or preacher when Jesus called him. He was ordinary person, but called to be with an extraordinary person.
But that incident wasn’t the first time Peter met Jesus. The first was earlier, in chapter 1 of John’s Gospel “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” Verse 40: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42He 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).”
Andrew, Simon’s brother, was a follower of John the Baptist. When John pointed to Jesus and said ‘Behold the Lamb of God,’ Andrew followed Jesus. Soon after, he sought out his brother and said, of Jesus, ‘We have found the Messiah!’ So Simon came to see Jesus. And when Jesus looked on him he knew him, and renamed him, ‘Cephas,’ which means ‘Rock’ in Aramaic, and Peter in Greek.
So that was the first of three times when Peter followed Jesus. Notice that Peter was responding to the invitation of his brother, not of Jesus directly. For us, as I’ve already said, the invitation to follow Jesus usually comes through some other person, someone who already has a relationship with Jesus and wants us to share in it. And when we become disciplers, we do the same thing. We share with others the relationship with Jesus that we ourselves have.
It seems clear that after hanging out with Jesus for a while, both Andrew and Peter went back to their boats and resumed work as fishermen. It may be that for many months they went to see Jesus when they could, came back and fished when the season or necessity drove them. But at some point, in the incident we already read, Jesus sought them out at the fishing boat and said ‘Follow me.’ And from then on, I think, Peter became a full time follower of Jesus.
But that wasn’t the last time Jesus called Peter, and it is this third incident which gives us the clearest picture of what Jesus was all about with his disciples. Our text is Mark 3:13-19. And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15and have authority to cast out demons. 16He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
The first time Peter followed Jesus it was because someone else pointed him out. The second time it was because Jesus came to him. This third time it is because Jesus called Peter and these others to himself.
Don’t miss this: He “called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” Being a disciple does not start with us, it starts with Jesus. He is the one who calls us and he is the one who desires us. The word desire is really the word will, the same word that is used when we pray ‘thy will be done.’ Jesus is saying to these 12, but by extension and application to all of us: ‘It is my will that you come to me and become my disciples,’ in this case ‘my apostles.’ Jesus takes initiative toward us. He wants us. He wills us to come.
And he didn’t make this decision lightly. When Luke recounts this episode he says “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.” When was the last time you prayed all night about a decision? Jesus did. He prayed about it, he discerned God’s will, which in a very real sense was his own will, because he was both fully God and fully man, and then he called these twelve disciples to him.
The word called is Greek ‘proskaleo,’ which means ‘call toward.’ Jesus calla his disciple toward him. ‘Come closer,’ ‘come to me.’ And again, by extension and application we ought to hear his voice calling us. ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ The word learn is the verb form of the word disciple, a learner. Come to me, take on my ministry and be discipled by me, and you will find rest for your souls. We are not called to stress, but to rest in Him.
But don’t miss the end of the verse ‘and they came to him.’ This is the old tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. On the one hand Jesus chose and called his disciples. On the other hand the disciples came. They had a responsibility to respond to his call. If Peter, John or Bartholomew had said ‘sorry, I don’t like mountains,’ or ‘I’ve got a wedding to attend,’ or ‘I’ve got so much on my plate at the moment,’ the list of twelve, and maybe the history of the church and maybe your own salvation would be very different. Choices have consequences. God, who is sovereign, offers each of us the choice to respond to his call or not, and that choice is meaningful. If Jesus is calling you and me to be with him and serve his kingdom and we say no, that will have consequences. If yes, that will have consequences. Neither choice destroys God’s sovereignty, because, I believe, his sovereign reign is compatible with the free choices of his creatures. All through Scripture we find his choices and ours laid side by side without embarrassment of fear of contradiction.
So the first principle we learn is that Jesus is the one who calls disciples. It is his will for us to be disciples. But we have a responsibility to respond. We have a choice. We are not automatically disciples in the sense we see in these verses.
And what is that sense? He calls us to be with him and to be sent out. Verse 14: And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15and have authority to cast out demons.” That little phrase, ‘so that they might be with Him,’ is one of the great hidden gems of the Gospels. That ‘little’ phrase taps into the rich river of Scriptural assertion that God want to be with us.
From Genesis to Revelation, the big arc, the big idea of Scripture is God’s presence with his people. My favorite early example is Leviticus 26 “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” My favorite late one is Revelation 21, where the Scripture closes with the same promise.
This is not just a generic Bible promise. It’s affirmed specifically by Jesus. His last word before his ascension was ‘behold, I am with you always even to the end of the age.’ Before that, in the upper room, he promised ‘I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.’ He promised to send the Holy Spirit, the person of the Trinity who actually lives inside us as comforter, helper, guide and guard. As J. I. Packer puts it, “The essence of the Holy Spirit's ministry is, at this or any time in the Christian era, to mediate the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” And John Piper adds “the Spirit is sent to make Christ real to people and to show us who he really is in his glory so that we come to love him, trust him, obey him and show him to the world.”
When I think about Peter I often think about this desire to be with Jesus. It shows up over and over, from his request to “come to you” on the water to his concern about where Jesus was going during the conversation in the Upper Room. Even Peter’s denial of Jesus was a product of his desire to follow Jesus after he was arrested. And after the resurrection Peter was the one who jumped out of the boat when he realized it was Jesus on the beach. So this invitation from Jesus, ‘come and be where I am,’ may have resonated more strongly with Peter than some of the other disciples.
Certainly it resonates with me. In the last five or ten years, the so-called ‘practice of the presence of Christ’ has been a key part of my spiritual journey. Some of that has to do with worship, some of it has to do with prayer, but a lot of it just has to do with awareness, that Jesus is here in a way unseen but just as real as you are. I don’t know how to explain it, really, but I know it’s real.
When I do pre-marital counseling, I encourage people to read about and figure out their love languages. ‘The Five Languages of Love,’ according to this well-known and useful theory, are ‘Words of Affirmation,’ ‘Acts of Service,’ ‘Receiving Gifts,’ ‘Quality Time,’ and ‘Physical Touch.’ For Gail and me quality time has grown more and more over the years to be our love language. We find intense satisfaction just being together, whether it’s folding laundry, walking the dogs, dressing up and going to Fogo de Chao with the gift certificate our kids gave us for Christmas, or walking the streets of London in our one opportunity in thirty years to get away together overseas.
Now I wouldn’t want to accuse Jesus of having one way of expressing love more than others, but this verse leads me to think that his love language is quality time. That’s what he modeled in ministry – this unhurried walking and talking and teaching and being with his disciples. I don’t know of any reason why his relationship with me shouldn’t be as real and intimate as that, as real as any other relationship I might have, even my marriage. I guess I’m seeing this little phrase ‘so that they might be with him’ as his way of saying ‘I love you,’ and our delight in his presence is our way of saying ‘I love you, Jesus.’ This is the foundation of discipleship, this being with him all the time.
But it doesn’t end there. What Jesus is up to is calling people to him, so that they might be with him, so that he might send them out, to preach, Mark says, and to have authority over demons. In other words he wants to send these disciples out to do what he does, to continue his work, to be on mission for him. This is why the text tells us that he chose 12 and named them apostles. ‘Apostle’ means ‘sent one.’ The 12 are sent ones: go and preach my message, that the kingdom of God is at hand. Go and do my works, casting out demons and healing people and showing all kinds of compassion.
Now I do believe that the term apostle was a limited term. It signified a select group of disciples who would anchor the first wave of disciple makers during the time when the message of Jesus was just beginning to spread, and while the New Testament was being written. I don’t think we’re apostles in the way they were. But we are disciples, a term used throughout the New Testament for those who followed Jesus. In the book of Acts the twelve are called apostles, but those who follow Jesus are called disciples. And though the Apostles may have a special mission, in the Gospel of Luke Jesus also sends out, with very specific instructions, 72 disciples, who are to go before him and bring the good news of the Kingdom and the authority of Jesus over disease and the demonic.
So what I’m saying is that every disciple is a person who is called by Jesus to be with Jesus and to be sent out by Jesus on mission for Jesus. That mission may be to preach the simple Gospel. It may be to bring the authority of Jesus into a world dark with demons and disease. It may be to bring the compassion of Jesus to the hurting, the poor, the weak and the helpless. Or your mission may be to raise up, by prayer and training, other disciples who will be laborers in the harvest field. The missions he sends us on are all different, the myriad aspects of loving him and loving others in a fallen and sinful world. So it’s not enough to say only that ‘I’m called to be with Jesus.’ We are also called to go for Jesus, called to our family, our church, our neighborhood, or our workplace, called to Slovakia or Africa or Galveston. He doesn’t necessarily call us to go far away but he does call us to go on mission for him.
So Jesus selects twelve to be his apostles, to model this for us, to be with him and to go on mission for him. I’m not going to spend a lot of time doing biography of these twelve, but it’s important to recognize that these were twelve individual, normal ordinary people, like you and me. Verse 16 “He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Notice the variety. We’ve got several fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. Simon was a zealot, one working for the expulsion of Rome from its dictatorship over Israel. Judas was a betrayer. Even among those who seem to be following hard after Jesus, there can be those who are false, who say they are his but have their own interests in mind. We see those people on TV and in the news a lot. But for every one of them, there are eleven, or some large number, who are faithful, faithful to hear this call, faithful to be with Jesus and faithful to go on mission for Jesus. The book of Acts and the traditions of the early church show us that these twelve, and those who joined them, were faithful to this call, their changed lives and self-sacrifice a witness to the resurrection of the Savior and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Before we look at a specific example, I want to explore for just a moment and in a little more depth this idea of what Jesus was up to. If you look at our ministry plan logo for the year, we have reduced this discipling mandate to what we think is its simplest form: new disciples, growing as disciples and making disciples. Today’s text was partially chosen because of how well it fits this simple model. Jesus called his disciples so that they became disciples, Jesus was with his disciples so that they grew as disciples, and Jesus sent out his disciples so that they made new disciples by preaching the Good News of Jesus and proclaiming his authority. Last week we saw how this was generational. You become a disciple, you are discipled by someone, and then you become a discipler, a disciple maker, and those you teach teach others.
But there are other, more complicated renditions of this process that can be useful. For example, at the Evangelical Free Church district conference this year Shane Stacey, the denominational youth guy, put up this slide. He asserts out that this was Jesus’s model: I do, you watch, we talk. I do, you do with me, we talk. You do, I do with you, we talk. You do, I watch, we talk. You do, someone else watches, you talk. One of the things I like about that model is the talking. Jesus taught and talked and debriefed and encouraged. We see that especially in the sending out of the 72 disciples that we talked about earlier.
But the most famous of these models of Jesus’ disciple making may be the one by Robert Coleman. Over 50 years ago, as a rookie seminary professor Coleman taught a class on Jesus’ methods of evangelism. He couldn’t find a lot of good material, so he prepared his lectures by reading and reflecting on the gospel accounts. By God’s grace, his handwritten notes turned into a masterful book on discipleship. The Master Plan of Evangelism, published in 1963, has sold more than 3.5 million copies and been translated into a hundred languages.
Originally Coleman’s model of disciple making had eight steps, but in recent years he has added a ninth, right at the beginning of the list. So he now starts with Incarnation. Coleman says “The incarnation of Jesus was behind the book and the eight principles I originally wrote about. The fact that Jesus came to rescue us and to show us how much God loves us was just assumed in my original work. But now, when I present the material, I believe that it is helpful to make that concept explicit. So, when I go through the nine principles, I start with the incarnation, and I tell everyone that all the other principles are built on it.
From there the other principles Coleman saw in Jesus’s life were, first: Selection. Coleman says “People were Jesus’ method.” He didn’t work through any of our modern methods: mass media, advertising, or mega-churches. His method was to hang out with people and invite them to follow him. In the same way we need to invest in people who are willing to follow Jesus, in relationships not in programs. Which leads to the next step, “association. Jesus stayed with them.” His discipling involved walking and talking, meals and trips, retreats and relationships – what Todd calls ‘doing life together.’ And our discipling need to be about walking with people through the slow process of discipleship.
Next, consecration. Coleman says “Consecration is another way of saying that we have to teach disciples to obey. It’s spelled out in the Great Commission—not just to baptize, but also to “teach all that I have commanded you.” Our obedience shows that we believe and is a practical expression of our love. Jesus’s invitation to the disciples was simply, “Follow me.” He didn’t ask them to recite a creed or make a gift, or to kneel at an altar. He said, “Do what you see me do.” Consecration means that you commit yourself to trust and obey the teacher, and it means calling others to trust and follow him as well.
Next, demonstration. Jesus showed them how to live. Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him, and in doing so invited them to see a living example of a disciple. It was always a live demonstration of what He was teaching. And Coleman specifically points out that they would have seen Jesus at prayer and heard Jesus use a deep knowledge of the Scriptures, of God’s word in his teaching.
Next is delegation – Jesus gave his disciples tasks, things to do, from hospitality to ministry. He ate in their homes, had them help with his miracles, allowed them to baptize his followers, and sent them out on mission. But next is supervision. Jesus was constantly checking with the disciples, seeing how they were doing, and asking insightful questions. He used their experiences as the starting point for further instruction. And this led to reproduction, spiritual multiplication. Jesus expects his disciples to go and make disciples. But they do so, finally, in the imparted power of the Holy Spirit. The difference between discipleship and any merely human system is that God is present with his disciples to guide, guard and empower. Coleman says “We send out people with the promise that He will be with them forever. We tell people that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus goes with them and when He’s with them, nothing is impossible. Whether you find great success or failure there is fellowship with Him regardless. It’s a life of faith lived out in communion with Him.”
So it starts with incarnation, Jesus being Emmanuel, God with us, and it ends with impartation, Jesus being with us through the Holy Spirit. And between these poles become disciples, we grow as disciples and we make disciples, because he has called us to be with him and that’s what he’s doing. That’s his mission.
That’s what Peter did. Obeying Jesus’ instruction to wait in Jerusalem, Peter and the others received the renew presence of Christ through the coming of the Holy Spirit. They began to be witnesses to Jesus in Jerusalem. And others soon came to faith in Jesus and sought out the disciples, who taught and mentored them. But their foundation was the fact that they had been with Jesus.
One of my favorite episodes from the Apostle Peter’s life comes in the those early chapters of Acts. Peter and John heal a lame man and preach about Jesus, so the authorities arrest them. The next day they are brought before the Sanhedrin and they preach Jesus. Acts 4:13 says “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” This is the beauty of Jesus’ plan of disciple making. Our witness and effectiveness on mission do not come from who we are but because with have been with Him.