From Curiosity Seekers to Committed Disciples
During Jesus’ ministry we often see Him dealing with three distinct groups. He spent most of His time teaching the inner circle of disciples, such as, the Twelve. These included men like Peter, Andrew, James, and John. There were also women like Mary and her sister, Martha, and Mary Magdalene. These made up true followers who were distinguished from others in that they were Committed. The demons Jesus came across gave some of the greatest confessions of Jesus’ Deity. Yet Jesus silenced them and cast them out, because they were the Condemned. Some of the Jews, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees are of this group, because they rejected Jesus. Finally, we come to the Crowds who were mostly Curiosity Seekers. They were interested but did not have the commitment of true disciples or followers of Jesus.
In Luke chapter fourteen, it tells us “now great multitudes went with Him” (14:25a). Jesus knew they were not truly committed enough to be disciples, so “He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple’” (14:25b-27). True discipleship requires total (not partial) commitment to follow Jesus above anyone else. Notice he uses hyperbole in regard to “hate” and “bear his cross”.
Next Jesus uses two short parables to illustrate His point. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace” (14:28-32). Jesus concludes by mentioning another hyperbole concerning the sacrifice of possessions in order to follow Him. He said, “so likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (14:33).
After Jesus died, was resurrected and ascended into Heaven. He would leave His disciples the job of turning the curiosity seeking, uncommitted crowds into genuine followers of Jesus. Before He ascended into Heaven Jesus told His disciples, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).
Ten days later in Jerusalem Peter and the rest of the apostles preached the first Gospel sermon. Peter accused the crowd, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). This touched some of their hearts. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). Fifty days earlier their lack of genuine commitment had led them to cry out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Peter told them what to do, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41).
Later the apostles continued to preach to the crowds and “many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). So far we have learned that a couple of steps are involved in taking one from a mere curiosity seeker to a fully committed disciple of Jesus. First they need to hear the Word of God preached, believe the evidence preached that Jesus is the Son of God, repent of their sins, and be baptized to have their sins forgiven.
There is another step required in the process. Those who hear, believe, and repent must also confess verbally and publicly their belief in Jesus. A preacher by the name of Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit and an angel to teach a man from Ethiopia. “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?” …Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:30,31,35-38)
To sum it up, to become a disciple out of the crowd, one must hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized. Where did the apostles and others learn this, so they could teach it to others? Jesus taught the same steps when He was upon the earth.
- Hear: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
- Believe: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
- Repent: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4,5).
- Confess: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Mathew 10:32,33).
- Be baptized: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Notice the apostle Paul taught the same thing in the Letter to the Romans.
- Hear the Word – Rom. 10:17: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Believe in Christ – Rom. 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
- Repent of sins – Rom. 2:4: Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
- Confess faith in Christ as Lord – Rom. 10:9-10: that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
- Baptized into Christ – Rom. 6:3-4: Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Today, all those who are interested in leaving the crowds of people who are merely curious or interested in Jesus and become genuine disciples committed to following Him need to take the same five steps listed above.
– Daniel R. Vess