Three chapters of solid instruction and teaching follow, instruction that embraces the whole of life and calls for unreserved commitment to the countercultural lifestyle of the kingdom of God. Here the values of the present age are constantly challenged and disciples are promised blessings, experiences, and challenges that turn the expectations of the world on their head. In His school the meek learn that they will inherit the earth, the persecuted rejoice, the maligned turn the other cheek, and His disciples learn not to judge but also not to throw pearls to pigs.
Jesus sums this up in John 8:31: disciples abide in His Word—they absorb it, and they stick to it. His words are all the more significant because not so long before, many pretend disciples had turned back because they found His words “hard” (John 6:60, 66). Something deep within was amiss—for He had said that the true disciple finds His yoke “easy” and His burden “light.”
So what went wrong? The next principle will make it clear.
3. In true discipleship, Jesus Himself is everything.
The goal of all other teachers is to direct their pupils to the way to, and the truth about, life. But Jesus Himself is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). So the call to discipleship is at root a call to come to Him, to trust in Him, to embrace Him, and to yield to Him—in a word, to take Jesus Himself as Savior, Lord, Teacher, and Guide, with a full heart, without reserve, and with both hands. This carries two obvious implications.
First, we cannot hold Christ with both hands if we are also trying to hold on to something or someone else. Yes—praise God—there is a glorious paradox here. In our embrace of Christ we can embrace others (and other things) in His love. In Him all things are ours, and all His disciples belong to us too (1 Cor. 3:21–23). But we can embrace them only if we embrace them in Christ. He gave a stark reminder of this principle: whoever fails to “hate” father and mother, and yes, his own life too, cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:26). Outside of embracing them in Christ, we will forever lose them.
But then, second, we cannot embrace all of Christ if our hands are superglued with the love of “other things” (Mark 4:29). Jesus speaks about the way that the desire for “other things” will choke the good seed of the Word and that discipleship will fail. Why does He not specify what He means? One simple reason: “other things” means exactly that—any “other things” that we desire more than Christ Himself.
4. In true discipleship, the cross of Jesus becomes the template for our lives and the mold that reshapes us.
The way that the Master went is the pathway that the disciple must also walk. Yes, this is a commitment to self-denial (Luke 14:27). But the disciple also discovers that his Master’s sufferings become a pattern that he providentially experiences in miniature (Matt. 10:25).