Image: Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon, James Tissot [public domain]
In my first blog post on discipleship, I used Peter as an example of a true disciple of Christ by pointing out his reply to Jesus’ question in John 6:67–69:
“Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Will you also go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’”
The word “disciple” is mentioned seventy-seven times in John’s Gospel! These passages, especially the ones where Jesus is pointing out distinguishing characteristics of what a true disciple of his looks like, paint a vivid picture of real, fruitful discipleship for us to live out. Let’s take a look at three of these passages.
We will start with John 8:31–32:
“Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’”
Jesus passes on to us the truth he received from the Father. His word is truth. The initial proclamation of his truth that we received is referred to as the kerygma: we are sinners in need of a savior and we got one! However, if we do not continue in his word, the life-saving truth that he gives us, we can slide back into our sinful ways. Jesus does not want us to be slaves to sin. That is the freedom he is talking about.
So as his disciples, we will continue to meditate on and live by his word found in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Will we continue to sin? Yes, but it will no longer enslave us as a way of life. Our new way of life will be a life filled with grace ultimately leading to our salvation. He promises just that at the end of the passage when he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51).
Next let’s look at John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Has this one been a challenge for you this past year? It has for me! Are we divisive, or do we try to bring about the unity that God wants for all of us? Even if we disagree or dislike someone, we should try to see things from their perspective in an effort to understand where they are coming from, to meet them where they are at and invite them deeper into the truth. Each one of us is created in the image of God, and every person in a state of grace has the light of Christ in them. In some, it may be harder to find! Do we seek to find it, and build off of it, in an effort to bring them closer to Christ?
Finally, let’s take a look at John 15:7-8:
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”
The word abide (meno in Greek) is seemingly everywhere in John’s gospel. Jesus used it in the Bread of Life discourse in reference to eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:56) with the result being that intimate communion that comes from union with him. Here he uses it in reference to us needing, again, to be part of him, the true vine. Are we a branch that is attached to the vine, or have we cut ourselves off? We can only bear fruit if we are attached to the life-giving vine.
Are you bearing fruit? Even in the early stages of discipleship, one is attaching themselves to the vine of Christ, or at least is attempting to, and can bear fruit by simply inspiring others by their example, by their witness. At some point, however, proclaiming the faith verbally will be necessary. Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World) states that, “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed” (22). If our evangelization efforts are bearing fruit—and it might not always be visible—then you have proof that you are indeed glorifying the Father and acting as a disciple of Christ.
In the third and final installment in this series, I will address how a disciple of Christ must have a personal relationship with God and describe what that entails.