“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Mt. 28:20
One day the great Greek teacher and scholar, Socrates, and his star pupil Plato were walking on the beach having a conversation when Plato asked, “why are we here?” What is the meaning of our existence?” Plato was doing most of the talking while Socrates seemed to be listening, but said nothing.
A little further down beach Plato again asked, “What is the meaning of life? My life?” Again, Socrates said nothing. He just kept walking down the beach. Plato noticed, however, that Socrates kept getting closer and closer to the water until finally he was out in the water where it was knee deep. So Plato, without saying a word, followed him. Socrates used many unique teaching methods; perhaps this was one of them.
“Am I to see something here teacher,” the obedient student asked? Suddenly, and, without warning, Socrates spun around and kicked the legs out from under Plato. Then he jumped up and stood on his chest, pinning him against sandy bottom. Plato, being the dutiful student that he was, interpreted his teacher’s actions as some great lesson. “Maybe the meaning of life is down here,” he thought. “The teacher wants me to see something in the shifting sand of the ocean floor.
Well, it wasn’t long before Plato ran out of air. He tugged at Socrates’ tunic, but nothing happened. He tugged harder but this time Socrates drove a knee into his chest knocking the air out of his lungs. Plato thought, “Teacher has lost it! He’s trying to kill me.” Socrates still wouldn’t let him up, however, and finally Plato passed out.
Socrates then dragged his limp, unconscious student out of the water and revived him. After coughing and spitting water out of lungs, Plato gasped for air. He looked at Socrates and said, “Are you crazy? You nearly drowned me!”
Socrates said, “I don’t know the answer to your question, ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ But I do know that when you want the answer as badly as you wanted your next breath a few minutes ago, I know you will find it.”
For Christians, there is an answer to Plato’s question, “What is the meaning of my life? The answer is found in a word we use in the life of the church, a word that we owe to the Greek culture, maybe even to Socrates himself. That word is “Disciple.”
Disciple, or mathaitais from the Greek language, means “one who learns.” It doesn’t mean teacher, professor, servant, or even minister. It simply means “learner.” It was job of the disciple to follow the master teacher (like Plato followed Socrates), to absorb every word, with the goal in mind to emulate or become exactly like teacher. This was the way in which the Greeks trained their students.
Well, when Jesus gathered his followers, they became known as his disciples. They followed him everywhere and in every way tried to become exactly like him. They desired to know what he knew, teach and preach like he did, and be like him in every way. Once they said, “yes” to Jesus’ invitation, becoming like him became their life’s goal.
That is STILL the task of the disciple today. To be a disciple of Christ is the goal of every Christian, or it should be. It should be the heartfelt desire of every baptized Christian to become a carbon copy of Christ - to emulate Christ in every way - to talk like Christ, to walk like Christ, to teach like Christ, but most importantly, to love like Christ. And as we are doing all these things, we are also to bring others on the journey with us (Mt 28:19) making them disciples of Christ as well. That, after all, is the mission of the church – to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
So, how are you doing on your discipleship journey? When was the last time you truly engaged the scriptures to get to know Christ better? If it’s been a while (or even if it hasn’t) I hope you will take part in one or more of the many learning opportunities we will be offering this Fall. We have three adult Sunday school classes that meet on Sunday mornings designed to lead you deeper into the Word of God and closer to our Lord and Savior.
We will also be doing a church-wide study during Advent which begins December 2nd this year. It is entitled “The Wonder of Christmas.” All three Sunday school classes are considering participating and I am looking for at least 4 more small group leaders to help facilitate this short-term study. If that interests you, please let me know and I will share the resources we will be using.
Becoming a disciple of Christ isn’t a destination; it’s a life-long journey and it is at the heart of what it is to be a Methodist. You might even say it is part of our DNA. So, come along and journey with Jesus. I think you’ll find that the benefits are out of this world!
Till next time…