The disciples of Lord Jesus Christ were not perfect. They were impulsive, lacked understanding and insights; and many times lacked important components of high standards of discipleship. Vitamin deficiency weakens the body, make it vulnerable to disease, decay and death. Deficient disciples are weak and vulnerable.
- Lack of Connection
Luke chapter nine, after transfiguration the disciples faced a variety of situations. Lord Jesus Christ came down with the three disciples: Peter, John and James. The rest of the disciples were not able to handle a boy possessed with the spirit that made the boy dumb and deaf. Their relationship with God was deficient that they could not be channels of the healing power of God. Lord Jesus healed the hapless boy. When the disciples enquired about the reasons for their failure, Lord Jesus reminded them of faith, prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:19-20) The deficient disciples lacked the connection with the Lord that is strengthened by the spiritual disciplines of faith, prayer and fasting.
- Lack of child-like humility
The disciples were living with the Son of God who gave up all heaven comforts to be human, but did not understand humility. They were fighting with one another for being the leader of the band of disciples. They argued who would be the greatest. Proximity with Lord Jesus, Pre-eminence, Power (and authority) and Pride drove them to seek greatness. Productivity (fruitfulness) was not in their agenda. Lord had to teach them humility by bringing a child in their midst as teaching aid. (Luke 9:46-48)
- Lack of Compassion
The Lord and his disciples sent messengers to prepare ministry place in Samaria. The villagers did not want Lord Jesus to visit their place. The disciples were disturbed and angry. They wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the place. (Luke 9:54) Lord rebuked them for their lack of compassion and a shepherding heart. The attitude of revenge, ego, and reckless mindset to arbitrarily use power, and quickness to pronounce judgment dominated their thoughts. Love, compassion, and redemption attitude was missing.
- Lack of Commitment
Following Lord Jesus means high level of commitment. Martin Luther states that the commitment to Lord Jesus is self-hate. Lord demanded disciples to take up cross, means, embrace death to follow him. Paul writes: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) There are three aspects of commitment we could learn in the passage from the gospel of Luke: “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:56-62)
- a) Commitment for comfort?
The first volunteer was willing to follow Lord Jesus wherever he went. May be the young man had a fabulous romantic idea of geographical discovery of the world. Lord was not calling disciples to go from city to city but to die i.e. taking up the cross. The Lord brought to focus the conversation – discipleship is not about going but about leaving. The man had to leave home, which even animals and birds own. The foxes were familiar in Israel, they had borrows as their home. The birds had nests as their home. However, for a disciple there is no home or haven while alive on this earth. Home denotes love, comfort, security and sense of belonging. Lord talk the would-be disciple that the homely features is not assured or guaranteed. Going places may be glamorous experience, but the cost is willingness to step out of comfort zone of familiar, affectionate and secure place of home. It does not mean that family is not in the agenda of God’s plan. Loving Lord Jesus is superior and priority to that of family.
- b) Commitment with condition?
The second volunteer wanted to stay at home until his father dies, complete the rituals, inherit the property and then follow Lord Jesus. This man father was not sick apparently. If so, he would have asked Lord Jesus to heal his father. Certainly he must have been old not yet in the verge of death. It may take months or years. He wanted to postpone or delay his decision until that. He wanted to make sure he gets his inheritance and property and then follow Jesus.
Lord Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Lord Jesus urged him to prioritize the Kingdom of God in his life. For example, there is an earthquake that causes huge damage to life and property. A doctor rushes there to help people. Will he focus on the dead or living? Other people who do not have the knowledge of medicine or surgery could bury the dead, while the doctor could focus his attention to the living. The time lost or diverted means, more people die. The spiritually dead people could bury the physically dead people. However, one who is spiritually alive should focus on preaching the Kingdom, which the spiritually dead cannot do or handle.
This also means that no tradition or ritual or social practice or cultural custom is greater than following Lord Jesus Christ.
- c) Commitment with consent?
The third volunteer wanted to follow Lord Jesus Christ but wanted to bid farewell to his relatives, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. He wanted the approval of family and community and also Lord Jesus Christ. May be he wanted to retain his connections, relationship and even support network or donor base before he starts following Lord Jesus Christ. Elijah permitted Elisha to go and bid farewell before he began his ministry (1 Kings 19:19-21). However, one greater than Elijah is here! His standards and demands are far higher than that of the prophets. It is not possible to plow or furrow a straight row while looking backward. The backward pull could be strong. Israelites wanted to select a leader to go back to Egyptian slavery (Numbers 14:4). The wife of Lot also looked back and became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19: 26) Luke 17: 32-33) Single minded focus is the mark of true discipleship.
This is the time to do a spiritual check up. The deficiency is a danger sign. It could end up in spiritual death or disaster. Deficiency could be corrected with right diet, medicine and exercise. Our spiritual life could be corrected by feeding on the Word, accepting God’s discipline and practicing the principles of the Scripture. May God help us to be healthy disciples.