Discipleship in the 21st Century

When Jesus walked on Earth, He made quite the scene. If you read the Gospels, you see He wasn’t always this “hippie Jesus” that you see in media…

Jesus point

Or even “nice Jesus” that you see in Christian bookstores…

Jesus Sheep

Sometimes He was more like “God Jesus”.

Jesus Lazarus

Seriously, have you ever seen anyone rise from the grave?!?! It’s probably a heck of a lot more freaky than the bible made it out to be, but John only had a few lines to use on it I guess…

Other crazy things that Jesus did? He performed miracles, announced the Kingdom of God, scandalized people by crossing social norms, whipped people who were disrespecting the temple, and large crowds (Tens of thousands!) followed Him to the point where He quite literally had to sneak away so that He could be alone to pray. Jesus didn’t tone down His message when He was in sticky situations either- the healing on the Sabbath right in front of the Pharisees comes to mind. Needless to say, Jesus caused division in the hearts of everyone who encountered Him. It was more than just being #teamJesus or #teamPharisee, though. The stakes were a bit higher.. because He claimed to be God. This was a matter of life and death, as we can see in hindsight. The Jews and Gentiles had a tough decision to make in choosing to believe Jesus or not…

Who were the disciples?

During His years of ministry, Jesus attracted large crowds pretty much wherever He went. I don’t know how they all got the memo of His schedule without newspapers, twitter, and texting, that alone is a miracle! But out of the tens of thousands, Jesus called 12 men to Himself, the Apostles. These men were called Apostles because they were “sent” by Jesus and given His authority after He ascended into Heaven. The 12 Apostles are sometimes called the 12 disciples, but the term disciple is more broad than that. There were disciples of Jesus who weren’t Apostles, and sometimes in the Bible they are called the 70 or 72. These people weren’t specifically called by Jesus, but they still had a very important role to play in His ministry.

Have you ever thought about what differentiated the disciples from the crowds?

Take a moment to think for yourself… what made someone a disciple of Jesus?

There are plenty of great answers, but a few that I can think of are:

  • Belief that Jesus was God, the Messiah
  • Loyalty to follow Him even for days without food
  • Willing to leave home, family, jobs, and so on just to follow Him
  • Doing whatever He asked of you.. even travelling in twos to distant towns
  • Friendship with Jesus, like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

We can also be disciples!

The funny thing is, all of these things can still be done TODAY. Discipleship isn’t just for the people who were alive when Jesus was, but it is a way of life devoted to Jesus that we can live right now in the 21st century! It takes “discipline”, of course, but ultimately this way of life is sparked by an encounter with Jesus and the friendship with Him that follows.

But… Jesus isn’t here…

So here’s the interesting point. Yes, we can be disciples of Jesus, but no, we can’t do it exactly the same way that they did it in the Holy Land. When Jesus ascended, He didn’t leave us orphans: He gave us the Holy Spirit (God!) to guide us to all truth and the Church (founded on Peter and the Apostles) as our Mother. Through the working of the Holy Spirit and the Church… duh-da-da-dah! comes forth Jesus! Quite literally. We receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We receive Jesus’ mercy in confession. We hear the Word of God in the Bible. We encounter the hands and feet of Jesus when we are around other Christians.

Discipleship in the 21st century, so how do we do it?

  • Believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior
  • Go out of your way to encounter Him, at mass, in prayer, in serving the poor, in reading the scriptures, in confession
  • Live your life to glorify Him first and foremost, and then everything else will fall into place
  • Courageously share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both in words and how you live your life
  • Become intimate friends with Jesus, He loves us more purely and completely than anyone in the world. Prayer in adoration is one of the best ways to do this

Isn’t it crazy how for each of the major ways you could be a 1st century disciple, you can become a 21st century disciple?!

Choosing to believe in Jesus isn’t a matter of life and death (on this earth) anymore, but it still is a matter of eternal consequences. We can’t just sit on the sidelines our entire lives without making a choice. Jesus is either a lunatic, or He’s God.

“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – Jesus to the Woman at the well, John 4:10

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The Church and the World

Faith and the world intro:

The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12

Salt and light: Matthew 5:13-14

The Fulfillment of the Law and prophets: Matthew 5:17-20

What do you think that Jesus is trying to tell us in these passages about the relationship between faith and the world?

How does He encourage us when He shares the beatitudes? He gives us hope that even though we may suffer on earth, we can hope in God’s promise.

What does He challenge us to do when talking about how we are salt and light? We must share our faith with the world and glorify God.

What does He warn us against when talking about the Law? We must remain true to what He taught us.

What is the Church’s role in the world?
General question that we will be exploring tonight. What do you think about it?

Understanding the Church:

What is the Church and why do we have it?

As went through salvation history, we saw how God’s covenant grew from between just Adam and Eve to the entire nation of Israel. When Jesus instituted the final covenant, His covenant was with the Church, a group even bigger than a nation, a group meant to include the entire world. Jesus founded a church on Peter, and we see this in Matthew 16:18-19. Because of this, after Jesus gave them the great commission, (Matthew 28:16-20), the Apostles (“apostle” means “sent”) went all over the world proclaiming the Gospel, baptizing, and building up the Church. For example, St. James went all the way to Spain, St. Thomas went to India, St. Paul traveled the Mediterranean.

How are the Church and Jesus related? The Church is the Body of Christ, that is, the Church is Jesus in the world today. Thoughts on this?

Jesus taught, Jesus served, Jesus sacrificed. The Church teaches, the Church serves, the Church sacrifices.

What authority does the Church have?

Jesus gave the Apostles the great commission, which we already covered, and founded the Church, in Matthew 28:16-20 and Matthew 16:18-19, respectively. Another couple key points are John 20:23, giving the Apostles the ability to forgive sins, and Luke 22:19, telling the Apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in His memory.

How was this lived out in the days of the Apostles? The apostles can make laws (Acts 15:28-29, 1 Corinthians 7:12), teaches (Acts 2:37-39), teaches as the word of God (1 Thes 2:13), punishes (Acts 5:1-11, 1 Cor 5:1-5), administers sacraments (Acts 6:1, 16:33, 20:11), provides successors (2 Tim 1:6, Acts 14:23).

In sum:

We only have the Church because of Jesus, Jesus founded the Church as a gift for the whole world, for ALL nations. The Church’s job is to share the faith with the world. Sometimes the Church seems out of date and out of touch, but that is because the doctrines do not change, the truth does not change. Praise God that the Church still preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ 2000 years after!

Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Succession still happens! It’s crazy because when I think about it I think back to the days of the early Church, but Jesus instituted a Church that would be one and “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” So of course it makes sense that that would continue! Check out this video of Pope Benedict installing 22 new Cardinals today in Rome:

In the ceremony, Pope Benedict called the new Cardinals, just like the rest of the faithful, to the life of Christ, even to martyrdom, following the examples of Saints Peter and Paul:

Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals, may Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity. May your mission in the Church and the world always be “in Christ” alone, responding to his logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord. On the ring which I will soon place on your finger, are represented Saints Peter and Paul, and in the middle a star which evokes the Mother of God. Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two Apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful. The example of the Virgin Mother will always be for you an invitation to follow her who was strong in faith and a humble servant of the Lord.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-creates-22-new-cardinals#ixzz1mktxu5EF

It is beautiful that 2000 years later, Apostolic Succession continues the same way that St. Titus, St. Timothy, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Linus were successors of the Apostles. May we always keep these men in our prayers that they may strive to be like a “slave to all” as Jesus said after washing His Apostles’ feet. May the Church be one always, as Jesus prayed in the garden.