Discipleship Themes in Matthew

I've been thinking about the Great Commission lately, so I poked around in my papers from seminary and found a short piece I wrote on the Gospel of Matthew.

Key Passages 

Matthew 4:18-22. 

The first narrative section (1:1-4:25) presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the TaNaKh in his conception, birth, childhood, and commissioning. The immediate response of Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to the discipleship call of Jesus describes discipleship as a move from following earthly pursuits to following Jesus. One who is the fulfillment of prophecy comes calling disciples to follow him. These disciples join Jesus in the proclamation of the Kingdom (4:17; 10:7), learning the words and the ways of Jesus as they follow. Disciples are followers, learners, and fellow workers of Jesus.

 Matthew 5:1-2. 

 Matthew 5-7 is the Sermon on the Mount, the first discourse, where Jesus teaches his disciples about life in the kingdom. Jesus’ teaching of his disciples in the presence of the crowds describes discipleship as coming to learn from Jesus (5:1-2). Verses one and two place the sermon in its physical and relational context. Physically, the sermon takes place on a mountain and in the presence of the crowds. Relationally, the sermon takes place in the presence of the disciples (those who come to learn from Jesus). Disciples come to Jesus to learn, and Jesus teaches them, sometimes in the presence of the crowds who are not disciples.

 Matthew 28:19-20. 

Matthew 26-28 is the sixth and final narrative, where the opposition is complete, Jesus completes his mission, and the risen Messiah commissions the disciples to their continuing mission.  Matthew 28:19-20 contains Jesus’ final command to his disciples: go make disciples. This command concludes the passion and resurrection. Jesus gave himself to make possible the kingdom and kingdom disciples. The disciples carry on Jesus’ mission by making disciples of all nations. Two parallel participles (baptizing and teaching) define the means by which the command to go make disciples is obeyed. Disciples are those who have openly declared their incorporation into the ecclesia of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Further, disciples are those who continually learn and teach what Jesus taught. Disciples make more disciples, openly declare their discipleship, and continually learn and teach Jesus’ teachings.

Key Themes 

Called to follow. 

Disciples are called to follow Jesus rather than anything else (4:20, 22). Following Jesus supersedes and shapes every responsibility and desire. Following Jesus may mean giving up a responsibility, as Peter, Andrew, James, and John gave up the family business (4:18-22; 10:35-37). It may mean performing a responsibility with new depth, illustrated in the antitheses of Matthew 5.

Come to Jesus. 

Disciples come to Jesus to learn (5:1; 13:10, 36; 15:12; 17:19; 18:1; 24:3). Even when they receive knowledge by revelation, disciples do not always understand the meaning and significance. Disciples bring their confusion and misunderstanding to Jesus.

Go make disciples. 

 Disciples go make more disciples. They accomplish this by incorporating new disciples into the ecclesia of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, baptizing them into the Name. They accomplish this by continually teaching (and being taught) to obey everything Jesus commanded. Discipleship is a lifelong process of all those who trust Messiah. All Christians are called to be and to make disciples. This is not the elite core; this is the rank and file.

Written in Spring 2007. Edited January 2019.

(C) Laura Springer
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Musings of a peripatetic wannabe-sage by Laura Springer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License..

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