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Following Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth was born in first-century Palestine, under the oppressive rule of the Roman empire. The Judeans of this time were awaiting a King, foretold by prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, who would come from among their people and rescue them from their pagan oppressors. Some had already attempted revolts but failed. This long-awaited King-Redeemer is called Messiah in Hebrew, which is translated into English as “Christ” from the Greek word christos. All of these words have the same meaning: “anointed one.” The anointed one was simply the God-appointed King.

As an adult, Jesus became a rabbi, a Jewish teacher. During his short career, he traveled throughout the region of Judea preaching Good News to the poor, healing the sick, and freeing people from spiritual bondage. The Good News he proclaimed and demonstrated was that God’s Kingdom is breaking into this world through his Kingship. In other words,  God had declared the beginning of the end for all suffering, all pain, all disease, and all bondage. With Jesus as King, God was doing a New thing, establishing a New covenant with humanity, and declaring an end to the tyranny of sin, death, Satan, and oppressive empires like Rome.

Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he demonstrated what this “Kingdom of God” looks like: healing, wholeness, forgiveness, spiritual family, purpose, and peace. However, his ministry threatened the existing power structures of the religious institutions and political empires. He disrupted their status quo; he challenged their authority. Therefore, he was targeted for elimination. Jesus of Nazareth was eventually executed by crucifixion. But Jesus’s death was not only the result of a plot by power-mongers scared they would lose control of the masses, it was also fueled by forces of spiritual darkness, evil, and it was simultaneously Jesus’s own self-sacrifice, to most fully express the character and nature of God: Love.

The Love of God

God’s love was demonstrated in Jesus’s Cross in many ways. Jesus laid down his life for us. He suffered wrath at the hands of the religious, political, and spiritual authorities who sought to silence him so that they could continue to oppress us. But he overpowered them through weakness. His mercy and love were more powerful than their judgment and wrath. Therefore, he liberated us from all bondage to the ways of their oppressive system, including sin. Sin estranges humanity from God because God is holy. The Bible describes being under the power of Satan as being “lost” or “sightless” or “dead.” All these metaphors are used to communicate the truth that sin separates us from God. But through Jesus’s defeat of Satan and all other evil powers on the Cross, Jesus becomes for us a living way for us to draw near to God—to be reconciled to God.

God’s reconciling love is so powerful that Jesus’s story does not end at the Cross! Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven! Through his Resurrection, he declared and demonstrated that the New creation of God had begun. He proved that we too can have both a new way of life now and a new body after we too are resurrected.

Allegiance to the King

This same Jesus calls you and me to become his disciples—to live as he lived, to love as he loved: healing the sick, freeing people from bondage, creating spiritual family, and challenging the powers that be. Jesus requires of his disciples complete allegiance. “Let the dead bury their own dead.” “Count the cost.” Jesus’s disciples cannot have two masters. Jesus will not share allegiance from his disciples with any other entity whether it is money or Caesar. Jesus’s disciples are citizens of God’s Kingdom and strangers, foreigners in this world. Jesus’s disciples do not bow down to any other ruler, principality, king, corporation, president, nation, or state. Discipleship means willingly submitting oneself to the Lordship of Jesus. He is the Master of his disciples; they are his servants. Jesus is a merciful and good Master; his disciples are also his friends, his family. It is because he loves his disciples that they cannot be torn between two allegiances, two masters. Such confusion does not provide the abundant life Jesus wants for his friends and family. Only uncompromising allegiance to Jesus provides the new life of the Age to Come.

Mission of Wholeness

Jesus’s disciples are invited into and caught up in Jesus’s mission to declare and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. In this mission, Jesus calls his disciples to replicate themselves the way Jesus did. Jesus formed disciples by sharing his life with them in a community that comprised a spiritual family. Jesus formed disciples by sharing meals with them and sharing the word of God with them. Jesus’s disciple will carry this ministry throughout the world until he returns to call an end to the Present Age and usher in the Age to Come.

The most fundamental way Jesus’s disciples fulfill this calling to make Jesus-disciples is by planting churches. The Church is the global and historic assembly of all those who are Jesus’s disciples. At the local level, it is the gathering together of disciples in community to form a diverse family. Diversity is at the heart of the Church because the reconciling love of God that destroys every barrier that separated humanity from God also destroys every barrier that divides humanity from each other. Jews and Gentiles are united in one spiritual family that shares the Spirit of God. This spiritual family continues the mission of Jesus as his ambassadors, and his body on earth.

As the church grows numerically and extends geographically, the Kingdom of God expands as well. God’s reign of love grows in influence in the Present Age as more and more people are added to Jesus’s spiritual family. Today, Jesus’s spiritual family embodies the wholeness and peace that will one day cover the whole earth in the Age to Come. By seeking the welfare of and sharing in the destiny of our neighbors wherever we live, we invite them to experience that future wholeness now and to join Jesus’s spiritual family.

God’s Love > Allegiance to King Jesus > Mission of Wholeness