Jesus’ call to discipleship and our responses to that call shed light on him and on us at any time of the year, including Epiphany-tide. The prior entry on Epiphany-tide focused on the revelation of Jesus’ call of his first disciples. Here we highlight briefly the nature of that call and the appropriate response.
In Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about “simple obedience.” Jesus “demanded voluntary poverty of the rich young man.” The man’s “only choices were obedience or disobedience.” Jesus’ call is never a wish or a plea, but a command. As with Matthew the tax collector and Peter the fisherman, Jesus’ call was/is total: “They were supposed to leave everything and follow him.” Bonhoeffer goes on:
Jesus - Individuals - Responses - Call - Responses
What does Jesus’ simple though staggering call say about him? What did these individuals’ responses say about them? The call and responses shed light on the respective parties. Just as it is only God who can forgive sins (Mark 2:7), it is only God, or someone playing God, who can make such a total, all-encompassing demand on their/our lives. Certainly, a madman could do so, but not someone simply trying to present him or herself as a “great moral teacher,” to adapt a thread of thought from C.S. Lewis. But Jesus did not leave open to the rich young ruler or anyone else the option to label him merely as “Good Teacher” (Mark 10:17; ESV). If the rich young ruler truly wished to gain everlasting life, Jesus’ command reveals that he had to sell his possessions, give...
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