The Goal of Discipleship
This blog is an excerpt from the free eBook, Invest in a Few: Giving Your Life to What Matters Most. Download it free here.
Before I went to Israel, I had no idea what it would look like. I went with a group of people from our church studying the life of Christ. Our hope was that by walking in the footsteps of Jesus—literally—we would better understand being a disciple of Jesus.
To this day, one site in particular remains clear in my mind as both stunning and significant for disciples of Jesus: Mount Arbel. The sun was bright and the sky clear from the top of this mountain. This was a special mountain to Jesus and to those who followed him. It stands today (like it did over two thousands years ago) as one of the tallest peaks around the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.
As we stood at the top of Arbel, we could see for miles. To the north was the peak of Mount Herman, the largest mountain in Israel, to the east were the Golan Heights, separating Israel from Jordan, to the south were the fertile farmlands of the Jezreel valley, and to the east were two tall towers of a major electrical plant next to the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima, where the Apostle Paul set sail for Rome as he carried the gospel to the West. From one panoramic view you can literally see the nations. This was precisely why Jesus chose this place to give his followers what we call today, “The Great Commission”.
This is from Craig Ethredege’s eBook, Invest in a Few. Download the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.
How can we be sure, though, that Jesus stood on Mount Arbel and not another mountain around Galilee? Various clues point to this conclusion: the mountain stands along the well-traveled route called “The Valley of Doves” connecting the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth. Since Jesus lived in Nazareth most of his growing up years, he must of traveled this way many times. Another piece of evidence is that Arbel is the tallest mountain in Galilee. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection, he gave instructions for his disciples to go “to the mountain” in Galilee (Matthew 28:16). While he didn’t specify which one, the disciples certainly knew the place. It was, in a sense, their mountain because they had been there many times before. While we have no archeological evidence that Jesus delivered the Great Commission on this mountain, it makes the most sense if Jesus was making an important point about evangelism. If Arbel isn’t the mountain, then I’m not sure which one it would be.
So go there with me: imagine that the wind is blowing in your face as you look down the mountain to the land below. Your feet are standing at the exact place where the disciples stood. Jesus’ words cut through the air:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
What was Jesus’ goal by doing this? He was casting the vision of a global movement of multiplication. Just days before, they had seen him crucified at the hands of the brutal Romans, hung on a rugged cross, and despised by the religious leaders. They saw his body taken down and placed in a tomb. Three days later they saw Jesus rise from the dead, his body now transfigured yet still bearing scares from the cross.
All of this was in preparation for their new mission in life. Now he was challenging them and commissioning them to invest their lives in a movement that would change the course of human history and alter the eternal trajectory of millions.
It was a big vision then. It is still a big vision today.
Written by Craig Etheredge
A gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher and the Lead Pastor at First Colleyville, a thriving church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Craig Etheredge is the host of Morning Thrive, a radio program that covers central Texas. He is Founder and President of discipleFIRST ministries and a regular speaker at the FlashPoint Conference across the United States. Craig is also Adjunct Professor of Discipleship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and is actively involved in his local community serving on various boards.
Photo by Chris Gallimore on Unsplash