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A Disciple’s Reflection

Join me in reflecting on what one of Jesus’ disciples might have experienced during his spiritual journey. It begins with the first time he saw Jesus and continues to Calvary and beyond . . . 

At first, it was just my curiosity. Word was going around, and I’d heard the stories. “Jesus this” . . . “Jesus that” . . . I thought it was just the way people talk when something captures their attention. I wasn’t really thinking that much about it.

Then, one day Jesus was in the village talking with a small crowd. I went over to see what was going on. When I heard him speak, I was drawn to him in a strange way. It’s hard to describe.

I found myself listening intently to what he was saying. But what I remember was his presence; it was more compelling than his words. When he looked right at me, I sensed an immediate connection – as though he already knew me. I was mesmerized. When he walked on, I found myself following him. That’s when it all began.

I was never part of Jesus’ inner circle – not like Peter and the others. I was in the larger group that followed him when we could. I was with him quite often, but not every day. Looking back on it now, I wish I would have been there more often.

At first, following him was exciting. Everywhere Jesus went, people crowded around him. They sought him out, tried to get his attention, and asked him all kinds of questions. I saw people pour their hearts out to him. Some brought him loved ones who were sick or broken. It was amazing – the way he healed those who were blind, deaf, crippled, even some who were possessed. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

Jesus’ teaching was unlike anything I had ever heard. His words rang true – resonating with something deep within me. His message was like something I already knew yet couldn’t put into words. He was nothing like the Scribes and the Pharisees. His insight and wisdom helped me recognize ways that God was with me. On two occasions, I had the opportunity to speak directly with him. I’ll never forget that; it changed my life.

I happened to be at Caesarea Philippi when discipleship took a difficult turn. Jesus started to talk about suffering and death. It caused a huge confrontation. Peter thought it would never happen, but Jesus insisted it would. Up until that point, I had viewed discipleship positively. But when Jesus’ tone changed, things were different. Those of us following him became much more serious. 

When I heard Jesus talk about his death, his words haunted me. I still remember them.

Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

It was clear he was referring to himself, and I was shaken. Looking back on it now, I realize that he was preparing us for the inevitable. At the time, however, no one wanted to hear it. As events unfolded, the risks started to become clear. Some of those in our group quit following him. Others – including Peter and those he had personally chosen – stayed with him. It wasn’t until later that I realized how high the stakes were for Jesus and what that would mean for the rest of us.

Things started to come to a head at Bethany when Lazarus died. His sisters were heartbroken, and a huge crowd gathered at their home to grieve. Jesus arrived in the middle of the wake – several days after Lazarus had been buried. When he ordered them to roll back the stone to Lazarus’ tomb, Martha protested. Jesus said something to her about believing, and she backed off. We were shocked when he called out to Lazarus. When Lazarus emerged from the tomb, we were dumbfounded. No one knew how to react. Some of us were amazed and praised God. Others were frightened and seemed to turn against him.

Next, it was Jerusalem. When Jesus entered the city riding on a donkey, the crowd went wild. People cut palm branches and threw them down in front of him. They were shouting “Hosanna” and welcoming him as the Son of David. It caused a huge commotion, and the religious leaders were furious. They saw Jesus as a threat, but he wouldn’t back down. He continued to criticize them, and they became powerful enemies. Everything began to unravel.

It’s hard to imagine how quickly things turned. One day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem triumphant. Less than a week later, he was arrested, put on trial, scourged, and crucified. It left no doubt about the cost of being a disciple.

Since those days, I’ve thought long and hard about what discipleship might ask of me. The questions keep coming – even though I’ve yet to face the worst of it.

  • If I had been with him in Gethsemane, could I have stayed awake?
  • If I had seen him fall under the weight of the cross, would I have stepped forward to help him?
  • Would I have had the courage to stand at the foot of the cross, or would I have abandoned him?
  • If I had seen the empty tomb, would I have believed he had risen?
  • If I had been on the road to Emmaus, would I have recognized him in the breaking of the bread?

Perhaps the journey of discipleship comes down to the question he once asked his disciples: Can you drink the cup that I will drink?”

In drinking that cup, Jesus trusted his Father, loved his enemies, and forgave those who executed him.

In drinking that cup, Jesus demonstrated that God is faithful to us through Gethsemane, Calvary, death, and burial.

In drinking that cup, Jesus surrendered his life to God and passed through death to new life.

In drinking that cup, Jesus demonstrated that resurrection and eternal life are our ultimate destiny.

On the day it’s my turn to drink that cup, I pray I will be able to summon all my trust and muster every ounce of my courage in order to:

  • Surrender my life to God,
  • Embrace the promise of resurrection, and
  • Discover my eternal home in the heart of God.

Invitation to Prayer

In a spirit of prayerful surrender, I invite you to enter into your own reflection as a disciple. Imagine that you are following Jesus from the first time you see him in your village . . . to Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-23) . . . to Bethany (John 11: 17-44) . . . to Calvary (John 19: 16-30) . . . to the tomb (John 19:38 – 20:10) . . . and beyond.

Let your prayerful reflection take you wherever it will . . . and surrender to what it asks of you.