In the Gospels we read a great deal about Jesus' disciples. We sometimes refer to Peter, James & John as friends of Jesus and so we should. But discipleship covers very much more than just friendship, important as that is.
In Biblical thought the word "Disciple" means learner -someone who sees themselves as learning from the Master to whom they are indentured, to use a modern term. Thus Jesus’ disciples were those whom He called in order to learn from Him, and were prepared for the cost of following him, including many nights away from home or sleeping rough.
The church today also refers to "disciples", but with a rather different emphasis. A recent church report refers to "the discipleship of all the baptised" and "Gifts of (Christian) leadership are recognised and developed among all the baptised".
Now this raises an important issue. About 20 million people in Britain have been baptised. Are they all disciples? Are they all joining themselves to the risen Jesus to learn more about Him, coming to Church to hear His word, partaking in Bible study and other Groups which churches run to help people learn about God? What about a middle aged man who was "Christened" at the instigation of his grandmother putting pressure upon his parents to have him "done", but has hardly darkened the door of a church since? What about the young lady who has been brought up in church but in her early twenties chose to reject her faith and adopt into the secular culture? In what sense can we say these are Disciples of Jesus Christ?
Of these twenty million or so baptised members of our society only about 1 million are in church at all regularly. I am not trying to stigmatise them or to belittle them in any way - Jesus valued all people, especially the disadvantaged and the "underdog". But it is surely right to ask in what sense such people are "disciples" of Jesus whether baptised or not!
As we approach the season of Lent and then Holy Week and Easter, maybe we should ask ourselves “In what sense am I a disciple of the Jesus who loved me so much that He went to the cross to save me from the punishment that I deserve.”
Our lifestyle actually condemns each one of us when we put it up against the standard set by The Lord Jesus. Christians should be the first to admit their failures, but Christians are also those who are disciples in the Biblical sense, those who know that Jesus has saved them and that His desire for them is to become disciples - learners at His feet.
As I contemplate the cross and resurrection this Easter I must ask myself "Am I a learner - do I really want to know Jesus better, to understand His love for me more and to share in the new life He has reserved for His true disciples through His glorious resurrection and ascension."