In Mark 3, the gospel writer speaks about the appointment of the twelve men whom Jesus set apart to be His apostles:
And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons (verses 13-15).
While our calling is not exactly parallel to that of the apostles, it is similar enough for this passage to be instructive to us as disciples of Jesus. It points us to three essential qualities of a disciple.
I. A Disciple is called by Jesus (vs. 13)
The text is clear that the idea of being a disciple began in the mind of Jesus, not the mind of the disciples. He summoned those whom He Himself wanted. Had Jesus waited upon His disciples to make the first move, there may never have been the twelve apostles. God, by His grace in Christ, is always the initiator and the responsibility of the disciple, both for each of the twelve and for each of us, is to respond—the disciples came to Him. Even the ability to understand the summons and respond is a gift of grace. So the proper posture of the disciple is always one of humility and gratefulness and never pride or arrogance.
II. A Disciple spends time with Jesus (vs. 14a)
Jesus appoints the twelve that they might be with Him. Living in the presence of Jesus is a life-transforming experience. Obviously we cannot have the day-to-day visible presence of Jesus which the apostles did but the Lord has not left us as orphans in this area. He has provided for us “means of grace,” those practices, disciplines and activities which bring us into His presence. Every disciple needs to have that daily dialogue by which Jesus speaks to us from His word and we speak to Him in prayer (though in another demonstration of His great grace, He sometimes even speaks to us as we pray). The spiritual disciplines, such as fasting and solitude, can help ready our hearts to experience His presence. To seek to live the life of a disciple but neglect time in the presence of Jesus is simply foolishness.
III. A Disciple fulfills his/her kingdom assignment for Jesus (vs. 14b-15)
The kingdom assignment for the twelve was to preach and cast out demons (though even this ability was a delegated authority, a gift of grace). That will not be the kingdom assignment for most of us but that does not mean we do not have a kingdom assignment. We all have unique combinations of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, spiritual gifts and circumstances specifically given to us by Jesus to fulfill our kingdom assignment. Our kingdom assignment may not necessarily be easy but it will be significant, something the Spirit of Jesus can only do in and through you.
So a disciple is called by Jesus, spends time with Jesus, and fulfills a kingdom assignment for Jesus. How do you see these essential qualities of a disciple being played-out in your life?