19. Passion instead of ambition?

Upside down again?

Jesus did not have any ambition to become the king of Israel, although many of his followers thought that he would be the perfect candidate to call the nation to arms, chase the Romans into the sea and take up David’s throne in Jerusalem.  What Jesus did have was absolute passion to do the father’s will even if that meant that He would lay down his life. While Jesus spoke about his coming humiliation and death just before, his disciples had to learn the lesson again. Because most of them were teenagers, Mrs  Zebedee, the mother of two of them, had to learn the lesson as well!

Read Matthew 17:20-28

  1. To follow Jesus, means that everything in my life have to submit under Jesus and the will of the Father. Is there something in your life that will prevent you from following Jesus with consuming passion, even unto death if need be?
  2. Becoming like Jesus implies that I have to serve others as a slave of old would. What does that mean within our cultural context today?

Comment: In the early church there were times when it was not unusual at all that believers were expected to die for their beliefs if need be and there are many stories from history testifying to their commitment. Many were willing to die rather than denying Jesus even when they had the opportunity to go free. Today the same is happening in many countries where there is no tolerance for followers of Jesus at all.

Tell me where your passion is and I will tell you where your heart is.



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18. Kingdom culture

maxresdefault (1)You will remember that the issue of relationships was the very first on the agenda when Jesus started to disciple his group: the brother, the irritating person, the marriage partner and even the enemy. In this passage Jesus took his disciples again through the same issues, but now he went much deeper. It was necessary, because a Kingdom lifestyle has a much stronger impact on outsiders than mere words.

A disciple’s life tells about his rabbi and is a witness for good or bad without any chance of hiding it.

 Read Matthew 18:1-20:16

  1. Make a list of all the categories that Jesus mentioned in this passage.
  2. Write down one sentence next to each item in the list that will help us to live a Kingdom lifestyle.
  3. Which of these addresses you personally? Be specific and tell the group. Take responsibility as a group to help each other to live like Jesus did.

This section touches many aspects of the life and conduct of a disciple. Spend time thinking and meditating on this set of passages – it may take you a few weeks before you are ready to continue. Many of these issues will only come to light if you discuss it with others. Therefore a small group o disciples travelling together through life is indispensable, just as with Jesus and his group. Even more, He himself will be present as He promised.

On a personal level: What does your lifestyle tell about who Jesus is?

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17. Fourth checkpoint

At the fourth checkpoint the focus shifted to Jesus ‘identity as the son of the Father in heaven. Peter already had some insight in his rabbi’s identity in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus announced his coming death and resurrection and just after the third checkpoint three of the disciples experience the Lord in visible glory meeting with Moses and Elijah on a mountaintop somewhere in the vicinity. At the start of the journey Jesus may have been seen by the disciples as nothing more than an exceptionally gifted Rabbi and wisdom teacher. With the cross looming ahead this picture had to shift.

Read Matthew 16:13-17:13

  1. Who do you think Jesus was? In which ways did your understanding of Jesus as a person shift since the beginning of the journey?
  2. For us who cannot follow Jesus physically as the disciples could, it is very important to think long and hard about what it means to follow Jesus by faith. What does it mean? How do we follow him without seeing him? Speak out to one another.



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16. Impact

How do you make a positive contribution in the community where you live or work?

Background: You will have to use your imagination again. Parables work much more than a picture that is painted than a mathematical formula that can be solved. So use your imagination, trust the Holy Spirit to make the story alive and look for the picture.

  • Jesus exaggerated in order to emphasise some important principle when he spoke about the mustard seed. Mustard plant only grow knee-high, but this one in the story is different..
  • The people of the Old Testament as well as from Jesus ‘time had the picture in the mind that the nations will come to Jerusalem to the glory of god like birds coming to roost in a tree.

Read Matthew 13:31-33

  1. What is similar in the two examples that Jesus uses?
  2. How are the two examples different from each other?
  3. What have these mind pictures to do with the Kingdom of God breaking through in the world?
  4. How do these pictures help you to think about the impact you can have in your community? How does it help to formulate a strategy that may work for you? Do not be satisfied until you have at least two strategies on the table.

This is how a whole community can be transformed. Do you see the upside down theology at work?




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15. Tradition!

Jesus stated repeatedly that he did not come to destroy the Torah, but to live it to its fullest. In this section of the journey, as the level of intensity rises, Jesus comes into confrontation with hypocrites who want to hide behind religious traditions. These confrontations rip off the masks from the disciples faces too!

Background: Many of the examples in these passages has to do with interpretation of Old Testament books like Exodus and Leviticus about laws and regulations that were very much part of everyday life. Jesus do not attack the essence of the tradition, but the superficial way in which it was interpreted by many who do not understand the heart of the matter.

On the other hand, Jesus takes his disciples on an eighty kilometre Journey by foot so that he could highlight a Canaanite woman as an example of faith. . Now that was controversial! Many would say against the laws and traditions. Not so, shows Jesus!

Read Matthew 15:1-33

  1. Look inwards. What comes to your mind when reading this passage? How does this confront you with your relationship with the Lord and with others? Be open for the Lord to show you where you are hiding behind religious and cultural traditions – even those that look just fine at first sight
  2. Share this with the group It is in opening up your heart to others that the Lord may use them to help you to remove the plank or beam from your own eye.
  3. Where do you see people in your own community that nobody would think could become part of the Kingdom?

The picture above comes from the very well know Fiddler on the Roof where cultural and religious tradition plays a very important role. 

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14. Hear and understand

How does anyone grow towards bearing fruit? It has much to do with how you listen and what happens afterwards. Jesus told a parable that illustrates this.

Read Matthew 13:1-23

  1. Read verse 1 to 9 carefully and slowly. Use your imagination and see the story playing in front of your eyes. What is amazing is how reckless the farmer is scattering the seed everywhere. No farmer in his right mind would normally do that. And then that harvest is many many times more than anyone can expect in his wildest dreams. The crowds must have been shocked! That just not makes sense, except if you have ears and can hear. Upside down again!
  2. How you listen and what the result is fits in somewhere in what you are seeing. Where do you fit in/? Which picture tells your story? Share with the group.
  3. Read Jesus’ explanation in verse 18 to 23. Does it help you to understand? Do you still think the same about how you listen?
  4. Do you think that Jesus had ears to hear? Why do you think so? Give some examples. If you want to be like Jesus in listening, what should happen now?
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13.   Lifestyle

How does a disciple making lifestyle look like? There should be fruit! This is what you should expect happening in your own walk following Jesus by now. As you follow him, you are becoming like him in many ways and you even started doing some of the things he did.

 Read Matthew 12: 33-37

  1. Page through the gospel of Matthew from where we started at the beginning up to this passage. What was the fruit of Jesus life and ministry?
  2. Page through your notes of the past weeks. Do you see some fruit in your life?
  3. In which way is the fruit in your life tied to other people experiencing something of the Kingdom breaking through in their lives?
  4. After the test run and the third checkpoint is becomes very important that you should be useful in the Kingdom of God. If you had to draw a picture on paper of a life useful in the Kingdom, how would that look like? Yes, with a pencil or crayon maybe!
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12. The third checkpoint

Jesus did not invite his disciples to come and follow him only once. With every new phase of the journey they had another opportunity to count the cost and decide whether they still would like to follow him.

Now that they are beginning to do what Jesus did, the journey would become much more intense, the price to pay become more, the implications more vital.

In thinking back to my own journey following Jesus, I had exactly that experience.

Background: If you would see someone walking past with  the crossbeam of a cross on his shoulders, he would be on his way to be executed. A rabbi’s joke was the essence of his teaching – what he expected from his disciples not only to know, but to live. The question from the Pharisees in Matthew 22:34-40 about the greatest commandment was actually a question about Jesus’ yoke.

Read Matthew 10:34-11:1 and 11:25-30

  1. What is the content of this new invitation?
  2. In which way is the commitment more intense??
  3. What is the Lord asking you now in terms of a deeper commitment?

To follow Jesus is as easy as following a good guide step by step up a mountain. Without realising you are progressing to the goal step by step and when you reach a resting place on the way you may be surprised at the view. You may be much higher than you thought you would be.

Enjoy the view. That is what makes the steep journey worthwhile!.

Or what do you think?

A disciple is not above his teacher. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher. Math 10:24

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11.The test run

staff_member_walking_with_asian_manJesus concluded the first phase with his disciples with a test run. For the very first time he called them “apostles”, sent ones, emissaries. They are not only followers anymore; they are now themselves going out to minister. And Jesus would not be with them physically present. What they saw and heard they would have to imitate.

Courage! Risk!

So here, we have a few questions to kick off the conversation. Remember that through his Spirit, Jesus could take you much further than these questions.

Read Matthew 10:1-10:33. Read again Matthew 4: 23-25

  1. What authority did the disciples receive to minister?
  2. What strategy for ministry did they receive? What are the implications?
  3. What is the connection between what Jesus came to do and the instructions they received?
  4. Take the above in consideration. Jesus sends you as a small group on a test run. Plan and do! Next time you will have to report back.


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10. Do as Jesus did

UntitledHow do you learn to do as Jesus did? How do you learn how to do it within your own context, culture and even neighbourhood? There is only one way: Read what Jesus did with open ears and open eyes and start to do what he did. Yes, I know that what He did perfectly we will often mess up, but if what we believe does not become visible to some extent in our lives it means nothing at all.

You will need imagination to be able to do that – imagination to “see” what he did and imagination to “see” how it would look like in your own context.

Read Matthew 8:1-9:38

  1. What kind of healing did Jesus bring? Think wide and deep.
  2. What was Jesus’ motive in bringing healing?
  3. What were the outcomes that Jesus wanted to come from healing?
  4. How did Jesus challenge the disciples after they saw what he demonstrated?

Do you realise that virtually every time that Jesus ministered to someone in these passages, He touched them and that most of the time it was a person considered unclean or unacceptable in society? Every time breaking a social taboo and by implication every singe time himself becoming unclean in the eyes of the onlookers. 

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