Written by
Vicki Wood

What is a disciple in Jesus?

Published on 
August 11, 2023

By Bob Bunn
Manhood Journey

After a night of prayer, Jesus called twelve men to follow Him. Over time, they’ve become
known as His disciples. But they weren’t His only disciples. In fact, He’s still calling disciples
today. But what is a “disciple in Jesus,” anyway? It’s a word we see in the Bible and hear in
sermons, but we don’t use it much in everyday language. As a result, we never really stop to
think of ourselves as disciples. And we don’t think about what it means to be one.

If we claim to be a follower of Christ, though, we need to know what being His disciple requires.

Defining a disciple

The term “disciple” comes from the Greek word mathetes, which refers to a pupil or student. In
Jesus’s day, it described a young apprentice who sat at the feet of a recognized leader. If you
were Jewish, that was probably a rabbi. If you were Greek, it was probably a philosopher.
Sometimes, the religious side even got mixed up with politics. For example, the Pharisees and
Sadducees were religious sects, but they also held a lot of political influence.

But one thing sticks out about the role of a first-century disciple: imitation. Discipleship wasn’t
just “book learning.” Disciples had to live out what they were taught—and actively transmit
those teachings to the next generation. Discipleship is heart knowledge rather than head

That held particular significance when Jesus enlisted His disciples. He came to earth with a
mission, and He called His followers to put His teachings into practice and mentor new
generations of disciples to do the same. His disciples didn’t just pick up a part-time job that they
could pursue at their convenience. They became lifelong learners in His school—and accepted
His mission as their own.

Starting with Jesus

Ultimately, the answer to What is a disciple? starts with Jesus. After all, you really can’t
understand what it means to be His disciple until you understand what He’s all about. You need
to see Him as He really is if you’re going to embrace His authority.

Of course, the world has its opinions. Many think Jesus was a nice guy who got a raw deal from
the Romans and Jews. Others believe He was a great ethical teacher, along the lines of
Confucius, Muhammad, or even Moses. But those all fall short of Jesus’s true identity.

Rather being the nice guy next door, Jesus is God’s Son and the Savior of the world. He is the
all-powerful Creator and is worthy of all worship. What’s more, He is the only way to God. No
one can have a relationship with God apart from Christ.

Once Jesus’s followers got a handle on being a disciple, they were more concerned with
worshiping Him and bringing Him glory than anything else. While they demonstrated love to
everyone, they refused to compromise the truth that Jesus had shared. Obviously, that lack of
“tolerance” created problems, but His disciples chose to suffer instead of backing down from
their commitment to Him.

What being a disciple looks like

Internet searches provide a wealth of suggestions about what a disciple of Jesus should be. But
it’s best to draw our conclusions from Scripture. God’s Word offers the most reliable picture of
Christ and Christian discipleship. It’s a lifelong adventure, but here are three biblical qualities of
Jesus’s disciples.

Disciples in Jesus are transformed.

When an individual genuinely comes to Christ, everything changes: their hearts, minds, and
affections. Their ultimate goal shifts toward obeying Jesus and bringing Him glory. It’s not they
have to give up everything that’s important to them, but they start filtering everything through
Him because He is more important.

Disciples in Jesus are servants.

Jesus was a servant who put the needs of others before Himself (Mark 10:45). He also was a
servant in the sense that He obeyed His heavenly Father’s wishes at every turn. He never got
ahead of the Father, and He never operated outside the Father’s purpose. Jesus challenged His
disciples to serve one another in love. In fact, that loving service would be how those outside the
church would recognize His people (John 13:14-15).

Disciples in Jesus produce fruit.

In John 15, Jesus said He is the Vine that provides life, while His disciples are branches that
survive only by staying connected to Him. The ones who remain in the Vine produce fruit (John
15:5). They bring glory to Christ through their lives and draw others toward His kingdom. True
disciples can’t help but point others to the Savior.

Each of Jesus’s disciples left something behind. For guys like Peter and John, it was their fishing
boats and nets. For Matthew, it was his tollbooth. Eventually, all of them surrendered their idea
of the Messiah as a conquering king in favor of Jesus, the Suffering Savior.

If we’re serious about becoming a disciple of Jesus, we will have to surrender something as well.
It will be different for each person, but it will probably be a difficult choice. In the end, though, it
will be the best decision we ever make because being His disciple is worth it.

Nothing else compares.

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