Article

The Company of the Master

Michael Beck Michael Beck

Jesus saw them over His shoulder. They would be the first of many. He knew their coming would be in vain, unless His Father were drawing them. Many would come – some for the bread, some for a miracle in a moment of trouble, but then leave, content enough that their belly was filled, their body healed, their crisis over. Others, like Mary Magdalene, out of whom He would cast seven devils, once made right in body and spirit, would not leave His side. But He had not yet healed or delivered or fed one person. What then did these two want who were dogging His footsteps? He turned abruptly, squared and asked, What seek ye? Momentarily caught off guard, they answered His question with their own, Master, where dwellest thou?

The distinguishing mark of every true disciple is the desire to be where Jesus is. It is not enough to be apprenticed and sent home. It is not enough to see Him, hear Him, be near Him, once in a while as He passes through. Master, where dwellest thou? More than a question, it is the cry of the heart for fellowship with One, still unknown, yet believed to hold the answer to the deepest longing of the heart. In that awkward moment, revealed to Him, who knew what was in the heart of every man, was what these two followers sought – the company of the Master!

Their former teacher John had paved the way. Preparation had been made, now it was time for fulfillment. No more delay. Behold the Lamb of God! What were they do? He walked right in front of them – and kept right on walking! Surely they had not waited all this time to see Him so close and see Him no more. They must not let Him out of their sight. But how to introduce themselves… how to let Him know what they were feeling… how to express their hopes and desires that suddenly all rested in Him? He knows. He sees. They want more than some thing, they want Him. He saith unto them, Come and see.

The disciple of Christ is interested in a long term relationship with His Master. Yes, He is God. Yes, He is Creator. But the heart of the disciple longs for Him to be companion, confidante and friend. They spent the day with Him. How it all came pouring out once they were seated at the table with Him. Their longings, disappointments, failures, hopes. He heard them. He helped them. He was in that initial encounter all they hoped He would be. He would continue to be so – and more.

The disciple of Christ is interested in a long term relationship with His Master.

Those who know His company become possessed with enthusiasm that others might know Him too. No disciple was more anxious to bring others to His side than Andrew, one of those two very first disciples. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. The company would grow and grow until the Master would have to limit His innermost circle. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach. How easily are the words – “that they should be with Him” missed. How easily do we miss the order. First, that they should be with Him; then, that he might send them forth to preach. Being a disciple of Christ is more than being His servant, it is being His friend, His companion. “I will serve Him, because I love Him!” No longer going to bed alone – Jesus is with me! No longer waking up alone – Jesus is there by my side, walking with me through my day! Never again alone – He is there! Is there any greater reason to follow Him? This is what every true disciple wants more than anything else – His fellowship, His company. This is what Jesus looks to find in the heart of every one who would start after Him. What seek ye?

But there is a decision to be made. A choice that can tear us in two different directions. There’s a world that we have made for ourselves before Jesus suddenly arrived on the scene. There are fishing boats, and spouses, and in-laws and commitments that do not understand that Jesus is near. There are fears that all we’ve worked for, all we’ve built, all we love will be lost if Jesus is to be wholly followed. Surely the Lord understands. Surely He would not require us to lose such good things. We wonder if it’s possible to have both – the things that our hearts yet cling to, and Jesus as well. And then we hear it: Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.

Now there is turmoil indeed. He wants us even more than we want Him. He knows where we are. Down by the seashore, mending the nets, trying to forget Him. There is no escape now. He has found us. In fear and trepidation we begin to count the cost. He gives no assurance that we will not lose something, maybe everything. He tells us to be willing to do so. No matter what it is. Count it loss, for what will be gained! But what will we gain? We know what we have – but we don’t yet know what He has for us, except this – we will be with Him.

Unfamiliar waters are before us if we choose for Jesus. The soothing security of what has been pleads with us not to leave. “Come”, He says. “Let go.” “Stay,” cries fear, “Hold on to what you have, what you know, what you already love.” We are caught between the two. Here is the first fork every disciple must face.

He must let go of the KNOWN for the UNKNOWN

Like a man called to leave the security of father and mother and home, to cleave to a wife and a life with her that is new and different, so the disciple must be willing to let go of what has been and cleave to that One who is the fairest of all. There is no desertion of love or esteem towards that which previously held the center of affection, there is simply a transfer of that center to Another. It is not that these are no longer wanted or loved, it is just that Jesus is desired more than all. Must Jesus understand why these cannot be lost to us, or must these understand that we cannot live without Jesus. If there must be a choice between dearly loved home, or land, or spouse and Jesus – the disciple must choose Jesus! And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

What they sought was Him – but what they gained was more than they ever had. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. The fear of doom, the warning of disaster, would soon fade away, replaced by a joy in His presence, a peace all the world never gave, a confidence to face every today and tomorrow because He is always there. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

The world does not understand the call the disciple hears while he is by the seashore mending His nets or while he is sitting at the receipt of custom collecting taxes. Come, follow me. They will call into question the prudence of leaving behind such a lucrative trade or such a fine earthly treasure. They will resent not being number one any longer. They will call out for one to come home. But there is no turning back for the disciple. Home is now wherever Jesus is.

The disciple bears eloquent testimony with his life more than with his words that nothing in all the world is more to be desired than the company of Jesus. If he does not make that choice, he cannot be the light to his world. He cannot lead others to Christ if he is not following himself. To choose to follow Jesus alone down a path yet unknown confronts every disciple. “Though none go with me, still I will follow.” To turn back to the familiar is not an act of love for those around one, it is a self-centered desire to preserve one’s own life. But to lose one’s life for Christ’s sake is to find it. Answering His call with a hearty and reckless, “Lord, I come!” is the best hope that one day those left behind will follow too the path of life.

The journey of every disciple begins simply with a trusting hand placed into the outstretched hand of the beckoning Master. The path that He has marked out for us is far more wonderful than any we could chart for ourselves. What lies ahead is not for us to know. Only as the future unfolds will uncertainty be replaced with confidence, predictions of doom with facts of blessing. The unknown path with the untried Jesus will turn into an eternal embrace with an incomparable Friend who grows sweeter and sweeter as the days go by.


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.