The first command Jesus issued specifically to his disciples is found in a simple but life-altering challenge: Follow Me.
Most are familiar with the tradition behind Jesus' words in the above passage. Many sermon illustrations have explained the right of Roman soldiers in Palestine to compel any citizen to carry their equipment for a mile. To enforce the practicality of the life he would have his hearers lead, Jesus said to carry the burden two miles instead.
Humility in our day has fallen on hard times. Such can be said for most of the attributes of Christlikeness. But humility is especially embattled. The contrast between the world's perspective and that of Jesus is drawn with yet starker clarity when we substitute the word Jesus used to describe humility--meekness.
The Sermon on the Mount is astonishing on many levels. In three succinct chapters, Jesus outlined a revolutionary new morality which was henceforth intended to visibly characterize the life lived and the attitudes held by those who would call themselves his followers.
One of the fascinating exchanges in the New Testament is recounted in the eighth chapter of Mark's gospel. In it we get a picture of Jesus' frustration with the disciples for not applying themselves to understand. To grasp it, we have to remember the storm at sea that took place after the feeding of the five thousand.
Ours is a lethally superficial age. In an era of superhuman technological achievement, the facility to think judiciously is on the endangered skills list. Our computerized culture has rendered us dependent on machines to do our thinking for us.
There may be those who wonder, when reading some of the Commands: When did Jesus ever say that? I don't remember reading those words in the New Testament.
It is now time to consider the third most frequently given group of Commands that Jesus gave behind Watchfulness and Courage which were considered earlier. That is a group of related exhortations that might be summed up as: Listen with understanding and discerning insight. These we will consider as four related commands: Listen, Listen carefully, Be clear-minded, thoughtful, mentally diligent, and, Apply yourself to think, learn, understand.
The Gospel does not come to us one-dimensionally. The teachings of Jesus, while epitomizing simplicity itself, are also intriguingly complex. The intertwining mix of "spiritual" and "temporal" commands is constantly in play. The moment we get too spiritual, Jesus hits us with the parable of the Good Samaritan, urging us simply to be good and take care of people. Not a word in the story about getting the man saved or taking him to church...just Go and do the same. Yet the moment we begin thinking that kindness toward our fellow man is enough, there is Jesus telling Nicodemus he must be "born again."
When Paul enumerates the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the familiarity of his words obscures what an astonishing attribute he begins with: Love is patient.