Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;…
In the earlier part of his ministry Jesus probably had a great many disciples. At all events this might be suspected. He taught a great deal, and the testimony is that he spoke "with authority, and not as the scribes." We may be sure he was always ready to speak concerning the things of the kingdom of heaven. In synagogue, in temple, in the homes of the people, out in the open air, he lost no opportunity. He that soweth sparingly, reapeth sparingly. Thus a large company of nominal disciples would be gathered. But Jesus did not care for mere quantity as such, He was quite prepared for desertions and backslidings. Only a hundred and twenty were gathered in the upper room to wait for the Day of Pentecost.
I. THE DIFFICULTY OF DISCIPLESHIP. Nominal Christianity is easy enough, but to be a real disciple is as hard as ever. Jesus made it hard for those who first thronged round him, and the same tests, the same requirements, the same difficulties, face us still. The would-be disciple has to contend with his own indolence, impatience, self-indulgence. What changes in our thoughts and ways there must be, so that our thoughts may become as the thoughts of Jesus, our ways as the ways of Jesus! We are not to be known by distinctions in outward appearance, but by deep distinctions in character and purpose. He who wants an easy, smooth, level life will not indeed find it anywhere; least of all will he find it with Christ. It is not mere attendance at school that makes the scholar - it is learning; and in the school of Christ learning by practice.
II. SEE JESUS TESTING DISCIPLES. The man who said he would follow Jesus wherever he went. The man who said he would follow when he had buried his father. The man who said he would follow after saying farewell to his friends. The disciples in the storm, who deemed they trusted Christ, and yet could, not trust him till they had wakened him from sleep. Faith in Jesus as a Teacher must rise above the difficulties of any particular single demand of his. You must learn to look at Jesus, not in any one single action, not in any one single word, but in the sum total of all his actions and all his words. Jesus is always teaching, and we have to be always learning. What others reckoned to be discipleship he did not so reckon. Departure from old associations does not make discipleship. Departure into new circumstances does not make discipleship. He is the disciple indeed who breaks from an old life into a new one - into that new life which gets nearer perfectness the nearer it gets to perfect trust in Jesus. Diogenes went about Greece with his lantern, looking for an honest man; and so Jesus goes about among us with his tests and with his searching, undeceivable eye, looking for a disciple indeed. He looks to see whether we abide in his Word, whether we carry it into every thought, every transaction, every temptation, every trouble. He would lead us on from lesson to lesson, deepening our faith, marking us off as his disciples more and more distinctly - those ever learning and ever able to come more and more to knowledge of the truth. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
WEB: Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, "If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples.