Reading: John chapter 3, verse 22: After this, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judaean countryside, where He spent some time with them, and baptised.
A few days ago, I was on the phone with someone while they were on a walk in the countryside. As they were walking, they told me about the things they passed: “There are lambs in this field”, I was told. “Oh, there is a dog! We know each other.” A few times, I was told about obstacles, mostly styles, but also boggy parts… Occasionally, I could hear the bleating and the birdsong for myself in amongst the everyday conversation we also had about all the things that turn into our lives, but mostly, I learned about the terrain from what she told me, and from the answer to a few questions I asked.
Jesus had taken His disciples out into the countryside too, after a hectic time at the festival in Jerusalem. We read that ‘He spent some time with them’. Perhaps they walked together, perhaps they roasted fish over a campfire, perhaps they all had a chance to ask questions – perhaps they had a favourite song they liked to sing. Jesus took the time it takes to build friendships. He shared life with a small group of people, and they grew closer, just by ‘spending some time together’ in a small community of people all being discipled intensively.
It seems that at least part of the time in the countryside was spent baptising people, too. Have you ever baptised anyone? I don’t know how long I could keep that up for but let’s imagine a few hours a day was spent in the river, leading other people to a point of professing faith. Whatever measure of faith and understanding the disciples had acquired, they were now sharing with others.
There seems to be both a deep form of discipleship and a broader form of discipleship at play in this little verse – the inner circle around Jesus where He poured as much into the disciples as they could sensibly deal with, and the wider group of people coming to be baptised, but perhaps still having a long way to go before they would go from a formal decision to follow to a deep understanding of what that meant in practical terms. And that’s okay.
The disciples were being discipled by Jesus, and they themselves were discipling others.
I wonder whether you know who is discipling you at this season in your life? Who models in effective ways what being a follower of Christ looks like? Who is allowed to speak the truth in love to you? And do you know who you are discipling? Are there people with whom you are intentional? People who might see you as an older sister or brother, or a bit of a guide for this leg of the journey? I would encourage you to take a look around you and ponder who those people are, or who they could be if you allowed it.
And perhaps there is a handful or two whom you are really close with and some relationships that are more casual and less frequent. That, too, is okay. It seems to be what Jesus and the disciples did too – going deep with some, and wide with others.
I told you about my phone conversation earlier on and I want to end on that same note.
Your story is powerful. There is no tool or trick out there that can compete with the power your own personal journey. No one can say your journey isn’t real – it is your journey, your story, your experience of walking with Jesus. I would encourage you to share it like my friend shared her walk me. Tell your story with all its obstacles and delights and be real. Help people see what they cannot see just yet. Perhaps they will catch a bit of the birdsong. Perhaps, they will want to come for a walk with you and you can show them around. Perhaps they will show you things you never noticed.
Or perhaps, like my friend and I, it will all end with a conversation about cake. But then, eating together is a great way to make friends.
I’d really encourage you to tell your story. Someone needs to hear it.
- Holy Spirit