The Messiah’s Call

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our new series entitled “The Messiah’s Mission,” based in Matthew 8-12. This weekend I explored Matthew 8:18-22, where Jesus encounters two would-be disciples and rebuffs their apparent commitment to Him. These two case studies reveal a lot about what discipleship is all about. In some ways this message echoes an earlier message, “Real Response,” from the end of our series, “Becoming Real,” on the Sermon on the Mount.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me.’” (Matthew 8:22)

Discipleship Practice: Drawing Away with Jesus (8:18)

  • The distinction between disciples and the crowd
  • Disciples draw away from the crowd
  • Disciples draw close to Jesus

Discipleship Case Study #1: Reorienting Stability (8:19-20)

  • What is stability?
  • Where do we find it?
  • Reorienting stability in Jesus

Discipleship Case Study #2: Reorienting Societal Norms (Matthew 8:21-22)

  • What is normal?
  • Who gets to define it?
  • Reorienting societal norms in Jesus

Entering the Disciple Life

  • Hearing Jesus’ call again: reading Scripture
  • Choosing Jesus: Baptism
  • Following Jesus: Daily Obedience

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on our response to Him in one or more of the following ways:

  • Depending on which one captures you more, consider memorizing Matthew 8:19-20 or 8:21-22 this week.
  • Set aside some time this week to pray about this week’s passage. Ask the Lord if there is anything that stands in the way of your absolute following of Him? Journal about this or talk with a friend and pray about it.
  • Read several passages where Jesus calls disciples. As you do, identify different aspects of Jesus’ call and people’s response (or lack of response): Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-51; Matthew 8:18-22; Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 14:25-35.
  • In order to dig deeper into the calling of discipleship consider reading either Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship or Os Guinness’ The Call.

Bibliography for Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Becoming Real,” which is the third part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew, focusing on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.

Bibliography for “Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount” [Gospel of Matthew, part 3]

Dale C. J. Allison. The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination. New York: Herder, 1999.

Augustine of Hippo. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount. NPNF, series 1, vol. 6. Ed. by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

Kenneth E. Bailey. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.

Jeannine K. Brown and Kyle Roberts. Matthew. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018.

Michael Joseph Brown. “The Gospel of Matthew.” In True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, edited by Brian K. Blount, 85-120. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007.

John Calvin. A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Volume 1. Trans. By A. W. Morrison. Calvin’s Commentaries. Ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972.

John Chrysostom. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew. NPNF, series 1, vol. 10. Ed. by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Jeffrey P. Greenman, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer, eds. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007.

Romano Guardini. The Lord. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1954.

Robert A. Guelich. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Waco, TX: Word, 1982.

Craig S. Keener. Matthew. IVPNTC. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Amy-Jill Levine. The Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven. Nashville: Abingdon, 2019.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960.

Martin Luther. The Place of Trust: Martin Luther on the Sermon on the Mount. Ed. by Martin E. Marty. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1983.

Scot McKnight. “Matthew, Gospel of.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 526-541. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

________. Sermon on the Mount. The Story of God Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

F. B. Meyer. Blessed Are Ye: Talks on the Beatitudes. New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1898.

Jonathan T. Pennington. The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2018.

Manlio Simonetti, editor. Matthew 1-13. ACCS. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.

G. N. Stanton. ”Sermon on the Mount/Plain.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 735-744. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

John R. W. Stott. The Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Charles H. Talbert. Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.

Helmut Thielicke. Life Can Begin Again: Sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. Trans. By John W. Doberstein. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963.

Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels, 5th edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992.

Miroslav Volf. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996.

Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1998.

5 Must-Read Statements on the Church

It’s no secret that one of my favorite theologians of all time is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. It is a must-read for many reasons, but one of the most important is the way that Bonhoeffer directly deals with something all of us face with the church: disillusionment. If you have not experienced disillusionment at some point in your involvement with the church, then you probably have not been that involved. At a time when people struggled with living their faith individually and together, when the church was rent apart by conflicting allegiances and hypocrisy, Bonhoeffer stepped forward to train young pastors to serve Christ’s church.

Here are 5 must-read statements on the Church by Bonhoeffer from Life Together. I hope you find them as challenging and encouraging as I have over the years:

  • “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
  • “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” [27]
  • “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” [28]
  • “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” [29]
  • “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]

[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]

The “Must” of Suffering in the Christian Life: Insights from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Cross-Shaped Discipleship

This from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship, which I referenced in my message this past weekend, “Baptized with Water and Spirit”:

Jesus must therefore make it clear beyond all doubt that the “must” of suffering applies to his disciples no less than to himself. Just as Christ is Christ only in virtue of his suffering and rejection, so the disciple is a disciple only in so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifixion Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and therefore submission to the law of Christ which is the law of the cross.

To endure the cross is not a tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ. When it comes, it is not an accident, but a necessity. It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life. We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering. The Psalmist was lamenting that he was despised and rejected of men, and that is an essential quality of the suffering of the cross. But this notion has ceased to be intelligible to a Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary human life and a life committed to Christ. The cross means sharing the suffering of Christ to the last and to the fullest. Only a man thus totally committed in discipleship can experience the meaning of the cross. The cross is there, right from the beginning, he has only got to pick it up: there is no need for him to go out and look for a cross for himself, no need for him deliberately to run after suffering. Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God. Each must endure his allotted share of suffering and rejection. But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom, while others he does not allow to be tempted above that they are able to bear. But it is the one and the same cross in every case.

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death-we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time-death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life. The call to discipleship, the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Collier Books, 1960), 96, 98-99.

A Necessary Tension: Bonhoeffer on Solitude and Community

As I continue to reflect on unity as we walk through our current series at Eastrook Church, “One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church,” here is a powerful quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together on the necessary tension between solitude and community:

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone…I will not be with you then, nor you with me” (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me” (Luther).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954).