Jesus Christ paragons Discipleship, having done all that he saw his Father do. From the Gospel of John:
“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. … The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. •For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (St John 5:17,19-20).
“I can of mine own self do nothing: … because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (St John 5:30).
This is the Christ, the ultimate Disciple, who tread a lonely path and invites us to tread it with him. Jesus pleads for obedience, because he knows that it is only through obedience that we can remain with our Heavenly Father.
I’ve read a fair bit of Christian theologians, Catholic and Reformed. So many of the great breakthroughs in Christian theology, yielding insights much like what the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed, have come through radical reinterpretations of Paul’s epistles, thoughts on grace and works and faith. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to radically reinterpret the gospel through the lens of John—embracing these piercing words, this piercing doctrine, this piercing truth:
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. •If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (St John 12:25-26).
It is far beyond me to live up to these sacred words, though sometimes I think that I’m willing to try. It is our privilege to serve the Master: “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. •While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light” (St John 12:35-36).
“He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do…” (St John 14:12).
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. •These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (St John 15:10-11).
There is no way to appreciate the sweetest moments in life with unclean hands and an impure heart. Discipleship, again, is about becoming rather than being. We are not to fulfill our own wills, but we are to become beings who are fulfilled by God’s will.
Gethsemane’s cry: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). The only response from the broad expanse of heaven was an angel sent to comfort, to strengthen, but not to prevent, true Discipleship. And what Discipleship would it have taken to wrench such words from the heart of that Disciple?
My own discipleship is fledgling, and there are many miles to go before I sleep. Yet I am comforted by these words of our Savior, solemn witnesses from his final mortal hours:
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. •If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. •For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. •Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. •If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (St John 13:13-17).
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (St John 15:14).
“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (St John 14:23).
“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master” (Matt. 10:25).