Disciples are to be like Jesus
Being followers of Jesus means walking in his footsteps, living life in our time and
context as Jesus lived his life in his.
A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the
disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master (Matthew 10:24-25).
A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like the
teacher (Luke 6:40).
As we see in these verses from scripture, the authors of the New Testament
encourage us to embody Christ in our own lives and contexts.
• To become “fully trained” to be like Jesus (Luke 6:40) requires us to enter a
lifelong process of Christian formation where this training takes place.
• The goal for each disciple is transformation over time into the image of Christ, so
that we reflect Christ to the world.
Biblical scholar N. T. Wright describes an imaginative discipline and practice for
disciples who are trying to be “like Jesus.” Wright calls it “improvisation,” and
• Imagine a new Shakespeare play has been discovered, but its fifth and final act
has been lost.
• A group of sensitive and experienced Shakespearean actors immerse themselves
in the first four acts and then have to work out the fifth act based on what they
know about the play and Shakespeare’s work in general.
• The first four acts have authority for the task at hand, but it is an “authority” that
requires consistency and innovation rather than unthinking repetition of the four
• For the drama to work, there must be development and something new
emerging in the fifth and final, climactic act.
By analogy, says Wright, the Church lives under the authority of the existing story in
scripture, but we must also offer our own “improvisation” of that existing story in
our own time as we embody the story in our own lives (“the fifth act” of the drama).
• Working out Act Five in our own lives is our ongoing responsibility as baptized
Christians and members of particular Christian communities.
• The first four acts of our drama are set out in the scriptures; so we continue to
read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them together in our faith community, in
preparation for, and in reflective interpretation of, our ongoing performance of
• As people of faith – as disciples of Jesus – we create a way forward using our
knowledge of, and respect for, the past, together with our collective experience,
but without assuming that all the answers appropriate to the past are going to be
those of the present.
• We read, study, act and reflect together, collaboratively and often, what Act Five
looks like in our own daily lives.
• This process of discernment requires a regular discipline for reading scripture
and reflecting together on our lives in a community of faith.
Questions for reflection
• What beliefs or attitudes of yours must change if you are going to become a
follower of Jesus who “improvises” to embody Christ in your daily life?
• What kind of a community do you need to assist you in carrying out your
practice of “improvisation”? What role(s) would the community play?
• What concrete steps are you willing to take to get “fully trained” to be “like”
Jesus, your teacher? How do you feel about becoming “like” Jesus?
Gracious Lord Christ, you came into this world as our living example: so draw our
hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that
we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as
you will, that we may reflect you in all that we say and do, always to your glory and
the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
(adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 832-33).
2 See Wright’s lecture, entitled “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?” at http://ntwrightpage.com/
Wright_Bible_Authoritative.htm, originally published in Vox Evangelica, 21:7-32, 1991.