In the last post, we looked at how community is part of God’s nature. Now we’ll look at community in the Gospels.

Jesus made community an inherent part of discipleship. He could have chosen a single disciple to mentor one-on-one, or he could have only talked to crowds. Instead, he created a community of twelve men to closely follow and learn from him. Even out of that twelve, he made three of them (Peter, James, and John) to be his close companions, rather than just one.

Jesus knew that one disciple could not fully begin to practice his teaching without being joined by others. You cannot learn to love, forgive, and sacrifice without other people to love, forgive, and sacrifice for. If he had chosen only one disciple, Jesus could only have taught theoretical knowledge. But by forming a group, his lessons often arose naturally out of the disciples’ conversations and even quarrels with each other. For instance, in Luke 9:46-48, the disciples argue over which one of them is the greatest, and Jesus took the opportunity to teach them that being great in his kingdom means being the least.

By choosing the twelve disciples, Jesus also acknowledged our need for community. We grow and receive strength from mutual encouragement, support, and sharpening. When Jesus stated that he was going to Judea, Thomas told the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). His courage to follow Jesus, even though he fully expected to be killed, inspired the rest to do likewise.

Finally, the disciples formed the earliest example of a church. Learning to follow Jesus as a “church” body prepared them for building the Church after his ascension (we’ll look more that in the next post). Before going off to create more disciples and start the Church, they had to learn to be the Church themselves. Together they endured crises like the storm on the Sea of Galilee; together they saw miracles like Jesus feeding the 5,000; together they failed as when they could not cast out an evil spirit; and together they remained after their master was crucified and their hopes destroyed. Imagining one disciple experiencing all these things alone is enough proof that Jesus knew what he was doing when he made discipleship a communal journey.

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