When a person joins the army they take an oath of loyalty to the sovereign – to serve her faithfully. They put themselves under army discipline – by which they promise to follow all the instructions – the orders – that they are given by their superior officers – to accept them without question, and to do all that they are commanded to do.

Discipline is a word that comes from the Latin “Discipulus” – which has the sense of “following” a leader completely – learning from them, serving them, doing what they do, saying what they say, and becoming more like them every day.

As well as “discipline”, we get our word “disciple”.

And army discipline is clearly this:

  • To leave behind the past life
  • To willingly swear to follow the sovereign
  • To serve the sovereign
  • To obey, without question, all the orders that the sovereign or their generals give

And so we can understand what it is to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus calls us to not just listen to Him, not just marvel at what He can do, but to leave behind our old lives (of selfish ambition) and to follow Him. He saw Peter and Andrew out fishing and called to them:

‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4: 19-20)

And later we are told that Jesus:

saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9: 9)

That was the last time he ever collected a tax!

These, and many others, became His disciples – committed to following Him, learning from Him, serving Him, doing what He did, saying what He said and becoming more like Him every day.

And like a soldier under discipline, Jesus told them exactly what it meant to be a disciple:

‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples’ (John 8: 31)

Like a soldier, a disciple of Jesus must live by His teaching – obey His commands – be under His discipline.

Like a soldier this means the battles might often be hard:

34 ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

‘“a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”[

37 ‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10: 34-39)

But, as for a warrior, the rewards of service far outweigh the difficulties:

You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15: 14)


You have the words of eternal life (John 6: 68)

The challenge for all of us during this time of “Coronavirus Crisis”, this time when none of us know whether we are going to live or we are going to die, is to decide this day whether we are going to be just a part of a crowd who want Jesus to save us now (from this dreadful pandemic and from the economic catastrophe that threatens) or whether we are going to step out of the crowd and follow Him as His disciples, a people under discipline, in the sure and certain knowledge that He is going to save us for eternity.


2000 years ago Jesus walked amongst a people who were crying out for protection (against the Romans and the leaders of the Jewish nation), provision (they were poor and hungry) and healing (so many of them were already sick and so many of them were afraid of becoming sick).

We who live under the threat of the Coronavirus are crying out for the same things.

And for many of us -if Jesus can give us these things then we are going to be asking Him for them.

This was the situation at a time when a huge crowd came to Jesus – we know it as the “Feeding of the 4000” and we find the account in Matthew 15: 29-39

FEEDING OF THE 4000 – MATTHEW 15: 29-39 – FROM 7:30 – THE END

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’

33 His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’

34 ‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.

‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few small fish.’

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan

There are 3 groups that can be identified in this story

  1. JESUS

He is the one to whom the desperate crowd came. They wanted healing and they wanted feeding.

And Jesus gave them what they asked for.

But this was NOT why Jesus came to this earth. He did not come for the purpose of healing the sick and feeding the hungry. He came to bring eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. Again, let us remind ourselves of what many see as the central verse of the whole Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3: 16)

So why DID He give them what they begged Him for?

‘I have compassion for these people’ (Matthew 15: 32)

Love, care, compassion – He has all these for us right now! But, it is not why He came.

Do you want what He offers us for the here-and-now, or are you “in it for the long haul”? Are you looking to the One who has the words of eternal life?


They wanted life NOW. They wanted food NOW. They were not seeking Him out for His words of eternal life. They wanted answers and solutions to their immediate problems. They wanted to be healed NOW, they wanted to be fed NOW, and once they had got what they wanted they turned round and went home and got back on with their normal lives.

They were not thinking about the future. They were not seeking to be His disciples. They wanted “peace and security” now and we are told that they deserted Him when things got tough. It was around this time that we are told in John 6: 66

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him

At this time of “Coronavirus Crisis” do you want what He offers us for the here-and-now, or are you “in it for the long haul”? Are you looking to the One who has the words of eternal life?


They followed Jesus to the mountainside above the Sea of Galilee, they listened to what He said there, they served Him by serving the Crowd the food that Jesus had miraculously provided. They collected up the scraps that remained. They went across the turbulent waters in a boat (He came to them on the way – walking on the water!). They went with Him into the debauched region of Caesarea Philippi. They confessed that they believed in Him as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. They followed Him to Jerusalem and His execution. They witnessed His Resurrection. They committed themselves to being His witnesses to the whole world. They were willing to lay down their lives for Him.

And why were they willing to follow Him in this way?

Because He had the words of eternal life.

At this time of “Coronavirus Crisis” do you want what He offers us for the here-and-now, or are you “in it for the long haul”? Are you looking to the One who has the words of eternal life? Will you step out of the crowd and become His disciple today?


Here are some tell-tale differences between being in the Crowd and being one of His disciples:

  • The crowd is fundamentally selfish: they are asking Jesus “What can You do for me?”

The disciple is fundamentally self-less: they are asking Jesus “What can I do for You?”

  • The crowd today are those who hear about Jesus, and in a time of crisis want Him to Protect and Provide for them – protect them from getting the virus, heal them if they have the virus, and provide for their material needs through the virus.

The disciple today is the one who puts their trust in Jesus whatever happens during this time of crisis and asks Him to teach them through this crisis to become better followers and asks Him what they can do to help others in this time of crisis.

  • The crowd says: “what can I get?”

The disciple says: “what can I become”

  • The crowd says: “I want It now”

The disciple says: “I want to be with You forever”

  • The crowd says: “It’s all about me”

The disciple says: “It’s all about You – I want to walk this life with You – in relationship”

  • The crowd says: “I do it my way – I have no master over me!”

The disciple says: “I do it Your way – You are my master, my leader, my Lord and my King”

  • The crowd says: “I want to see a miracle”

The disciple says: “I want to be the miracle”

  • The crowd says: “Be with me and make me happy”

The disciple says: “I will follow You”

  • The crowd says: “I will come to You as long as life is easy and you give me what I want”

The disciple says: “I will get in the boat with You and cross the turbulent waters of life”

  • The crowd says: “I want peace and security in this life”

The disciple says: “I won’t find peace and security now but will find it in Paradise”

The fundamental flaw with the “crowd mentality” is:

  • Only thinking of today
  • Troubles will still beset them – they don’t go away
  • Death will still overwhelm them
  • And all they can hope for is that
  • Jesus will give them satisfaction NOW
  • Jesus will delay the inevitable end

The fundamental future of “discipleship mentality” is:

  • The joy of knowing Jesus now and for eternity
  • Peace with Jesus now and for eternity
  • The security of knowing Jesus is with us in all our present troubles and rewards us with Paradise for all eternity

The fundamental path of “discipleship mentality” starts with:

  • Repentance (receive Him into your life and live His way) which leads to
  • Redemption (accept the price He paid for you on the Cross) which leads to
  • Restoration (of our relationship with Him) which leads to
  • Resurrection (living a glorious new life with Him in Paradise for eternity)


In an army, and in a battle, there are two groups on the field:

  • The soldiers – those who have taken the oath to the commander, those who have placed themselves under the discipline of the commander, those who go into the battle to fight to the death. These are the disciples. Just like a soldier learns discipline through study and through the training he receives, so the disciple learns discipline through constant study of the Word of God (Scripture) and listening to the Spirit of God.
  • The hangers-on – the “camp followers” – those who hang back, are under no master, who simply hope to profit by from stripping the dead on the field in the aftermath of the battle. These are the crowd.

Which are you going to choose to be at this time of decision? Are you going to see clearly? Are you going to heed the “wake-up” call?

Are you seeking His “presents”?

Or are you seeking His “presence”?

As for me – I choose to follow Him – my LORD of lords and KING of kings, the One who was willing to die from the front for me.

I choose to step out of the crowd and be His disciple.

What about you?