Study 9 MNASON: A MATURE DISCIPLE
(Scripture Portion: Acts 21: 15-16)
Mnason was evidently a native of Cyprus, and he lived near Jerusalem. He was a Hellenistic Jew, which means that he was a Jew by descent but he was born on Gentile soil and spoke the Greek language. The fact that he is described as “an early disciple” indicates that he was one of the early followers of our Lord, and this in turn suggests that he was getting on in years. This “old gentleman”, as Matthew Henry calls him, was evidently given to hospitality, for Paul, Luke and the other members of their party lodged with him on their way to Jerusalem. There are three things which arise out of this brief description we are given of Mnason.
1. How great a thing it is to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When it says that Mnason was “a disciple” it simply means that he was a Christian, a believer in our Lord. It is Luke’s way of saying that he was a born-again man – and yet we may make a distinction here, for it is possible to be a Christian and yet not (in the strict sense of the word) to be a disciple. A Christian is one who comes to Christ, as we learn from John 6:37; and who believes on Him, as we learn from Acts 16:31. But what is a disciple? A disciple, according to the meaning of the word is one who sits at His feet and learns of Christ, who follows on to know Him and who submits to His discipline. This should lead us to ask the question, not only: Am I a Christian? But: Am I a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have I accepted His discipline, His authority, His lordship over my life, and am I learning of Him from day to day?
2. How great a thing it is to be a mature disciple, one who has not only come to know the Lord but who has known Him over a period of years.
Some say that getting older is a difficult experience, and certainly when we are young we have a fear of getting old. As the years slip by we are alarmed by the frequency of birthdays, for the years do not just slip by – they fly by! However, we are only as old as we feel, and we may be confident that it is the wrong philosophy for a Christian and a disciple to be afraid of old age. Undoubtedly there are great perils, privations and problems in connection with advancing years, but what are eighty or ninety years in the light of spending all eternity with the Lord, of being “in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6)? Think for a moment of the blessings and compensations of being “a mature disciple”.
- A mature disciple has had a wonderful opportunity of getting to know the Lord and of growing in grace. This is a great benefit – look up and compare Daniel 11:32; John 14:9; Philippians 3:10 and 2 Peter 3:18. How great it is if as the years go by our confidence in God becomes stronger and our knowledge of Him becomes more intimate! We need to ask ourselves whether we are feeding on His word and having fellowship with Him, and whether we are growing in grace – look up Daniel 11:32.
- A mature disciple has had the opportunity of proving the Lord in the school of experience over many years. Younger Christians have had far fewer such opportunities, but those who have served the Lord over many years can rise up and testify to the way in which He has helped them in times of sorrow and trouble. What testimonies they can give and what comfort they can bring to others! – look up 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Older Christians are able to say – Psalm 37:25, and they are able to say it not only because God promises to provide for His children, but because they have proved it in their own experience.
- A mature disciple is especially qualified to help and encourage others. Many who read these lines will remember with gratitude those who nurtured them in the things of the Lord. We need to say to all our young people today, “Honour the mature disciples in your churches; respect them, love them and go out of your way to help them; get to know them and do all you possibly can to break down any age barrier which exists between the young people and the old or older people”. After all, the children of God are all members of one family – look up Ephesians 3:15. Be kind and considerate, therefore, to the elderly; they can teach you so much, and you too, if the Lord spares you, will one day be “a mature disciple”!
- A mature disciple is nearer to the Gloryland than the young disciple. This is not necessarily the case, but according to the law of averages the mature disciple is more likely to go to be with the Lord before the young disciple, unless, of course, the Lord returns first – in which case we shall all go together to be with Him (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). However, as we live from day to day, in a state of readiness should the Lord come for us or call us, we may rest upon His promise – look up Isaiah 46:4.
Thus, we see that there are special blessings attendant upon being a mature disciple; but there is one final thing which emerges from this reference to Mnason.
3. What a glorious thing it is to be a mature disciple like this man Mnason.
In several respects he was a model of what an old disciple should be. For example:
- He did what he could. As one who had known the Lord for some while and who was getting on in years there were certain things which he could not now do. Perhaps at one time he had been a preacher or an organiser, but possibly now the infirmities of age restricted his activities. However, there was one thing he could do; he had a home and he gave hospitality to God’s servants. Think what this meant to Paul, Luke and the other members of their party. Sometimes mature disciples are heard to say, “All I am able to do now is to pray.” When they say that then we should reply gently, “Is that all?” – for to pray behind the scenes and perhaps from a sick bed is to exercise the greatest ministry of all; or to give of one’s means for the support of missionaries and for the advancement of the gospel is a great ministry.
- His mind was open and adaptable to new ideas and methods. Mnason welcomed the apostle Paul, and there is not the slightest doubt that there were those who looked upon Paul as an upstart, and to be associated with him meant that one had to be prepared for trouble. Paul was always “attacking on all fronts”, and Mnason might have said concerning his ministry, “We had no need for this kind of ministry in my young days. I don’t like these changes!” But his mind was flexible, and he could see that God was greatly using Paul, and therefore he was right behind him in prayer and love, and he gave hospitality to him. Is there a parallel to this today? Surely there is. Methods of evangelism have changed in many ways, and this makes it necessary for mature disciples to undergo a considerable amount of adjustment. How glorious it is when mature disciples are able to thank God for all that He is doing and to be enthusiastic in their support of “all means” which He is able to use for the building up of His Church and for the spread of His gospel – so long as the message is undiluted and the method is one which the Holy Ghost can bless – look up 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
We can be quite sure that when the time came, Mnason was ready to go to be with his Lord and that he received His “Well done!” (Matthew 25:21).