Everyone seems to have a different idea of what it means to follow Jesus. For some, it comes with a list of dos and don’ts. For others, it means casting your vote behind the politician who supports the one issue that means the most to you. Still others think it means going to church on Sunday or simply praying before meals. We all have different definitions.
The question we should be asking is, What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”? Let’s look at where He offered those words and then how He summarized them right before He went to the cross.
A quick search will give you 58 Bible verses about following Jesus. The majority of these are simply Jesus being stalked by a crowd, curious as to His physical form being among them. They wanted to see for themselves if Jesus was in fact worth the hype they had been hearing. And guess what? He delivered. He delivered in speech and in deed. He performed miracles of healing and gave the people substance. Some came for the show; they followed long enough for Him to meet their physical needs and then went on with their lives. But some stayed for the long haul.
There were a few that Jesus told directly, “Follow me.” In Matthew 4:18-20 He came across Peter and Andrew fishing in a boat and told them it was time to follow Him. Each of the disciples, when He encountered them, received the command “Follow me” (see Matthew 9:9; Mark 1:19-20, 2:14; John 1:43-45). And each of them did.
Later when speaking to the crowd, Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38 MSG).
He was telling them to watch closely and to follow His lead of self-sacrifice. Jesus was clear in His message that one could not have two masters. In fact, there was one whom He called specifically and said, “Follow me” who answered no. We know him only as the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23. The answer was no because he was very rich and unable to serve both God and money.
In the words of Jesus: “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both” (Matthew 6:24 MSG).
Following Jesus isn’t a pledge to live poverty or seclusion; it’s not a pledge to a list of rules or pilgrimages. What it is is a commitment to put God in the driver’s seat. When God says go, you’ll be ready to answer. Unlike the rich young ruler, you won’t be tied to material things, but instead willing to follow His lead.
During the Last Supper with the disciples, Jesus gave a summary of all He had done and what He was leaving for them to do. He focused in on the purpose behind it all, the point of all those miracles and all those speeches on sunny hilltops. He told the disciples to love as He had loved and by that they would be known as His followers.
If you are wondering what it means to authentically follow Jesus, join us on Unfiltered Radio as we investigate who He claimed to be and how He taught us to interact with one another.