Isn’t it amazing how we can take two simple words and complicate them to such a degree as we have in church life? What does it mean to follow Jesus? What must we do to be considered a follower of Jesus. In short, follow Jesus.
That’s too easy!
Why do we think Jesus wanted this to be difficult? Why do we believe that Jesus wanted our focus to be on rules and religious order? When Jesus walked along the shore He stopped and talked with a few young men. He told them to, “Follow Me.” These men were following their father. They had been in the fishing business their entire life and had not considered any other life. The financial structure of their home depended on this business. By the way, isn’t a part of our job as men to support our family? They were doing the task that was expected of them.
How confusing it must have been for them to leave their father, leave their finances, and leave their families. We discover later that Jesus stops by to heal Peter‘s mother-in-law. So he is married. Does he have children? What kind of parent leaves their family to follow some guy who walks up and says, “Follow Me.”? Who does that? Did Zebedee have a few choice words to his boys, John and James, before they walked off the job? Did he have concerns that were unwritten in the Gospels? We will never know. What we do know is that Jesus showed up and everything changed! Everything they had known to that point was readjusted in the light of the presence of Jesus. The structure of their day and life and livelihood would forever be altered. How did Zebedee receive the boys at the festivals when they came home? Did Peter’s children still love him or did the anger of an absent father affect them too much?
Jesus said two words. The theologians have developed libraries of books trying to decipher exactly what those two words mean. We establish rules and structures to further develop what Jesus meant as if what He said wasn’t complete. Surely Jesus meant ____________ ? You fill in the blank. I have been taught for years what that blank is. I have been teaching for years the answers to the blanks. What exactly trips us up about “Follow Me”?
I think we are a lot like two fellows who approached Jesus in Matthew 8 wanting to follow Him. To the first, Jesus simply brought to light that it would not be a life of leisure, comfort, or wealth. The animals had better living quarters that Jesus did. The followers should not expect anything better. To the other, Jesus replied with a harsh sounding statement. The man wanted to bury his father. Jesus responds with let the dead bury the dead. There is nothing you can do for the dead. There is much to be done for the living.
What drives us to develop complete dogmas about these two words? Is it because they seem to easy? Is it because we are challenged to the core when we hear them? I believe it can be both depending on your personality. For those who want complete structure and order in life following Jesus can be too easy and free feeling. What is the schedule? What will we do today? What time will we leave, return, eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom? These are not always in concrete with Jesus. For those who enjoy the pleasures of life and the toys of our culture, following Jesus is not convenient. Just about the time you settle in, Jesus is leaving. When you think it is time to go and you are standing at the door, he begins a new conversation.
We must remember that it has less to do with religious structure and church culture and more to do with Jesus. We are not called to follow a theologian or popular writer. We called to follow Jesus. We are not called to follow a denominational guideline. We are called to follow Jesus. Would Jesus read scripture and talk with the Father? Yes…read the Gospels. Would Jesus attend church regularly? Yes…read the Gospels. Would Jesus want us to go out in ministry and evangelism? Yes…read the Gospels. Would Jesus want us to develop as humans who live in two cultures, here and Heaven? Yes…read the Gospels. Jesus modeled all of these things we do in church. We must remember, though, that we behave in these ways FOR JESUS.
Are you following Jesus?