What does it mean to follow Jesus? Many of us think it’s just a catch-phrase for ‘being a Christian’. We think ‘come, follow me’ means ‘come, be a Christian.’ But that’s not what Jesus says or means. What he actually means is what he actually says, which is come and follow.
I was in Barnitts recently – the hardware and home store in York. What a great labyrinth of a shop it is! I heard they cut keys but I didn’t know at which counter. So I went to the first counter I could find and asked for help. ‘Follow me’ said the man.
Now he wasn’t saying ‘Become a Christian’ – at least I don’t think so. He actually wanted me to follow him! So I did. I had to keep my eye on him as he weaved his way through the store. And eventually he led me to the place I needed to be. But I only got there because I followed. I went where he went. When he said ‘left here’ I went left. I had to do what he said. That’s following.
Following is exciting and slightly scary, because you never quite know where you’re going to be led. That’s why it’s very important that you trust your guide to lead you.
In Mark chapter 1 we read of Jesus calling four people to follow him – Peter, James, John and Andrew. They’re asked to respond to his message – to his vision of the kingdom. Jesus announces (v.15) that ‘it’s TIME! God’s long-awaited kingdom has come near. God’s presence and power and love can be experienced NOW.’ And he calls people to ‘repent and believe’ – to change and trust. To CHANGE their lives. And to TRUST him with their present and future. This is what Simon, Andrew, James and John are called to. To ‘follow him’. And we are called to do the same.
No doubt they had plans. But Jesus changed them. And that sometimes happens to us too. But if it’s Jesus who is leading and we follow, then that’s ok, because Jesus is trustworthy. Like the shop attendant in Barnitts, he will lead you to exactly the right place – if you follow.
At times Jesus leads us into the unexpected. I am speaking to quite a number of people at the moment for whom that is happening. Jesus is guiding them somewhere they’ve not been before. If that’s happening to you, then follow. You will probably want to process this with other wise people, as we’re never called to follow alone. But in the end, follow faithfully. Obediently. And trust Jesus.
I talked to The Belfrey’s Staff Team about this before Easter, and asked: ‘What if The Lord asked us to follow him into new ways of sharing the gospel? Or unexpected ways of being church. Would that be ok?’ For some of us, who like things a certain way, that might be troubling. But the appropriate response to Jesus is always ‘repent and believe’ – CHANGE and TRUST.
So the important thing for disciples, is to follow. Even if we don’t know exactly where that will take you. Those first four young disciples didn’t know where they’d end up. Nevertheless each one ‘left their nets/boat and followed him’. For some of us, following might mean leaving the main job or task we’re doing now. For others it won’t – it will simply mean going where Jesus takes you. That might be more about working on your character. It might mean doing something differently. It might mean changing your schedule and developing different patterns of living. It might mean thinking differently. Praying differently. Treating someone differently.
It’s about going with Jesus. Following him. Where ever he leads.
So where is J leading you?
We are called to be disciples of Jesus. Following him involves CHANGE and TRUST. But most of all it’s simply about following. So follow him. Today.