“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” Hosea 6:3
Yesterday, someone told me that Jesus never told us to follow Him. I have to admit, I have a major problem when asked to seperate Jesus’ choice of way of life for His “immediate” disciples, you know, Jesus, what people refer to as the eleven and, let’s put Paul in there too, and His choice of way of life for me or anyone now. Someone tells me, “That was for the disciples but not us.” Really? You’re telling me that Jesus had double standards? You’re telling me that it’s God’s desire to handle Jews and Gentiles seperately? Funny how they used to worship together and eat together and learn together in the time after the resurrection. And it wasn’t until the severe persecution of the Jewish believers heightened and “state religion” was mandated that being a Jewish believer became frowned upon and derogatory. It’s funny that Jesus, I hear You talking about unity in You amongst believers. It’s funny that I hear Paul say that in Christ there is no more Jew or Gentile, no more male or female, no more slave or free. But maybe what I choose to believe is determined by who I ultimately choose to follow.
Eric Vess, who shared the Bible Study lesson at Advancing Native Missions this past Thursday, made a statement during a lunch discussion. He basically stated, “People will always find the theology they are looking for in Scripture.” Well, those aren’t the exact words, but we can almost always see what we want to see in Scripture and turn it to what we want. But are we really looking at Scripture as a whole and making sure our idea is consistent with ALL of Scripture? And am I looking at the life of Jesus and asking if this is how You, Lord, would have responded? What happens when I put the two of them together? Can I protect myself from false interpretation?
If Jesus never said “Follow Me,” then why did He say it five times in Matthew, three times in Mark, four times in Luke, and three times in John? Why would Jesus expect less of me than He expected of His “personal” disciples? Because He didn’t just say this to the twelve only. He said this to others who He was inviting into His way. So let’s take a look at who You, Lord, invite to follow You.
You invited Peter and Andrew to follow and promised to make them fishers of men. A scribe said he would follow and You told him basically to count the cost because it wasn’t a “pretty road.” You might not even have a home. And then another disciple responds, and You say, “Follow me and let the dead bury the dead.” Hmm, that disciple was not one of the twelve. You saw a tax collector named Matthew and told him to follow. And You made this statement to Your disciples, and I don’t really think this was only meant for the twelve, because here is what You say, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Who is any man? Am I? Is John Smith? Is Albert Einstein? If any man, if whosoever will come, this is what following looks like. Why would You use “any man” here, Lord, if following like a disciple was only for the twelve? Maybe, following You is supposed to look the same and be the same no matter who is following You or when they are following You. It’s only really following if it looks like following and smells like following and walks like following. I may quack and I may waddle like a duck, but I am not a duck. Unless I’m a duck through and through, I’m not a duck. Unless I follow through and through, I’m not one of Yours.
“Sell what You have, give to the poor, and come and follow Me.” Was that really such an isolated instance? Sometimes You call specific ones to follow You specific ways but if we are honest and look at these lifechanging, drastic opportunities You offered people to follow You, I see that You offered these to those not yet within the comraderie of Your twelve disciples. You offered this following to Mr. Doe, the approaching disciple.
Let’s look at Mark 8:34. Who did You speak to? You specifically called the people and Your disciples. And this is what You told them all, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Who did You just say, “Follow me” to? Isn’t that all who would desire to come to You? Isn’t that written for me to understand Your invitation also? When I read Your Word, aren’t I consider as one of those who gathered close to hear You?
You didn’t just tell this message to the twelve. A young man, a seeker comes, and You loved him right away. And Your message was just as strong to him as to the twelve. Here it is again, “One thing You lack: go your way, sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Why would You tell this to the young man off the street? Because this is life in You. It’s the same for any disciple. Whosoever would be a disciple of Yours, this is what their life will look like.
This kind of following must be integral to the life of a believer, and even more integral to being in You, Lord. Because Matthew, Mark, and Luke all thought it so significant that they each recorded these words of Yours. They each recorded these words to those surrounding You and seeking You, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
I think John just happened to be a more “poetic” writer. He had that parable teaching downpat. So he used the picture of the sheep and the Shepherd. But any way I look at it, it’s still all about following You. I think John just saw it as a pretty cut and dry situation. Following You, Jesus, meant absolutely following You. It meant knowing You, hearing Your voice, and being right where You are. It’s supernatural and it’s pure devotion and pure love. It’s giving up everything for the One who has become everything.
Peter tells us we should follow the steps of Jesus, even in suffering. And John, in Revelation, tells us about these redeemed singing before the throne. He tells me that these redeemed are there because “they follow the Lamb, whithersoever He goes.”
Ever since I was five years old, I wanted to follow Jesus. Now, I know how. Now, I know what that means. And it’s worth leaving everything else behind. I don’t want to follow Paul. I don’t want to follow Peter or John. I don’t want to follow a missionary or the most wonderful Sunday School teacher. I want to follow Jesus. I want to follow You, Lord. I don’t want to stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai and tell Moses, “You go talk to God for us.” Oh, not at all. I want to hear Your voice in my own ears. I want You to show Yourself to me. I want to glow with knowledge of You. I want to follow hard after You like I’ve never followed anything in my life and like I will never again follow anything in my life but You and Your way.
“Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” “If we follow on.” If I “radaph” to know the Lord. If I run after, if I pursue like I want to catch You. This is the kind of following You call us all to. My life depends upon my catching You. I will pursue You that hard. Now this may seem a little radical, but in searching out the depth of “radaph” and pursuing to see what You are requiring of me, I came upon this “beatitude” that Skip Moen shed a different light on. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) Now this idea of blessed isn’t about reward, it’s about the bliss and joy of the person who expresses this character in their life. But there’s that word persecuted which in Greek is “dioko.” And it can mean “to persecute, to prosecute, or to pursue.” And what if this Matthew, who was a Jew, was actually speaking from a Hebrew perspective. Because then that word would be “radaph” and mean “pursue.” And what if he was trying to get us to see that when we pursue You with everything, Lord, we live in the assurance and bliss of knowing You, and as we wholeheartedly pursue Your kingdom, it actually brings about Your kingdom. This then is our present reality. This is the reward of following. You, in our lives now, are the Reward. I follow You, meaning pursue You until I have You.
Do I understant what that means? Do I understand what You want to do in me? Do I understand what You will be able to do for others through me and in me? Do I really understand the magnitude of following You? Well, I’ll say this one thing, someone can choose to believe whatever they want about who is excluded from following, and you can even exclude yourself, but I won’t and I can’t because I’m desperate to follow You, to pursue You, and to hold You as my own. That’s why every time I say “My God! My Jesus!” I am so excited. Because You made it so I can know You, so that I can have You as MY GOD!
Yesterday, I told someone that it’s Your desire that we do what You do in this world. That’s why Your Holy Spirit abides in believers. Their response was, “We can’t walk on water.” But I beg to differ. If you need me to walk on water some day, You’ll make me able. But walking on water isn’t what You wanted us to learn. You wanted us to learn about trusting You wholly so that we know that whatever You call us to do, You will empower us to do. Who would think of walking on water as the first thing You give power to do? I’m thinking of loving the outcasts, standing against the status quo, eating with sinners, selfless love, and so much more. How does walking on water even compare with those? Walking on water is child’s play compared to showing the love and forgiveness You demonstrated. Yes. I know where I want to follow You. I want to follow You into the arms of the lonely. I want to follow You into the homes of the destitute. I want to follow You into the hearts of those who have been lied to and deceived. I want to follow You into the hearts of the captives and the widows and the orphans and the hungry and the sick. I want to show them what it is to follow You so that they can be set free to follow You too. Then they will know You and we will all rejoice together singing and understanding the bliss in the words, “My Jesus!”