“And He said unto them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'” Matthew 4:19
I want to imagine this scene. I want to see it unfold before me. I’m thinking that it must be getting near dusk. Why? Because these kind of fishermen fish at night, just like the fishermen in the Philippines. And they’re not sitting leisurely in their boats with a hook and line pulling in one fish at a time. At this point, since Jesus is walking along the sea’s edge, I can figure that Peter and Andrew are actually casting in their net from the edge of the water. I can see them casting in the weighted net, then walking into the water and manually drawing it together to pull in whatever variety of fish would become trapped inside. And whether they were casting from the shoreline, or later from within their boat in the midst of the sea, they would cast and then need to draw back in that which was caught within the nets. With arms wide open they would cast the nets out. And with toil, they would gather them in.
And Jesus, You see this, and You stop there, with Peter and Andrew, and You tell them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” What was their response? Did they have to go ask their family? Did they have to check their finances? Did they even wrap up their nets and fold up shop? “And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.” Wow! That sounds like they just dropped the nets right where they were, and just followed You.
I usually look at words in Scripture to see if there is an original meaning that I have missed by my “English” interpretation. And I’ve been looking at these words today, “Follow Me,” but these words are about as straightforward as they can get. “Follow Me” leaves no room for hedging. “Follow Me” means “Follow Me.” Well, actually, it really means “Follow Me!” Because it’s an imperative. That means that it is a command. “Follow Me and I will make You able to cast Your arms wide open and gather men into the kingdom of God!” Who wouldn’t leave immediately?
“Follow Me” is simple, not easy. “Follow Me” means turning our whole lives to Jesus’ direction. “Follow Me” means walking the way Jesus walks, talking the way Jesus talks, loving the way Jesus loves, feeling the way Jesus feels, honoring God the way Jesus honors the Father. “This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:5-6)
Do I give of myself like Jesus? Do I go where He would go? Do I reach out to the people He reached out to? Do I really act like Him, walk like Him, live life like Him? Am I Jesus approved or culturally approved?
One disciple (that’s the Greek word used) asks Jesus to let him go bury his father first. Now, it seems that Jesus gives him a rather harsh answer. “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” Does Jesus not care about those who mourn? Is this just a spiritual allegory about those who won’t believe? Or is this about our heart for truly following Jesus? Because if this man’s father was dead, he wouldn’t have been there with Jesus at that moment. He would have been doing shiva at the side of the dead for seven days. But here he was with Jesus just thinking about the future. “Can I wait until my father dies to follow you?” He was a disciple who wasn’t ready to immediately follow. Am I that kind of disciple? Do I have other priorities? Are You, Lord, pre-eminent over all in my life?
Following is not easy. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” This type of denial means “to renounce, to disown.” It’s drastic. Skip Moen calls it “an invitation to let God amputate. It isn’t simply refusing to do something we really want to do. It is asking God to cut it out of our hearts.” It’s directly tied in with the first commandment. “I am the Lord, Your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Denying myself is asking God to cut out of my heart anything that is keeping Him from His pre-eminence in my life. It’s asking God to truly be God in me. It’s my absolute surrender. Is the living God truly God of my life? Who am I really following? It’s part and parcel with true following.
And what was Jesus really saying to that young rich man? “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, ‘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.'” I mean this fella had come excitedly running to Jesus and even kneeled before him. “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” But that’s the thing. Was Jesus really his Master? Was his Master pre-eminent in everything? Would he do whatever his Master required, whatever it took to know his Master’s will? Did he love his Master more than anything, even more than his own desires and pleasures? When his heart was truly put to the test, would he pass the test? Would I? Would he really follow Jesus no matter what?
“I will follow You, but…” Yes, there was another disciple that said, “I will follow You; but let me first say farewell to those at home.” Jesus answered, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) In Greek, looking back means looking into our future. But what if Luke was thinking in Hebrew? In Hebrew, looking back means that the future is the thing behind us. The future is the thing we can’t see. Which draws us into the danger of trying to control our future instead of letting God control us. “Because only God knows where He will take us. When we try to manage the future, we attempt to usurp God’s sovereignty. And no one who wishes to still be in charge of his own life is fit for Kingdom duty. In Hebrew the imagery is exactly the opposite of our usual Greek interpretation. This is not a matter of wistfully desiring life’s past pleasures. It is a matter of trying to control God’s purposes.” (Skip Moen) So, who am I following? Am I following You or me?
Following You, Jesus, is all about me knowing You and desiring You and Your will with every part of me. It’s all about hearing You, not just because I try to, but because I’m only alive in You. Not hearing Your voice is death. But hearing Your voice is life and so hearing is living. And when I hear You like that, it’s because You know me and I know You. And since my whole life and being is in You, well, I follow You. If I serve You, I will be Your follower. Where You are, I will be. Where I am, You will be. When I honor You with my life, when I truly live and love and treat You as the God that You are, You will actually honor me. How? By bringing me into Your life, into Your power, into Your resurrection, into Your love, into You. Following is worth the amputation. Following You is worth losing my life over. Following You is worth everything.
“… And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10) Don’t be afraid to follow Jesus. Follow, just follow. Follow wholeheartedly. Jesus has taken our defilement and accepted us as we are. Don’t be afraid. Jesus has made it all possible. My failures have no bearing here because Jesus never fails. He comes to me though I am not good enough and says, “Follow Me, I’m good enough for you.” And He is. Do I believe that? Because there is nothing else in life and no one else I can follow who can ever make me good, but Him. So the question is, Lord, do I believe that? Do I believe that enough to leave everything behind and follow You and trust You even though I can’t see all the details? Am I really following You? Because I can’t be a fisher of men until I follow You. If I draw them to any other light, I lead them to death. You need to be the Light that shines from me so they see You. I must follow You and You alone. Our life depends on it. It’s imperative!