Matthew 4:19 (Mark 1:17) “Follow Me…”
Matthew 8:22 “Follow Me…”
Matthew 9:9 (Mark 2:14) “Follow Me…”
Mark 2:14 “Follow Me…”
Matthew 16:24 (Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) “…deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21 (Luke 18:22) “…come, follow Me.”
John 1:43 “…Follow Me.”
John 10:27 “…they follow Me.”
John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
John 21:22b “You follow Me!”
Tom Petty has a song that says, “The waiting is the hardest part” (Song, “The Waiting”). In living a life devoted to God, I think that the following is the hardest part!
When Jesus told someone to follow Him it wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. I can picture Him looking folks right in the eyes, no flinching, no blinking, no smiling, and honestly in some situations, so direct it feels offensive. There was no, “if you feel like it”, no “hey, no biggie if you don’t”, and certainly no, “if you want to”, there was only the command…FOLLOW ME!
Think about your average day and how many different times are you following something, be it directions, recipes, whatever. All the time, right? Most of the time you are following without even thinking like when you pour milk over your cereal. At some point in your life, someone told you or you read that you pour milk over cereal before you eat it and now, you just do it without question, it’s habit. I believe fully that God, in the commands of Jesus that said “follow me”, is leading us to a place where following fully is habit, we don’t even think about it.
Following Jesus isn’t easy and it isn’t pain free, it’s hard. In Matthew 8:22, Jesus denies a request to go and bury a father. Ouch! I read that and in my humanity I think really Jesus? He couldn’t take the time to go and bury his dad? And if I move past my offense and I think about the eternal perspective, I believe Jesus is showing us in this verse that following Him absolutely must be our first priority. There is so little time here on earth and so much work to be done and we must trust that God has a better grip on the time and therefore, we must walk away from situations that seem like a big deal to us and trust Him. And going one step further, think about the incredible witness that follower of Christ is now for the next person who is finding it challenging to follow. He can now share his story and what he walked away from in order to follow. I have to remember that my obedience to God isn’t always about me, sometimes it’s about the person following me.
Following Jesus means I live unchained to me and I live bound to Him. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 all say that in order to follow Jesus fully, we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. This is so counter-cultural for today. We are bombarded with messages of how to make ourselves feel more important, how to be center of the universe and how to get all we can first. Jesus is saying no to all of that, He’s saying to deny our selfish side and pick up the mantle of sacrifice, the cross and then follow Him. Follow His example of hope, healing and love. Follow His example of complete service to those around Him. Follow His example of praying for those who seek to hurt us. In following Jesus, I let go of the chains of my life, I pick up the cross and I move forward.
You can’t follow God in your own strength, plain and simple. Once you acknowledge that, once you get it deep down in your core that nothing you do will ever make you “good enough”, that’s when Jesus will look you straight in the eyes, no blinking, no flinching, and He’ll say, “Follow Me!”. That is when the unchained journey begins.
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Live life unchained in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy.