Users of online social media such as FaceBook or Twitter are most likely familiar with the term, ‘Follower’. They will visit particular web platforms, like what they see, and consequently register themselves as followers. They may also opt into receiving notifications so that they can be kept up-to-date with the latest postings. After that, nothing much is required of them, apart from clicking a few link buttons with the mouse. There is no commitment or obligation on their part to do anything. They can visit sites when they want; take from them what they want, and leave when they want, with no imposed fines or penalties.
Followers of Jesus
By contrast, and huge one at that, being a follower of Jesus is vastly different. Jesus requires so much more of a follower than just a liking of Him. He doesn’t ask people to follow Him, He tells them to follow Him! You might say He ‘commands’ them to follow HIm. A genuine follower of Jesus is a disciple of His, and he aspires to be like Him. He trusts Him and he is committed to diligently serving Him with perseverance, even unto death, for His name’s sake and for the gospel’s sake.
Several times Jesus told people to follow Him, and many willingly did so without delay; for example, there was no hesitation on the part of the fishermen Peter and Andrew.
Here’s the account: ‘Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18, 19).’
On the other hand there was the case of a rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell all he had, to give to the poor and to follow Him. He promised him that if he did he would have treasure in heaven, but the man became very sad, because he had much wealth (Matthew 19:16-22). He walked away from Jesus, apparently valuing his wealth more than his soul (cf Matthew 16:26).
Jesus makes it plain to those who aspire to follow Him that they must do it wholeheartedly, and not be distracted or look back. Here’s the text:
’And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put the hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:61, 62)”’
Similarly, ’Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9:59)”’
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus was straightforward about the cost to those who follow Him:
He said, ‘“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24),”’ and, ‘“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:35).”’
“And He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:38).”’
There is a cost, but the rewards far outweigh any trials and tribulations; Indeed, James, the brother of Jesus, says count them as joy:
‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2,-4).’
Now the disciple John wrote these words of Jesus,‘“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My father will honour (John 12:26).”’
‘“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27).”
How about us? Has Jesus called us to follow Him? Have we heard His voice? If so, do we follow and serve Him? Do we serve Him joyfully?
I would include an emphasis on ‘each disciple is one who engages in making further disciples.’
Thank you Fred. I should consider writing an article about the role of disciples. The command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples [and the authority (v 18) He gives to His disciples for doing it] is sadly ignored. Whereas it was the last command made by Jesus to His disciples!