Updated: Sep 18, 2020
The call to “Follow Me!” is Jesus’ second call. It is first given four to five months into His ministry. Unlike the first call, however, we have a record of Jesus continuing to speak and repeat this call right up to the end of His earthly ministry. It is the call Jesus gives to move us beyond recognition and belief. It is also the call He repeats whenever we are prone to wander from or doubt Him.
Here are some of the passages where Jesus speaks this call:
The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." John 1:43
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was 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." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them [implicitly, “Follow Me!”]. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-22
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them [implicitly, “Follow Me!”], and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went away to follow Him. Mark 1:16-20
Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." [Implicitly, “Follow Me!”] When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. Luke 5:1-11
And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." Then he said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER, and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. Matthew 19:16-22
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. John 6:66
There is so much to be said about this call.
First, the call to “Follow Me” is the call to GENUINE RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS.
Many readers may immediately assume I mean “inviting Jesus into one’s heart.” Or they may equate it to the phrase “having a personal relationship with Christ,” which is widely (if not wildly) used in Christian circles. No, this call is much more specific and exact. Furthermore, this call can only be responded to with conscious intentionality, generally by someone who already is a Believer. It is the call to become a Follower of Jesus.
We can have all kinds or levels of “personal relationships” with other people. A “personal relationship” can be everything from “I met him once” to “we are married and have walked life together for 50 years.” In this spectrum, the response Jesus desires from us to His “Follow Me” is much more like “Yes, I’ll marry You” than it is “How do You do?” or "Pleased to meet You."
Second, the call of “Follow Me” has major implications.
Think about it. Think about the difference between “Come and see” and “Come and follow.” “Come and see” is invitational, exploratory, even optional. We may or we may not. As we’ve already seen, we can do it on our terms, when it is convenient for us.
“Come and follow” is completely different. For me to follow you means that, sooner or later, I must give up my agenda for yours. So long as you stay very near where I am when you say, “Follow me,” I can go about my business. But as soon as you move on, it is only a very short time before I must leave where I am in order to follow you. Otherwise, I will lose sight of you and cannot claim to be following you. I must keep you in sight.
If we are to be Followers of Jesus, we must keep Him in sight, even though we may have no idea where He is going. Like children with parents at the park, we still have some degree of latitude. We may run ahead, or lag behind, or wander off to the side from where Jesus is. But if we are to follow Him, we must keep Him in sight. That means giving up some of our independence, some of our plans, some of our agendas. We must at least subordinate all these to Jesus and to whatever He has planned for our lives. Without knowing what those plans may be, we must decide that we will trust Jesus. We can’t go on with Jesus and stay where we are. Talk about a kairos moment!
Third, the call to follow is difficult.
In fact, hearing Jesus say, Follow Me!” is, in many respects, THE KAIROS MOMENT of kairos moments. That is why I believe that this is the most critical and difficult call of all. Once this call is heeded (obeyed, “followed” – pun intended), once a person "drives the stake" to follow Jesus, life is never the same. That person has launched out on his journey with Jesus. Therefore, Jesus’ subsequent calls, although just as significant, will not be as difficult. Heeding these later calls will seem like “the natural thing to do.” And Spiritually-speaking, it is.
Allow me to digress for just a moment, to make sure you don’t miss the meaning of this second call.
What does "drive the stake" mean? Some sources talk about it in terms of marking one's claim to a piece of land, as in the days of the Gold Rush or homesteading. But predating that usage is the practice of Native American warriors.
On occasion, in an act of unusual determination, resoluteness, and bravery, a warrior would tie one end of a long leather thong to one of his ankles and the other end to a stake. He would then go out to face his enemies and drive the stake deep into the ground. In so doing, he was saying that he was taking a stand, prepared to die, not leaving the circle circumscribed by the thong, unable to flee from those who came against him. The warrior was visibly showing that he was "all in," fully committed.
Responding to Jesus' call to follow Him requires that kind of being "all in" irrevocably. It is what God is talking about in Romans 12:1 when He has the apostle Paul urge or beseeches us to "present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God."
Fourth, the call to follow Jesus is very personal.
Notice that Jesus did not give this as an altar call. He didn’t speak it to a crowd. He looked individual men in the eye and said, “Follow Me!” Furthermore, Jesus didn’t sugar-coat His call, and He didn’t negotiate. The most He ever offered anyone as an inducement was the vision and promise to make the person a “fisher of men.”
Which brings me to some fascinating, but very real, observations about the men to whom Jesus gave the call, “Follow Me!” Notice that everyone did not follow Jesus just because He called them. For example, the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 (also Mark 10 and Luke 18) did not. This well-intentioned fellow did not want to give up his agenda and status and “stuff.”
Also, notice that some who initially followed Jesus subsequently gave it up. Look again at the John 6 passage above. Some who were said to be “disciples” turned back when Jesus raised the bar on what it was going to mean to be His disciple. Jesus was not being or doing what they expected or wanted Him to be or do.
Furthermore, and most notable – as well as comforting – to us, the best of the men whom Jesus called to follow Him did not immediately make the decision once and for all. They vacillated on it. They did not “drive the stake” the first time. And even when they finally did, they later had to come back and give the stake another big whack to drive it deeper. In next month's blog, I will walk through all this from the Scriptures above.