The Cost of Following Jesus
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
by David Platt , lifeway.com
No one could ever accuse Jesus of being a great public-relations guy. Who else but Jesus would make it His practice to disperse crowds with difficult and controversial teachings when it would have been so easy to rally an army? Who else but Jesus would choose to continually insult the power structure of His time rather than try to make influential friends in high places? Who else but Jesus would align Himself with the lowest and the least of His society, those with no political clout or social standing?But that’s what Jesus did. That’s what He’s still doing. Perhaps with all of our educationaladvancements, the multiplicity of Bible studies and books available to us, and the abundanceof churches in many parts of the world, we’ve forgotten that following Jesus isn’t like choosingwhich flavor of syrup you want in your coffee.
Picture the scene with me. It’s a clear day out on the lake. Two brothers are fishing, and the catch is good. They already know this is going to be a good day, and they’re excited about totaling up the final catch at day’s end.
They hear someone talking to them from the shore a short way off. They shield their eyes from the sun and cock their heads to listen. They’re able to distinctly make out the two words that would change the rest of their lives: “Follow Me.”
“Follow Me.” These two words contained radical implications for the lives of the disciples. In a time when the sons of fishers were also fishers, these men would have grown up around the sea. Fishing was the source of their livelihood and all they’d ever known. It represented everything familiar and natural to them.
That’s what Jesus was calling them away from.
By calling these men to leave their boats, Jesus was calling them to abandon their careers. When He called them to leave their nets, He was calling them to abandon their possessions. When He called them to leave their father in the boat by himself, He was calling them to abandon their family and friends. Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves.
The men were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, and self-preservation for self-denunciation. Let’s put ourselves in the positions of these eager followers of Jesus in the first century. What if you were the one stepping out of the boat? What if you were the potential disciple being told to drop your nets? What if it were your father asking where you were going?
The Idea of Following Jesus
This is where we need to pause to consider whether we’re starting to redefine Christianity. We have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. But slowly, subtly, we have reduced following Jesus to the idea of following Jesus.
We do this in all sorts of ways. We rationalize Jesus’ demanding teachings: “Of course, Jesus wasn’t actually telling you to abandon your family. And of course, He wasn’t really saying to leave everything behind to follow Him.”
While it’s true that Jesus didn’t-and doesn’t-require everyone to leave their father and their occupation to follow Him, He does require absolute obedience and commitment. Rather than joyfully embracing His call, we have the self-serving tendency to water it down to be theoretical sacrifice and hypothetical abandonment. We want to follow a Jesus that doesn’t require anything of us.
In essence, we’ve redefined Christianity. We’ve given in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we’re more comfortable with. It’s a Jesus who’s OK with our materialism, fine with nominal devotion that doesn’t require any sacrifice, and pleased with a brand of faith that requires attendance on Sunday but no real commitment in day-to-day life.
But I wonder if I could help you push through the haze of self-justification and ask a simple question as we study the words of Christ together: What if He was actually serious?A
The purpose of this apprenticeship, as Willard often notes, is not to live the life Jesus lived. That has already been done—and we could never be perfect as Jesus was. The purpose is to learn to live your real, present life with all its responsibilities, relationships, and roles as Jesus would live it if it were his.9
How might one get started on the adventure of following Jesus in the twenty-first century? Begin by asking. Christians often ask Jesus to help them to see him more clearly and to know his reality. This is one way of expressing the desire to learn what Jesus has to teach us about life in God’s kingdom.
Then start to use every means available to learn more about Jesus and to understand his teaching. Reading the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—is a good starting point to come to know Jesus and his ways more fully.
The final step is making a decision. We decide to follow Jesus. We apprentice our lives with him. We commit to listening to him, to obeying him, and to allowing him to shape our lives.
No one follows Jesus perfectly. But over time, the disciple begins to reflect his master’s influence.
How about you? What or who do you follow? Who are the people you follow on Twitter or on Facebook? Who or what do you spend the most time and money on?
What about Jesus? Do you claim to follow Him? If you do, how can you know for sure?
In 1 John, the Apostle John describes how we can know if we’re genuine followers of Christ:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 5-7)
We can tell if we’re Jesus’ followers if we live out His truth and walk in the light as He is in the light. Walking in the light means that when we believe that Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross for our sins, we have holiness before God. It also means that we have fellowship with God and with one another.
In the Gospel of John, chapters 7-8, Jesus goes to the Festival of Tabernacles to publically reveal His identity as the Messiah. In front of everyone Hemakes a radical statement: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The Pharisees, who were the religious Jewish leaders of that day, were enraged when they heard Jesus’ testimony. They refused to believe that He was the Son of God, the light of the world. They believed they were already following “the light,” because their “light” was to live righteously and follow the Law of Moses.
But the other Jews who were listening to Jesus did believe that He was who He claimed to be.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
In this passage, Jesus tells us that if we hold to His teaching — abide in God’s Word — then we will really be His disciples. Then we will know the truth, not just intellectually, but experientially, and the truth will set us free.
Before I became a Christian, I followed a formula that was the light of my life: If I work really hard and please people, then I’ll be a success.In reality, my fear of failure was the “light” I was following. I was a prisoner to my fear and sin.
After I accepted Christ, I finally realized that Jesus is the One I should be following. Little by little, I began to follow Jesus’ truth and believe that God loves me just the way I am. I realized that I didn’t have to be a chameleon and conform to the image of what others expected me to be in order to be accepted. I also didn’t have to sin any more. I was truly free.
So perhaps you’re wondering… how do I do that? How do I actually follow Jesus and begin to walk in the light? Here’show:
Get into God’s Word regularly. As we read or listen to His Word, we can ask God to reveal Himself to us, and speak to us relationally and intimately.
Choose to actually do what His Word says. As we discover what His light says about relationships, work, sex, and our priorities, then we should follow what it says.
Finally, live your life the way Jesus lived His. How did He do that? He depended on the Father. He would get up early before dawn to be alone because he wanted to talk to His Father. What was His goal?He wanted to please the Father and intended to fulfill the Father’s agenda. This was Jesus’ light and it should be ours as well.