Follow Me!

On the first page of the Gospel of Mark, at least on the first page in my Bible, we hear some words of Jesus. Those words are the summary statement of Jesus:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Four central themes shape those first public words of Jesus:

1. God’s plan for history has come now to it special time of fulfillment. [The claim is astounding.]
2. God’s kingdom is on the verge of arriving.
3. Follow me.
4. The mission is now clear.

I want to look at #3, “Follow me.”

What’s the hardest aspect of Jesus to follow?

Following Jesus is popular today. It’s almost like a badge of honor to say “I’m a Christ follower” or “I’m a follower of Jesus” instead of saying “I’m a Christian.” But what is being said with this “I’m a follower of Jesus today?”

First, some follow Jesus by making their cause Jesus’ cause. They think they are following Jesus but they’ve only colonized Jesus into their cause. This is idolatry and a sham.

Second, some follow Jesus by doing historical Jesus work, judging some sayings not to be authentic and others to be authentic, and nearly everyone repeats the mantra that such folks make Jesus after their own image, and then following the Jesus who can be reconstructed from the residue of what remains after the historical work is done. This is almost always a reduced Jesus.

Third, you take the Gospels at their word — and I respect the hermeneutical issues here — and you follow the Jesus who is there. All four Gospels. All their lines. Not just some of them. Red letters and black letters. This is the church’s way of Jesus.

Take your pick. I wrote One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow for the third way. Many think they are in the third group but they are in the first or second group. Either we follow the Jesus of the Gospels or we don’t. Which means we have to listen to what he says, all of what he says, assuming he knows the way to the Father or we assume we know better.

The third way calls us to read, to listen, to trust, and to live.

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  • Although this is not radical or new…it is what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  • Watchman

    Something else that is profound about this statement is that Jesus does the choosing. He calls us and we come to Him. None of the disciples gave it second thought when Jesus called them. Nobody thought about it or rejected Him. They literally dropped their nets and followed after Him. God’s grace is truly irresistible.

  • James Petticrew

    Looking back on my life in the church, I think I loved most of my childhood at church meetings I am sad about how little I heard about Jesus. There was a lot said about being saved by Jesus but very little about being shaped by Jesus by following Him. Its not just those in the Jesus seminar that have reduced Jesus, I grew up with a Jesus who could have been born, crucified, rose again, ascended and sent the Spirit all on the one day. As far as I remember we had no place for his life and teaching outside how they related to being “born again”

    I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to study and for books like Scot’s which have made Jesus live and so allowed me to hear his call to follow him not just as a call to decision but a call to life, a life shaped by Jesus lived in and for the Kingdom of God.

  • “First, some follow Jesus by making their cause Jesus’ cause. They think they are following Jesus but they’ve only colonized Jesus into their cause. This is idolatry and a sham.” *Colonized* – excellent! Magnetic fish on Escalades and WWJD bracelets opposite Rolex’s.

  • Anna


    The rich young ruler was invited to follow Jesus but refused. So it’s not all about God’s grace, but also about our willingness to follow and therefore to allow our lives to change dramatically.

  • Either we follow or we don’t… involves job security, family dependency, economic stability – – – and a few other things Jesus addressed. First person plural is paramount.

  • “This is the church’s way of Jesus.” But, is it not also Jesus filtered through the epistles rather than focusing on the gospels. In my church we stand to hear the gospel reading, while remaining seated for the OT and epistles readings. Yet, the preaching and teaching is almost always centered on the early church’s experiences, problems, theology etc. I think this too results in a ‘filtered’ Jesus.

  • Well put (of course). As I have your book on Kindle now I have to delve in. Sometimes I am saddened by the idea that we seem to have sort of co-opted the Gospel message to do what we think is what Jesus wanted for us to do (your first option) and support all of that with a great deal of well sounding, and well meaning, rhetoric, but nevertheless, this falls short. But I see smaller groups and movements that seek to break through all of this blindness and that strikes me as what is meant by the emerging Kingdom – which is spoken of, as Sam noted, in the Gospels and lived out in the epistles.

  • Dave

    Hard to discern at times today, so many views, political, cultural etc that pull Jesus into their camp and muddy the water and the message.

    good stuff and timely in my own journey back!

  • Following Jesus is not just something we make room for in our lives, as if we work it into our busy schedule. It is a complete reorientation of our lives. Not just something we do in our lives, but a new way of living our lives. It is a new way of life, and indeed, a new life. We view everything in life through a new focus — who Jesus is and what He is doing in the world, in us and through us.

    It is not merely the priority, the first item on our list that we check off and can then move on to the next item. Jesus is all-encompassing of everything in our life. Everything is prioritized according to His priorities, everything evaluated through the lens of following Him.

    There is no doing it by halves; it is an all or nothing proposition. Years ago, my father asked Jesus to come into his life. He says he heard the Lord say, “I would not touch your life with a ten-foot pole. But I will come and be your life.”

  • Thanks, Scot! So good. So much to pray and think through. A lifetime venture and adventure.

  • Elaine

    Well said. The myriad ways Christians use the epistles to negate the Gospels continually amazes me.

  • The Epistles don’t negate the Gospels; the Gospels don’t negate the Epistles. If we ever think that one negates the other, I think it is only because we are reading one of them wrong.

  • Elaine

    @13 – Precisely my point.

  • JohnM

    Jeff #13 – Well said indeed!

    Even the original disciples, after they’d left everything to follow Jesus, were initially “following” under the first model to some extent. Their understanding was limited (to say the least) and their motives were mixed. Not that we ever want this to be an excuse, but the rest of their story does offer both instruction and hope for us today who also have an imperfect (but hopefully growing) understanding of what it is to follow Jesus.

  • John M #15,

    Yeah, I think we usually do begin following under the first model. But Jesus, the Spirit and the Kingdom keep pulling on us for more. Every day we must decide if we are going to resist or yield and go deeper with it.

  • John W Frye

    I was trained in a stream that fixated on Paul and the epistles because they are for *the church.* The Gospels were data to pull verses from to “prove” the deity and humanity of Jesus–in One Person forever, that’s it. I remember reading N.T. Wright’s *The Challenge of Jesus* (IVP) and after that I saturated myself in the Gospels. To my shock when I read the letters of Paul I found Jesus everywhere in them. Yet, there is a theology and practice very alive in some circles where the epistles are used to negate Jesus and the Gospels.

  • Fred

    James @ #3

    I had the same experience. When I was young, we attended church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays and any time there were youth activities available. And yet when I attended Bible school, I was amazed at what I found in God’s Word. I don’t think my experience was all that unusual.

    It almost seems as though one has to go it alone (or at least away from the institutional church) these days. There is a reason that organizations like Bible Study Fellowship are popular.

    What role does the church play in our learning and how well are we doing? I fear that we are not doing all that well.

  • Watchman

    #5 Anna – Nowhere in Scripture does it say that the rich young ruler rejected or refused Christ. I think you may be reading too much into it. The Gospel accounts only document the fact that he was saddened or walked away sad. The Bible is silent on whether or not he later became a follower of Christ.

    Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:22)

    But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:23)

  • JohnM

    Watchman #19, I frequently find myself in agreement with you in this forum, and I appreciate your willingness to go against the grain to make a valid point. However, here I want to point out I think it is also possible to read too much into the silence on whatever later became of the rich young ruler. All we know for certain is that he walked away from Jesus, yet Jesus loved him.

  • Watchman

    JohnM #20 – Thanks for the encouragement and careful warning. But, I think you just said the same thing I did. The fact is we don’t know what happened to the rich young ruler, but Anna was clear that she thought he rejected Christ. And, the Bible does not say this. In other words, I was warning her that she was jumping to conclusions that are simply not in Scripture.

  • I love your description of the 3rd way. Sounds hard. Sounds narrow…sounds like very few of us may find it, or, having found it, have the guts to try it.

    For me, following Jesus involves finding a way to enter into communion with Him…yes, it’s a bit mystical, but how else are we to do this? I remind myself that Jesus’ rejection of the miracle workers in Matthew 7 was simply “I never knew you.” May we follow Jesus in a way that we develop intimacy with Him, not just familiarity with the Gospels…may He say of us that he knew us.