Follower of Jesus (Part 1)

A follower of Jesus is someone who makes a decision to live their life differently, with Jesus as the focus and purpose of their life.

We know the circumstances in which several people in Scripture were specifically invited to follow Jesus. Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Nathaniel, and Matthew (Levi) were specifically called to leave what they were doing and follow Him. Their invitations are actually recorded in the Gospels. It may be that the other five Apostles were similarly called. We simply don´t have a specific record of that.

In Luke 6, we read that Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing twelve apostles ´from amongst His disciples´. Notice the all night prayer prior to making the decision. This was a very important moment in the ministry of Jesus. The implication is pretty clear. A group of people – more than just the twelve we know about – were there to be chosen from.

As he moved from place to place, Jesus was approached by people who wanted to follow Him.   

Luke 9: 57-62

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 plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

These verses remind us that people were attracted to Jesus. They wanted to follow Jesus.

These verses also teach us that following Jesus is about more just than just articulating the decision to do so. It’s not passive, it’s an active decision. It’s about responding to Jesus. It’s about picking up your life and looking at it differently. It’s about being prepared to put Jesus first. It’s about setting aside, or at least altering the priority of the other things in our life. It’s not something to be put off until a more convenient moment. It’s about recognising the importance of following Him. It’s about doing it now.

These are active verbs which describe what following Jesus is like. It’s an ongoing relationship. Following Him is about taking a step of faith each day. It’s about offering yourself in a daily act of devotion. It’s about recognising that following Jesus has a cost, and being ready and willing to stand that cost.

For Simon, Andrew, James and John, part of that cost was walking away from their fishing business to literally walk with Jesus. For each of them there will have been other costs. We know that in leaving their nets they also walked away from family and friends. Like Simon and Andrew, Philip came from Bethsaida so he and his brother Nathaniel may have been fishermen too. Matthew (Levi) had to walk away from a profitable place as a tax collector. He would have known that walking out on that lucrative position was a one-way ticket. Someone would immediately take his place. There would be no turning back. We don’t know with any certainty the lives which the other Apostles led prior to following Jesus but it’s a safe bet that their decision to follow Jesus meant setting their previous life aside.

Each of them was ready to step out and follow Jesus. Each of them felt able to put their trust in Him. Each of them put their hope in Him. They witnessed and experienced His compassion. Throughout the three years of His active ministry, Christ gave them resilience and stability of direction. These things define their relationship with Him. These things enabled them to cope with the cost of following Him. These things gave them the confidence to step away from things which could have held them back.

Trust, hope, compassion and direction. These are the things which a follower needs. Jesus provided them in abundance. 

Each of His disciples made a decision to live their lives differently. They made a decision to make Jesus the focus and purpose of their life.  Then, as now, that’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Richard Jackson is the Director of LifePicture UK. He is exploring what it means to live as a contemplative evangelical.

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