This series is going to focus specifically on Jesus’ commands that are directed towards His disciples in the gospels. I am going to take a broad stroke in this first post and look at one of the first commands Jesus gives in all four gospels. “Follow Me.” This command is first found in Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:27, and John 1:43, respectively, and is repeated twenty times in the Gospels. One thing I notice as I look at Jesus’ command to follow Him is that it simply serves as a starting point. There will be similarities between each disciple’s walk, but there is no promise of uniformity of experience in the lives of Christians.
Jesus came with a very specific purpose, and he followed that purpose to his death and resurrection. At the end of His life Jesus said “It is finished”. He knew that his time was finished and that his purposed had been fulfilled. Similarly, when the apostle Paul came to the end of his life he wrote these words to Timothy:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Paul knew that his work was finished; He had confidence that he had fulfilled his purpose in Christ. For Paul, following Jesus lead him all around the known world. It meant building the Church, bringing Christ to the Gentiles, writing much of the New Testament, and ultimately suffering a martyr’s death.
Finding your purpose and calling in life can bring confusion, stress, and heartache. We are often encouraged to follow our hearts, but I’m not sure we should. Jesus says, “…out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19-20a). Our hearts deceive us. We do not know what we need or what is best. Realizing this is what brings us back to the starting point. “Follow Me”.
I want to make clear that I am not referring to variations in the moral standards we are to uphold as Christians. I am referring to the non-moral life that each believer carries out around those commands. Consider the man who Legion possessed. After being freed, he begged Jesus that he might go with him, but “[Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). Compare this to the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus did not command him to go back to his home, but said to him, “…go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
Both men were following Jesus but were commanded to do take completely opposite action in order to do so, and our lives are no different. One of the hardest things I’ve had to grow out of as a Christian in the twenty first century is trying to conform my life to look exactly like the lives of men I admire in scripture. I cannot live out the same life as David, Paul, Joseph, or Peter. There will be parallels, and the same power resides in me that resided in them; but God created me for a specific purpose, and placed me in this body at this time in order to fulfill that by His grace.
This is where prayer and intimacy with God plays a vital role in the life of a Christian. If we are not saturating our lives in the things of God, our deceitful hearts and the enemy of our souls will guide us off of the straight and narrow path that Jesus has called us to individually.
I encourage you to Follow Jesus. Your walk will look quite different from mine if you do, but it will bring joy and fulfillment far beyond your wild expectations. He will direct you, counsel you, console you, and sanctify you. He will give you confidence that you are not running in vain. He will call you out to take steps where there seems to be no ground, and at the end of it all, you will have the same confidence Paul had, regardless of what it looks like.