This is a six part audio sermon series on discipleship.
The theme of following Jesus appears throughout the Gospels. This theme certainly suggests more than physical proximity; it signifies a relationship between Jesus and others. Mark discusses following Jesus fifteen times in his short Gospel, no doubt connecting it to his emphasis on discipleship. Furthermore, in Mark 3:14 we read that Jesus appointed the Twelve to be “with Him,” that is, to engage in daily interaction and to follow wherever He led. Jesus sought the allegiance of His followers in exchange for life-giving instruction and daily provision. After establishing the theme of following Jesus, Mark records a story about Peter that signifies a shift in the theme. For three years Peter had followed Jesus. However, in Mark 14:54, shortly after Jesus’ arrest, we read that Peter followed Jesus “at a distance.”
Like Peter, you and I may be following the right Person at the wrong distance. And that distance makes us vulnerable. Are you following Jesus at a distance?
We’ve all seen a leader so marvel at his own ability to lead that he despises anyone who would choose to follow another. Sometimes, our thirst for control can get out of control. A mother resents her son or daughter-in-law, who will never be good enough for her child. A coach gets angry because his star athlete quits the team, reflecting negatively on the coach. A businessman is personally offended when a client takes his business elsewhere.
God set apart John the Baptist from birth for one very lofty purpose: To point people to Jesus. At the height of his ministry, John was the hottest show in town and thousands were following him. But the day Jesus arrived on the scene saw all of that change. God’s plan was for John to bring the people, and for Jesus to steal the show. And what was John’s response to all of this? He pointed people to Jesus.
Following Jesus is easy, right? Just look at the disciples. They got to hang out with other disciples. They enjoyed meals that they didn’t have to prepare. They watched miracles that build their faith. They listen to the best teacher ever, sitting on a grassy hillside on a sunny spring afternoon. What a life!
But then again, maybe following Jesus was also difficult. The disciples were led away from their friends and families. They were led to the sick and diseased. They were led to stand up against a corrupt religious system. They were led to persecution and suffering. They were led into tempests that threatened to take their lives. It was a hard journey, but worth every minute.
When you envision yourself following Jesus, do you picture yourself alone with Him? If so, please begin to change your mind. You and Jesus are not out there walking alone in a meadow or on a seashore. Nor are you two walking alone through this troubled world. Many Christians are in company together following our Savior.
Does that change the way you think about following Him? It should. We must now work alongside others toward the common goals established by Jesus. We must not only focus on our personal relationship with Christ, but build upon that foundation to develop ever deepening relationships with other followers. We must not only consider Christ’s interests, but also other’s interests. A whole new dimension is introduced when we try to follow Jesus as a community.
Happy Father’s Day. Today we learn to follow Jesus in a different sort of way. Instead of merely sitting as His feet and fostering our relationship with Him, we will consider how Jesus’ relationship with His Father informs our relationship with His Father. We not only learn how to live our lives from Jesus, but we learn how to worship, pray, and obey from Jesus’ relationship with our heavenly Father. I can’t think of a more appropriate Father’s Day gift to our heavenly Father than to commit to model our lives after His one and only begotten Son. Happy Father’s Day, God.
What’s different about following Jesus before His resurrection and following Jesus after His resurrection? Our first impression may be that the disciples had it easy. They had Jesus right there in front of them, in the flesh. They had tangible access to the Son of God. Surely, it’s tougher for you and me to follow an unseen Jesus today.
But if that is true, then we would expect to see a major shift in the disciples’ ability to follow after Jesus leaves the earthly scene. And in fact we see exactly that, but the shift goes in the other direction. Instead of finding it harder to follow an unseen Savior, Jesus’ followers found it easier – more natural – to follow Him after He was gone. What on earth made the difference?
And why aren’t we experiencing the same effectiveness today?