“I’ll Follow Jesus to the Top!”

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Many in our culture believe that following Jesus means going to large, lavish buildings, with lively crowds, pulsating worship, exciting events providing an endless array of ministries to fulfill our every desire. We expect that following Jesus means going to the top, associating with the elite, and leaving with a smile.

But the way of Jesus doesn’t lead where we think it leads. One day a student shouted from the thronging crowd, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go” (Matt. 8:18-19; Luke 9:57). You can almost hear him singing, “Anywhere with Jesus I will gladly go, anywhere he leads me in this world below.” How could Jesus hope for a better volunteer?  However, Jesus hears more than our words, he sees our hearts.

This student thought following Jesus meant being a part of the attractively trendy. He is really thinking, “Jesus, I’ll follow you to the beaches of Hawaii, the slopes of Aspen, and even to the resorts of the Bahamas!”  His shallow loyalty promised, “As long as it is pretty, popular and fun, I’ll be there!”

Jesus painted a different picture of discipleship and invites us to contemplate its meaning.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)

Following Jesus meant sleeping rough. Even more than that, it meant death. Jesus spoke these words “as they journeyed on the road” to Jerusalem where he would “suffer, be rejected, and killed” (Luke 9:57; see 9:51; Luke 9:22, 44). That is where Jesus is going. Will this smiley student follow him there?

Like this student, we are tempted to judge the worthiness of our discipleship by the comfort of the road and the number of its travelers. This misses the point! Following Jesus is worthy, because he is worthy! Discipleship is not about crowds, but Christ. The places Jesus leads us will sometimes be lonely and rough, but they are worthy because he is there.

The first student was willing to follow Jesus if it led to the right place,” but a second disciple was waiting for the right time.  Jesus invited him, “Follow Me,” (Luke 9:59). The man was willing, he just wanted to bury his father first. We don’t know if his father just died, was sick, or would live many more years. At any rate, Jesus’ words are jarring.

“Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Jesus’ reply seems to be rooted in God’s command to the prophets not to bury or mourn the dead as a sign of judgement (Ezek. 24:15-24; Jer. 16:1-9; also Lev. 10:6). Israel had enough weeping, now it is time to proclaim life in the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to higher commitments than even the dearest worldly concerns. “Nothing is to block the pursuit of discipleship and nothing is to postpone its start” (Bock, Darrell (1996). Luke (Vol. 2, p. 981). Baker).

We are not against following Jesus, there are just some things we need to do first. We have social obligations and business requirements, but after we secure our career, plan for retirement, and take some trips we really plan to follow the Lord. However, discipleship is not a matter of “someday” but of “today.” It supersedes earthly responsibilities and proclaims the reality of the heavenly kingdom.

Excited by the Lord’s invitation a third person yelled, “I will follow you Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home” (Luke 9:61). The irony in this statement is laughable if it weren’t so sad, “Lord, let me first.” If “me” is first Jesus is not Lord—I am! Jesus sees a danger in the man’s request and points to the field.

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

The row Jesus plows is a hard one. We may find ourselves longing for the temporary pleasures that once ignited our senses. We see the time, money and fun others are having and want to cut and run. But remember, looking back when the row is rough is what Israel did after the exodus (Ex. 16:3), what Lot’s wife did at the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19:26), and what many Christians did in the first century (2 Pet. 3:20-22).

The distraction is not worth it! Luke follows these invitations with some motivation. The next verse reads,

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others … And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:1-2)

Crowds surrounded Jesus, but only few were laborers. Our family, friends, and world need us to be laborers. Following Jesus does not mean going to a religious penthouse with the comfortable elite. It means labor! But it is the path that leads to eternal life in the kingdom of God.  So, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2) and follow him.

Tim Jennings

“Let all you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)


Extra Bits: 

By the way, the title of this article is supposed to be satirical. 😊

A Book:

Eugene Peterson has an interesting book on the unusual way of Jesus entitled, The Jesus Way.  In the final section of the book Peterson contrasts the way of Jesus with the other ways people could go in the first century. By doing this Peterson exposes many of the worldly ways which have hijacked the path of Jesus in our culture.

For example, in contrasting the way of Jesus with the way of Herod he writes,

“Jesus ignored the world of power and accomplishment that was brilliantly on display all around him. He chose to work on the margins of society, with unimportant people, giving particular attention to the weak, the disturbed, the powerless.” (Peterson, Eugene (2007). The Jesus Way. p. 204. Eerdmans)

In contrasting the way of Jesus with the way of Caiaphas he writes,

“Following Jesus is not the path to privilege. It is not a way to get what you want. It is not the inside track to a higher standard of living. In both Judaism and the church there have always been lots of people who expect everything to turn out wonderfully when they commit themselves to God’s ways, worship faithfully, study their Bibles, witness to their friends, and give generously. But it is following Caiaphas that gets you that kind of life, not following Jesus. Jesus makes that explicit when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross…” (Matt. 16:24).” (Peterson, Eugene (2007). The Jesus Way. p. 229. Eerdmans)

Well, maybe that is enough to whet your appetite to investigate how the way of Jesus differs from the ways of our world.

A Hymn

Teach me Thy way, O Lord

Teach me Thy way, O Lord,
Teach me Thy way;
Thy gracious aid afford,
Teach me Thy way.
Help me to walk aright;
More by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light,
Teach me Thy way.

When doubts and fears arise,
Teach me Thy way;
When storms o’erspread the skies,
Teach me Thy way.
Shine through the cloud and rain,
Through sorrow, toil, and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain,
Teach me Thy way.

Long as my life shall last,
Teach me Thy way;
Where’er my lot be cast,
Teach me Thy way.
Until the race is run,
Until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won,
Teach me Thy way.