There are times when the Lord keeps driving a point home from many different directions. When that happens, we better pay attention. This whole week, the Lord has been doing this for me with the idea of “Follow me” (John 21:19).
Actually, the story began last week. I was thinking about the passage in John 21 where Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” (vv. 15-17). After that exchange, Jesus tells Peter—then reminds him again—to “follow Me” (vv. 19, 22). I began to write a song based on this passage, but was stuck on the third stanza. Then on Monday morning, the Lord gave me the lines as I was fixing breakfast. So I recorded the song and a short message about it for the Monday Encouragement this week (the link is at the bottom).
Ever since then, the Lord has been driving this point home. Through the words of friends and family, as well as continued study, I cannot get away from the phrase.
What is so unique about this phrase is something that is often missed. When Jesus told Peter, Andrew, Philip, Matthew, and the Rich Young Ruler to “follow Me,” He wasn’t simply providing an option (i.e. Matthew 4:19). He was commanding them to follow. In His book, “Matthew: the Gospel of Identity,” Michael Card points out the commanding rather than invitational nature of this phrase.*
When I heard that, it took me back. I began wondering, is that really true? Was it really a command, not just Jesus inviting them to join Him? So I began to do some digging into the Greek, and yes—the Greek verb is an imperative. Jesus truly was commanding these men—among others—to follow Him. The invitation to Peter and Andrew recorded in Matthew 4:19 uses a different Greek verb than the other instances, but the word is still an imperative.
Recognizing this fact can have major implications for our lives. Jesus was not inviting them—or us—to join His group and follow in that sense. Rather, He commands us to “follow after” and intentionally learn from His example (the literal rendering of the verbs in Matthew 4:19). There is a call to watch, to learn, to practice. In other words, He calls and commands us to be disciples.
So how do we learn from Jesus? How do we obey this command? There are several ways, but a key factor here is intentionality. It is one thing to be a part of a group. It is another thing entirely to watch and model our lives after the Leader. So, here are a few ways we learn from Jesus as we follow Him.
Regular reading of Scripture is of the utmost importance. Numerous times, Jesus said the Scriptures spoke about Himself—and that was just the Old Testament (John 5:46, 47; Luke 24:27). By reading the Bible consistently and intentionally, we learn who Jesus is. We are not left to guess or come up with our own ideas. We can know for certain who Jesus is , what He did, and what He expects from us.
Another huge part of this is being a part of a local church. True, every Christian is a part of the Universal Body of Christ, and yes, there is the Priesthood of All Believers. However, God’s pattern and plan is for His children to assemble together regularly. Why? We are “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24, 25). If it was important for the early church to gather together, how much more important is it for us?
Another key passage is Ephesians 4. There, the work of “Pastors and teachers” is “equipping the saints” to serve, discern truth from error, be unified, and “grow up in” Christian maturity (vv. 11-16). There we are—the local church is a tool God uses to help conform us into Christ’s image, the goal of following after Jesus.
A lot more could be said about each of these points, as well as others, but they are two primary ways we learn about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. My main point in this post was simply to share that we are commanded to follow. This is not a choice “if we feel like it.” Rather, it is an authoritative call to intentionally follow, learn from, and obey the Lord Jesus.
Yet this is not to be overwhelming. God Himself “is at work in “us,” and Jesus vowed to be “with [us] always” (Philippians 2:13; Matthew 28:20). He will not abandon us. He has given a call, and He will give grace and strength for us to answer that call. We cannot fulfill the command in our own strength, but we are not called to. What we are called to do is to answer and willingly commit ourselves to following Jesus.
So will we do that? Will we choose to answer this commanding call and follow Him, wherever He leads? He knows where the path will lead and what the end will be. Our job is to trust Him and intentionally follow as His disciples.
Here is the video that contains the song, “Follow Me.”
*Card, Michael. Matthew: the Gospel of Identity, Kindle Edition. (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, Michael Card 2013). Chapter Mathew 4, Kindle Location 671-672.