Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Disciples follow Jesus.” I wrote this post at a time when I was thinking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’ve read several books, articles, and blog posts on the topic, and I’ve seen many different definitions and descriptions of a disciple, but isn’t it as simple as following Jesus? Disciples follow Jesus… it seems obvious and simple. Right?
It sounds simple and obvious, doesn’t it? Disciples follow Jesus. Notice this passage in Matthew’s Gospel:
Now when Jesus saw a great crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. (Matthew 8:18 ESV)
That’s a simple order, isn’t it? “Go to the other side of the sea.” That has to be the most simple and direct command that Jesus gave. What was the response of the crowd?
And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20 ESV)
One man jumped up right away… “Yes Sir, Jesus! I’ll go wherever you want me to go.” I think he probably started humming to himself, “Wherever he leads, I’ll go. Wherever he leads, I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ…”
Jesus warned this enthusiastic fellow to count the cost before agreeing to follow. Discipleship is not something to be taken lightly. Following Jesus is hard work. Jesus says, “Are you sure you are ready to give up everything? Enthusiasm doesn’t count for much when the going gets tough.”
Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22 ESV)
Another person jumped up and said, “Yeah, Jesus, I’ll follow you. I’ve thought about it, like you said, and I need to take care of some things first.”
Jesus didn’t cut this guy any slack either. He said, “Either follow me, or go home. All or nothing.”
I imagine there were other responses as well. “Jesus, I’ll follow you as soon as my job is more stable.” “Yes, Jesus, I’ll be right there as soon as I finish school. My education has to be a priority right now.” “Jesus, you know that I want to follow you, but let me raised the kids first. You might lead me to places where I wouldn’t want to take the kids.”
So many responses to Jesus. How will Jesus ever determine who is sincere and who is not? How will we ever recognize the true disciples?
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. (Matthew 8:23 ESV)
Doesn’t that sound simple? Jesus issues a command, and those who are his disciples obey by following him. The ones who speak up first are not necessarily disciples. The ones who delay and are admonished by Jesus are not necessarily disciples, nor are they necessarily NOT disciples.
Are you a disciple? Are you following Jesus? That’s the simple test. Start with Jesus’ most important commandments: Are you following Jesus by loving God and loving other people?