Two of the key designations that Jesus assigns to his disciples are follower and servant. In this world obsessed with position, power, and status, it is easy to see how these roles that are essential to discipleship get overlooked.
Our obsession with leadership is particularly fascinating. People are told from childhood, be a leader, be a leader, be a leader. And now we have a world where everyone wants to lead, and nobody wants to follow. Yet, despite all the focus we have placed on developing leaders, the world is experiencing a devastating poverty of leadership.
The reason is astoundingly simple. It is impossible to be a great leader if you do not first learn to follow. There is no greater preparation for leadership than to be a committed follower.
Today’s difficult teaching is…
“Come, follow me.”
This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 4, verse 19.
“Come, follow me.” When you hear these words, where does your mind go? What do these words stir in your soul? Do they arouse caution, excitement, fear, or is it something else?
What if someone called you up this afternoon and said, “I got you front row tickets and backstage passes to see your favorite band.” How would you feel? Imagine you won tickets to the Superbowl. How would you feel?
When Jesus says, “Come, follow me” it is the most amazing invitation in the history of the world. Why aren’t we more excited? He is inviting you and me to join him on the adventure of a lifetime that goes everywhere worth going to do everything worth doing. But we keep putting him off. Or we say that we will go, and then change our minds. Or we try to customize the itinerary, picking and choosing what we think will be interesting and enjoyable.
Are you following Jesus? If not, why not? And if you’re not following Jesus, who are you following? When I wander off the scary answer is I am following myself. But the scary, scary answer is nobody. Sometimes I wander off and I am just wandering aimlessly in this modern desert.
From time to time, we all need to renew our commitment to following Jesus. Perhaps today is that day. Maybe we just need to sit in the classroom of silence and say yes again to following Jesus.
And if you want to try to follow Jesus like never before, I have only one piece of advice: Stay close.
Several years ago, I visited Istanbul to give a speech, and while I was there, I visited the Grand Bizarre. The word bizarre means “covered market.” The Grand Bizarre is one of the largest and oldest in the world. It is comprised of more than 4,000 stores, sixty-one streets, spans 333,000 square feet, and is visited by more than 250,000 people every day.
This provides an analogy for this life and following Jesus. The life of a disciple is like a person who meets Jesus outside the entrance of the Grand Bizarre. Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” The person chooses to follow Jesus, and Jesus proceeds to make his way through the Grand Bizarre. Along the way he stops to talk to people and comfort people, heal people and feed people. But along the way there are a million distractions.
It is intense and insane, a sea of humanity bewitched by a thousand trinkets, all the time completely unaware that the treasure they seek is walking among them.
The follower is easily mesmerized by shiny things, and then looks up to discover that Jesus is gone. The follower searches frantically to find Jesus, but again gets distracted, and again, and again.
Jesus doesn’t do this as a game of any type. It is a serious endeavor. He is intensely interested in people. He wants to lead his followers deep into people’s lives, so we can serve others as powerfully as possible.
It doesn’t matter so much how many times the follower gets lost or distracted. What matters is how many times he returns to following Jesus with renewed commitment in his heart.
When Jesus exists the other side of the bizarre the follower’s life is over, and Jesus looks over and says, “Well done, my good and faithful disciple.”
The Grand Bizarre is a microcosm of the whole world and your whole life. Following Jesus is like walking through the Grand Bizarre.
Stay close. If we don’t follow closely, we don’t have a chance.
Watch the video!