I keep coming back to this major deal:
of all the cultures and times and places Jesus could have entered to live His life and complete that most critical, instructive portion of His great mission on earth...He chose the first century, in Israel.
How He actually lived and what He modeled...is not just 'a life well lived that finally saw it's point in the cross, resurrection, and ascention.'
What I am seeing more clearly all the time, is that there are huge lessons for us in the culture He chose to live in and the way He discipled His followers.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (Jesus' 4 biographers and close associates) all record Jesus saying frequently (19 times) that one of the key's to getting life with God started and walking it out entirely well is to "follow Me."
"Follow Me"....I think about what that short directive actually means.
I used to think of it in rather strange terms: "follow Me" gradually became "take the broad strokes of My words and apply them as you can." And that has ended up for lots of us in - "go to church once a week, give up a small portion of your earnings, read the Bible every day and pray."
But as I ponder this clear, insistent call of Jesus to those who would be close to Him, I am seeing some things I have often missed:
Jesus wants us to be with Him....not just to believe in Him and (hopefully) see him in eternity. He wants us to be with Him now...follow me means at minimum I want to be with you, stay close to Me, let's travel together, let's be best friends.
Jesus, in asking us to "follow," implies that He will always be in front of us. His call for us to follow is a promise to always be leading us.
He will always have already gone into the places where we now find ourselves.
The key to our lives then, will be learning to tune into His presence in places where we often might not be thinking about Him.
Like disciples in the storm....we tend to get so overwhelmed by the potentials of what this storm could do to us....We tend to forget to focus on what Jesus can do through the storm and that He is only just feet away from us, getting sprayed by the crests of the waves too. (See Luke 8:22ff) I know that I tend to do the fear thing frequently....and need to be reminded, I am a follower of Jesus, and He is right there just in front of me right now, right here. Oh God, open our eyes.
Jesus, in asking us to follow, asks us to walk....not run. He asks us to pace ourselves. His pace is the model, not ours. Our pace is to be taken directly from His. We are followers.
And this is where so much of His choice of this culture, place and time hits me. Literally, if you said "yes" to Jesus call back then to "follow," it probably led to a three mile walk today....and a ten miler tomorrow....you were always walking!!
Ever try to hold on to the frantic feeling that life often brings to us while you are walking?
I have found often that taking a walk is a wonderful way to calm down.
So I wonder that Jesus was in fact saying: "Follow me. I'll show you how to live with me and stay calm and get what I think is important done today. Follow Me...let's go."
Jesus, in asking us to follow, invites us into relationship with Himself. Walking with a person is a wonderful way to learn how to open your hearts to one another. Some of the deepest times I had with my Dad - the sex talk :) - were while we walked.
Too many times, contemporary versions of Christianity have turned us into sitters - passive disciples - and note takers...
but Jesus turned His followers into walkers and open-hearted people, living out their days close to Him. Hmmm....
I heard that call over 50 years ago....and I am still learning what it means.
Welcome to the long walk.
May we all measure whether we are truly followers of Jesus by an increase continually in open-heartedness, careful pacing, and confident closeness in our relationship with Him.
A follower - with you.