Article by Matthew Holmes
Jesus said, “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:19). These are simple words with great significance. Words, I believe, we should keep coming back to. What exactly is Jesus saying? In this particular passage, Jesus was addressing the fishermen (soon to be disciples) Peter and Andrew. But, also, what do these words mean to us today?
To get into the context and day of Jesus a bit, the Hebrew word, “talmidim,” means disciples. Talmidim are different than students. Talmidim want more than just to know the information that their teacher knows, they want to live the entirety of their lives in the way that their teacher does. Disciples want to have the same faith, the intimacy with the Father, as their teacher does.
“Follow me,” says be like me. Jesus tells us to “be like him.” Not only that, those words express that, “I believe that you can be like me.” And this is what Jesus tells to his disciples… all of his disciples. Think about that for a minute. Jesus advocates for us and believes in us, that we can be like him. What an encouragement! And why can Jesus have such confidence in “unschooled, ordinary men” like Peter, John and ourselves? (Acts 4:13). Because he knew we would have help from the Helper, the Holy Spirit. “I will send you the Helper from the Father. The Helper is the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father.” (John 15:26).
Let’s use the picture of a temple, given to us in the book of 1 Peter, to help us see more on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. “As you come to Him, the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5). The picture is of rough stones that are being refined to make a holy temple unto the Lord. In one sense, this is what it looks like to follow Jesus. We are rough stones, chosen by the Creator’s hands. We are cut, shaped, refined into stones to fit with the chief cornerstone, that is Christ (Ephesians 2:20-22). We are built up with all living stones, perfectly crafted and fit together by the Creator, to be the dwelling place of God. As we follow Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit that dwells in us and shapes us one degree at a time into the image and likeness of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:8). It is not an easy process, being refined, and it definitely hurts sometimes, but it is ultimately for our good. It’s not easy following Jesus, but it is existentially satisfying.
So, more practically, what does it look like to follow Jesus? To be a disciple of Jesus means that first, your goal is to be like Jesus. Secondly, you have a God-given passion to do so. The prophet Jeremiah gives us a great example of what it looks like to have an intense passion to live for God. “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). Third, disciples of Jesus live and learn in the context of community. And they love one another. The living stones need one another to be the spiritual house. No one stone can build a house. Followers of Jesus learn from other followers of Jesus and from those who have been following Jesus longer than they. And followers of Jesus build one another up in love (1 Thes. 5:11). Fourth, they meet God in his Word through its reading and study. To the mind of a talmid, the study of God’s Word is one of the highest forms of worship. We have the opportunity each and every day to spend time with our teacher Jesus in the Scriptures, brought to life by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus calls us to be like him. But we are not alone in this, humanly speaking, impossible task. Take Peter for example. Throughout his whole time walking right there with Jesus, he tried his best to be like Jesus, and failed many times along the way. Yet, Jesus was gracious with him and continued to believe in him. I would encourage you to read these accounts of Peter’s story on your own: Matthew 14:22-32; Luke 22:54-62; John 21:1-19. Despite our failures, we still have hope. Jesus still desires us. Be encouraged, for Jesus promises us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is with you and he believes in you. So with his help, trusting in the Spirit, walk the way Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). What next step might Jesus be leading you to take?