Let’s listen to the Master Himself as He defines what it means to follow Him.
In Matthew 4.18-22, Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Just a little while farther Jesus likewise called James and John, who “immediately…left the boat and their father and followed Him.”
In Luke 9.57-62, Jesus encountered three men who said they would follow Him, but in each case Jesus explained why their idea of following Him was not consistent with His. Notice the three cases:
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Jesus actually discouraged this guy, challenging his idea of discipleship. He expressed a desire to follow, but Jesus basically said, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” Perhaps the man thought he’d follow Jesus to a rabbinical school for spiritual learning. But to follow Jesus means not having an earthly home, financial and physical security, or a guarantee of the next meal.
And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”
Whether this man’s father was already dead or not may alter our perception of Jesus’s answer, but we can understand this in either case: following Jesus is more important than physical familial attachments. The work in Christ’s Kingdom takes priority over everything else. Jesus challenged this man’s procrastination.
Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Again, we see Jesus’ challenging this man’s allegiance. He was divided in his mind, in part wanting to follow Jesus and in part wanting to hang on to earthly ties. If you commit to Christ, don’t look back! Our focus is ever and always forward. Keep plowing straight ahead, forgetting the past and keeping your eyes on the goal. Jesus had His face set towards Jerusalem where He would die for His Kingdom. He also expects His followers to leave everything behind for the sake of the Kingdom.
Am I misinterpreting these verses? They seem fairly plain. Jesus challenged each of these men, and He demanded full participation, full allegiance, full dedication. Have His demands changed? Do you think He’s satisfied with lukewarm Christians today who live half in the world and half in the kingdom? Or, in many cases, almost entirely in the world with only a foot in the door of the kingdom?
Are you Jesus’ disciple?