FOLLOW ME

You don’t know me.  But if I walked up to you after blowing in off the desert where I was going hungry for 40 days and I said, “Follow me,” would you do it?  Would you follow?  Me?

If you were busy with something else when I popped up there, say maybe working at the family business, or maybe working to make money for your family, would you drop everything and follow me?  Or would you call your secretary first, have her clear your calendar and then follow?  Or would you put me on your schedule for next Tuesday at 9 and then come follow me?

Tell you what.  Let’s make this super easy.

If I was blogging about Jesus, and I wrote a post on the call of his first disciples, men who become pillars of his church, and on my blog I say, “Follow me,” would you then click the follow button, and start following my blog?

Does following Jesus suddenly sound like it might be harder than you thought?

I have often thought about it.  Maybe not often enough, but I have.  Have you?

Let’s say it’s my day off from work, and I am really taking time to meditate on Scripture, something a good Christian might oughta do sometimes, and so I go to the park, sit under a tree by the playa lake and read the pertinent passages in Mark 1 and 2 about the call Jesus places on a few fishermen and a tax collector who drop what they are doing and run off to follow Jesus.

Got the scene?

Got it.

Good.

So, there I am contemplating this, and a strange man comes walking up by near me.  I glance over and notice he looks a bit rough.  He glances at me, and this happens right in mid-meditation.  It occurs to me that he could conceivably call me to follow him.  He hasn’t done it, not yet, and honestly, I don’t expect him to do so in modern day America, but I am in mid-meditation on this subject, so I take it seriously.  Right?

Right.

So, here I am now.  I imagine this man calling me to follow.  Will I drop my book, get up and go?

Or will I ask him for credentials?

Hey, man.  Who are you?  Why should I follow you?  Where are you going?

I’ve got questions, you see.  I don’t just drop everything and follow grungy looking strangers.

Do you?

Ever?

Would you?

What if it was Jesus?

Would you drop everything and follow?  Or would you have some questions first?

How do you know you should answer this call or not?

What if it was Ted Bundy saying, “My car won’t start, I need someone to stand here and hold the screwdriver to the battery while I crank it up, and then I’m good.  Will you follow me to my car just around the corner?”

Wow!

Did I just compare Jesus to Ted Bundy?  Or did you?  (Think about it.)

Why would you ever drop everything and follow someone?  Why would you ever drop anything and follow?

Either you would have to really know in your heart this was Jesus the Son of God who is worth everything, or you would have to know that what you are doing is worth NOTHING.  Maybe both, but if you say it’s the former, then let me ask you to read Mark carefully and tell me if these disciples have some great UNDERSTANDING of who exactly Jesus is.  Then explain 14:50 to me while you are at it.

Jesus calls the tax collector, and they go party back at his place.  This is almost beginning to make better sense to me.  I can almost get there to Levi’s party.  I have to swallow my Republican, IRS agent-hating pride, but once I’ve done that, I get close.  A party sounds nice.  I know that.

So, I’m sitting there meditating like this and the stranger who came near, whose glance met my glance, has now moved on, and honestly, I am relieved.  I didn’t really expect him to call me to follow, but I knew if he did, in this moment, there is an honesty I am having with God which tells him I wouldn’t follow.  But since the stranger moved on (AS EXPECTED), I feel a ton of relief that I was not actually tested.

God help me if he ever asked me to kill my own son.  (Abraham, anyone?)

But then it dawns on me that Jesus probably passes by a lot of people on the beach.  He calls the ones he thinks will faithfully answer the call and skips past those who wouldn’t.  I’m now watching that stranger walk away, and I realize, without saying a word, I failed the test.  I have better things to do with my life than follow some stranger I don’t really know.

This meditation is important, okay?  But I got work tomorrow, and I can’t drop some proverbial net and go follow a guy I met by the lakeside.  I got bills, mouths to feed, responsibilities to clients and so forth.  Jesus doesn’t want me shirking any of that.  I have an excuse from God not to follow!

Yeah.

That’s the spirit.  Not God’s, but it’s the spirit, alright.  Someone else’s spirit.

What if I was a homeless bum?

Do you think I might have an advantage here if I were a homeless bum?

The poor are rich in faith, says the good book (James 2:5).

Is this what James is talking about?

Well, I don’t really think so, but it does make sense of the Bible data better than anything else I have been thinking.  Not all homeless bums drop whatever they are doing and follow.  So, there’s that.  On the other hand, those first disciples were all employed and working the moment they answered the call.  So, there’s that too.

It may be that the homeless bum has an advantage, she literally knows she doesn’t have anything better to do.  She is stripped of pretense, and it’s almost easy at that point.  But of course, it was easy for Ted Bundy to attract multiple victims too.

Is there something else going on here?

I sit back down under the tree by the playa lake and continue meditating.

Way before Jesus blows in off the desert calling followers, God through Moses picks a fight with Pharaoh.  Think about this now: Moses blows in off the desert and says, “Let My people go!”

Go where?

Go a three day’s journey into the desert to party with God.

Wait what?

Yeah.  Israel has a job.  The Hebrews are actually on the clock in the brickyard when Moses makes this demand.  According to Egypt, Israel has something better to do than follow Moses.  Israel too groans about this.  It’s not like the Hebrews just really love this career choice, but how is this going to help anything?  Who does this Moses think he is?  And anyway… a three-day journey into the desert is a death sentence!  Party with God???  We will be dead by the time we get there.

Yeah.  If you really knew this Jesus calling you by the lakeside, you would know he intends to die.  Those boys dropping nets don’t see that.  Not yet.  Don’t believe me?  Then explain Mark 8:31-33 to me.  No.  The disciples have a severe misunderstanding of Jesus and what he is all about when they drop their nets and follow.

But at least there is that party at Levi’s.  I can roll with that!  All except the tax collector bit.  Right?

Sure.

Would you follow Jesus?  Would you a blog?  Why?  Don’t you literally have something better to do?

6 comments

  1. Randy Epps · August 12

    This is one of the most compelling essays I have ever read. Do you think, there had to be a supernatural connection at that moment, when Jesus looked you in the eye, and you felt his gaze seeing everything that you knew you were, exposing all your hidden sins to you, and making you believe, “I have to follow this guy?”
    I found a tract that said “What does it mean to be born again” five minutes after I had prayed “God, why am I so depressed on a Monday after going to church on a Sunday? And what does it mean to be born again?”
    I followed Him.
    That was 1978.
    Everything changed for me.
    But, I didn’t leave everything behind.

    You make me wonder, though, if it had been a man that came to me and said, “Follow me, and you will know what it means to be born again,” What would I have done?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · August 12

      Sticking close to Mark’s Gospel particularly, but this is not contradicted in the others, we see that the disciples really don’t understand what is happening to them as they follow Jesus. They start off so strong too! They drop their nets and go! That is absolutely HUGE!

      But it is also the last best thing they do. And they continually drop the ball (not their nets) fumbling more and more all the way to 14:50 where they all forsake him and flee.

      There is so much theology packed up in all that. I have blogged on it many times and will again, I am sure, but I can’t settled it in one comment. And I am mystified by it too. I am not the Master here.

      But if there is any comfort I can give, to a comment like yours, it is this: YOU ARE IN GOOD COMPANY! Peter, James, John, Levi, and the rest are the first-called disciples. They are the pillars of the church. They fall asleep rather than pray when we get to Gethsemane, too. (Do you ever fall asleep praying?)

      I am not giving you a free pass by saying this. I am offering you comfort. Catch your breath if you must, but keep huffing up this road. We are joining the throng climbing to Jerusalem for the final Passover. Jesus is singing the Psalms of Ascent with us. He knows a deeper meaning to their words than either we do or those who penned them. “I lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help” is a song you sing as you ascend to a destination you cannot see until you get there.

      IF you love Jesus, you are in. IF you struggle loving him, you are in. Don’t get smug about it though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Randy Epps · August 12

        “Don’t get smug about it, though.”
        I always appreciate a hard challenge from one who is on this path. I marvel at the ways the Holy Spirit orders my life, especially when I am not paying attention.
        The joy that He promises is a real fruit.
        I taste it often.
        The older I get, (70, now) the more excited I get as “I make my ascent to the Holy City.”
        He orders my steps.

        Like

  2. phroneticchristian · August 12

    Jesus must have been a very compelling person. If a random stranger came to me today, asking me to abandon my livelihood and head off with him on a quest into the unknown, I’d turn him down. At least, I’d ask for his references, review his Form 990, and do a background check.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · August 12

      Great observation!

      This passage, to American ears so far removed, does seem random. And no doubt Jesus is overly mysterious, as is God. But the randomness of it is something WE suffer, not the first disciples.

      Allow me to reset the context a bit.

      Israel, at the time this scene first unfolds, is an occupied nation. The Jews know this is NOT God’s plan for them, and they await a messiah to come in the line of David who can unify the nation and kill the giants.

      In those days, Jews were always calculating when, where, and who this would be. Not all of them, but a lot of them. Especially peasant folx. Just imagine the tax in that country at that time. One tenth to God and then the rest to Rome. Those fishermen were basically living off eyeballs and fins.

      As an American, I bet you can understand the hatred of tax. The Americans revolted against the king over tax. This is why I ask you to imagine the tax burden of first century Galilee, because if you do, you start having a rich visceral response to it.

      The Jews had bigger problems than tax, and it wasn’t merely being occupied that was the problem either. It was the fact that in their circumstance pagans were ruling God’s world. Pagans were enslaving God’s people all over again.

      And so there was a lot of revolutionary fervor in the populace for a lot more than just tax.

      Now think about the Americans again a minute. Think about how way back in the Revolutionary days of Washington, Franklin and friends, men and boys went to work each day whether in the field or at the mill, and they would carry a lunch pail and musket, set them aside nearby, and go to work.

      But somewhere during the day, someone in the village square would ring the bell and sound the alarm. Whenever that happened, the young men would drop their work (their nets?) with their fathers’ blessings and run off to fall into formation and commence drills and exercises. And they were so fast at this, they called them “minute men.”

      There is nothing random about Jesus approaching these men on the seashore in Galilee. They are ready for this. They may or may not know Jesus upon seeing him at that moment, but they recognize he is calling them to the fight.

      The kicker is that he is calling them to follow a crucified messiah. They don’t see that coming. He talks in parables through the first half of Mark like a preacher who talks all hifalutin in mystical words people can’t really understand. But in chapter 8, he begins “stating the matter plainly” and tells them he intends to die. They react like you would. Oh HELL NO! And he says, Get behind Me Satan!

      My scenario above puts a Bible in OUR context, but it does not put us in theirs. That random part is impossible. But so is this, almost. It’s impossible if you don’t find the humility to follow a crucified messiah. And that is hard, very hard. Especially for freedom loving Galileans and Americans. But with God, all things are possible.

      Like

  3. Randy Epps · August 12

    Maybe, we can’t possibly put ourselves in their place, until Jesus “looks us in the eye” as He gives us our next assignment.
    Are we looking for a savior or not?

    Like

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