What does it mean to faithfully follow Jesus? I would argue that, for most of us, it means you don’t follow Jesus.
It is not unusual for religious and spiritual practices to pull us out of our everyday life. Whether it comes in the form of worship events, mission trips, meetings, meditation, or Bible study, it is not hard for following Jesus to become a full-time job. Never mind the time spent fantasizing about what it will be like to be in heaven with Jesus one day. And yet that is exactly what Jesus tells most people not to do.
Who Was Told To Follow Jesus?
Think about it. In the Gospels, Jesus meets tens of thousands of people. Sometimes, as in the case of the feeding of the five thousand, he had somewhere over twenty thousand people gathered at once (this assumes the average man who attended brought his wife and two children). Yet how many times did he tell people to follow him? The answer is twelve. Twelve times, once for each of the disciples, Jesus said, “Follow me.”
Certainly, others did and were welcome, after all, Acts chapter one tells us there were about one hundred and twenty people gathered immediately after the risen Christ’s ascension into heaven. Of those, two were identified as possible replacements for the now-dead Judas, both of whom traveled with Jesus from his baptism until the ascension. But still, even that number goes from twelve to one hundred and twenty, you are talking about a small fraction of the people whom Jesus encountered over his three-year ministry. This means odds are strong, that Jesus is telling you, “Don’t follow me.”
What About The Majority?
So how are you supposed to follow Jesus without following Jesus?
The story that got me thinking about this comes in Luke 8 where Jesus heals a man possessed by a legion of demons. While there are a variety of details Luke offers that we could wrestle with, including the inclusion of a whole herd of pigs acting like lemmings and plunging to their death, as well as the townspeople’s inexplicable fear at the man’s healing, what caught me is that after his healing, the man wanted to go with Jesus, and Jesus said no.
Instead, Jesus pointed him back to his family. Go back to parents who were deprived of a child. Or maybe it is a wife who lost her husband. Could it be children who spent time without a father?
Could it be that for the vast majority of us, spirituality is not about the spiritual, but a renewed faithfulness to the ebb and flow of everyday life? One where we no longer live by a spirit of power but instead embrace love? To put it another way, could following Jesus mean we dare to be fully present at home and work?
If that is true, what would it look like for you to follow Jesus this week?