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Follow Jesus

Walking Behind Jesus

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”” (Matthew 4:19, ESV)

We all follow someone. 

But following Jesus is not like following someone on social media. It’s not like following a sports team, or just keeping up with someone we admire or respect. 

Following Jesus is totally different from these other expressions of following. Following Jesus in the setting of the Essentials of Gospel of the Kingdom of God is about being an apprentice, a disciple to Jesus.

In the time of Jesus, the discipleship process was one that was characterized by a rabbi-to-disciple arrangement. Jesus, in His public ministry, was considered a rabbi. In His day, there was no formal or accredited training program to become a rabbi. A rabbi was known, not by his credentials but by his performance. A man was a respected rabbi due to his public recognition, his words and his deeds.  


A person who wanted to be a rabbi didn’t go to seminary. There was no seminary. Instead, he would seek out a rabbi he emulated and would attach himself to him. If accepted by the rabbi, the apprentice would start a lengthy period of very close association with the rabbi. This would of course involve watching him, hearing him and seeking to imitate him. He, and perhaps other disciples, would travel and basically live with him, seeing how he handled not only teaching, but the everyday mundane and unexpected events of life. He would serve the rabbi in whatever he told him to do.  In short, they would seek to be like him in thought, word, character, deeds and abilities. 

To follow someone we must be with them. 

It’s not possible to follow someone in the way I’m describing without being with them. We find in the New Testament that Jesus’ disciples were with him. 

Afterward he was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,” (Luke 8:1, CSB)

To follow Jesus, these disciples went where Jesus went. To follow Jesus, they had to be within earshot to hear his message on the Kingdom of God. 

While he was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”” (Luke 9:18, CSB)

To follow Jesus these men were with Him in the most intimate moments. He also wanted them to share their unguarded thoughts. An intimate trusting relationship goes both ways.  

When the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him.” (Luke 22:14, CSB)

To follow Jesus means to go with Him to places we would rather not be. The disciples were with Jesus as He instituted the New Covenant, which would be in His own blood. This began the dark days of betrayal, fear, denial, and doubt for His disciples. It was a time of anguish and surrender for Jesus, but also the defining time of purpose and victory. 

A construction apprentice learning

So, to follow someone we will need to be with them in both the good and the bad. We will be with them in public and private. In following Jesus, there is no time away from Jesus. To be with Him, we must always be following Him in the ups and the downs; in the mundane and in the exciting. 

The more we are with them, the more we will be like them.

Jesus even made this observation. 

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40, CSB)

Jesus said that if we would follow Him, He would change us. That is what “I will make you” means. 

Jesus will change us if we follow Him. If we are not changing, then we are not following; or at least following in the way Jesus wants us to follow. We cannot follow Jesus and follow our way. He determines how to follow. He determines what needs to change. 

Two men studying the Bible

What will Jesus change? Everything that is in our life that is not like Jesus. That is all He will change. He will change what will make us to be more like Him. There are several things he will change. 

He will change our beliefs. Jesus wants us to believe, what He believes, about who God is and what He does.  He will change what we believe about ourselves and what we are to do. 

He will change our hearts to reflect His attitudes. We are called to love God with all our hearts and the people around us as ourselves. 

He will change our character to reflect the character that God intends for His children living in His kingdom.  The Apostle Paul called this the “Fruit of the Spirit.” 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB)

He will change our behaviors. We will function in a “Kingdom of God” way instead of the ways of the world. The ways of God are often not logical to the human mind, but they are always good, noble, full of grace and truth. 

The more we are like them, the more we see how real change takes place.

As the disciples were with Jesus, they saw Jesus’ deeds and heard His words. After some time observing Jesus, they started to do things with Jesus. They participated in what Jesus was doing, even if it was small, such as bringing the fish and loaves to Jesus before a hungry crowd. After observing Jesus and participating with Jesus, they were sent out by Jesus. 

Summoning the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1–2, CSB)

Here’s the process as I understand it.

  1. Jesus announced the availability of the Kingdom of God. It was the good news of the Kingdom. 

  2. Jesus taught about how things were done in the kingdom of God. He did this through parables and His famous “Sermon on the Mount.” He also contrasted the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees with His teaching to demonstrate Kingdom values and principles. Most of the religious leaders did not believe in the power of God or understand the ways of God.  

  3. Jesus manifested the present power of the Kingdom of God. He healed the sick, cast our demons and raised people from the dead.  (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, Lik 4:18-44. 

  4. Then, over time, He sent the disciples out to do the things they had heard, seen and experienced with Jesus. They were successful, but there was a cost.

The more we change, the more we count the cost. 

There are always those who believe following Jesus will solve all their problems. It will certainly solve many problems. It will solve the most important problems, but it will also give you a different set of problems. There is a cost to following Jesus. 

cost word chart

Jesus warned those who would follow Him about this cost. 

As they were traveling on the road someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Then he said to another, “Follow me.” “Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.” But he told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:57–62, CSB)

It will cost us our home. We will feel like we do not have a real home in this world. For this world is not our home. Disciples of Jesus do not consider this world their home. Their home is now in God’s Kingdom. 

It will cost us our family. They will not understand and may even reject us, or Jesus will call us away to minister to people who are not like our own. It may end up being a little of both. We will pay the price of following Jesus rather than following our family. 

It will cost us our priorities. There are many good things we could do that seem right. But we must not second guess what the Lord tells us specifically to do. We must not compromise what God has revealed to us in His Word, no matter how reasonable something may seem. Our priorities as a disciple of Jesus are Jesus’ priorities. Not the other way around. 

In counting the cost, we weigh the price of discipleship.

Following Jesus is going to put us in direct conflict with this present world and its kingdom. It will likely put us in conflict with those we love and with those who love us. It happened to Jesus. We are no better. It will happen to us. There is a price to be paid for following Jesus. 

But I want us to think for a moment, what is the price of not following Jesus? What is the price of non-discipleship? Jesus answered it this way:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:24–27, CSB)

It will be hard, but it will be worth it. Even if we could gain the whole world, we will lose our life. We will stand before Jesus. Remember, that is the first of the essential elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God: We are accountable to God. 

There was a time in the ministry of Jesus when people were realizing the cost of following Jesus and turning away. Jesus then said this to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”

Here’s what the Gospel of John records Peter saying:

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”” (John 6:68–69, CSB)

There is no one else we can go to for the words of eternal life. 

The price of discipleship is surrender.

We saw it in the passage where Jesus said that anyone who would follow him must deny self, take up their cross, and follow Him. This is surrender. This is the price. 

Flag of surrender

We surrender to Jesus as Savior. We surrender to Him as Savior because we cannot and will not and will never be able to save ourselves. We cannot even save ourselves from ourselves! The sinless Son of God died a sacrificial atoning death on the cross in our place for our sin. He paid for all our sin: past, present and future. He is the Savior. He is the only Savior. He needs to be without a doubt our Savior. He didn’t die for most of our sins. He didn’t die for only the big sins. He died for all our sin. 

We surrender to Jesus as Lord. He is our boss. He is our king. He is our master. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price. Jesus paid for us with His life and His blood. We don’t get to choose to have him as Savior but not Lord. They go together. We must surrender to Jesus. When we surrender to Him we surrender to Him as Savior and Lord. If we go our own way and not His way, you will go without him. 

To be a disciple of Jesus we must recognize and accept who Jesus is and place ourselves under his authority. To follow him is to be behind him. 

The prize of surrender is the abiding manifest presence of the master.

Scripture on Jesus' presence with his people

Remember Jesus said that a disciple is not above his teacher but when a person is fully trained, they will be like their master. The fulfillment of this comes through the abiding presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as He lives and works in and through the surrendered disciple. Take a moment to meditate on the following promise of Jesus for those who surrender. It is a prize worth the whole world. 

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me. “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:23–26, CSB)

I believe it was Augustine of Hippo who said, “He who has God has everything; he who has everything but God has nothing.”

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