Follower. It’s a word that’s always been in danger of half-hearted usage. But social media has captured the word and diluted it with a swift terribleness. For many in our current culture, to be a follower means nothing more than loosely keeping track of someone online whom you may or may not know in person, and if you do know them, it’s often by way of a mutual friend. There is little to any actual commitment to that person other than clicking the “follow” or “like” buttons and then, on occasion and only if the mood strikes, commenting with an emoji in response to words or images that person posted. These days following is, as they say, “easy peasy.”
Jesus the Messiah was accused of many things in His day, but being indirect was usually not one of the charges. If anything, His approach may have seemed too direct, too piercing, or at least more so than His contemporaries would’ve preferred. The Gospel according to Matthew records Jesus’ straightforward, but rather un-easy-peasy, conditions when it comes to following:
“If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
This is a good example of the danger of sidestepping the truth of Scripture in an attempt to remake Jesus in our own image. We must let Jesus be Jesus. If we’re not careful, we’ll paint Jesus as a consensus-seeking savior, always content to hear every opinion around the table, and then in conclusion, to encourage some variation on a theme of “Can’t we all just get along?” But hold on. That is not Jesus—certainly not Jesus the Messiah we find in Matthew’s words.
The truth here is clear, stabbing, and let’s face it, possibly more than we would prefer. There is a cost involved with being a follower of Jesus. It requires a self-denial that rings strange in our postmodern ears, and a level of commitment that rubs our progressive wills the wrong way. It means surrendering to the reality that, as one pastor paraphrased: “We are not in the driver’s seat. Jesus is.” The faded bumper sticker you may see from time to time reads: “God is my co-pilot.” No, no He’s not. And if He is, you can call yourself something—just not a follower.
Follower. According to Jesus the Messiah’s definition, this means choosing to be, as they say, all in. Anything less is simply about liking Jesus. What the Messiah calls for is our love.
Written by John Blase