by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
This summer, our family attended a production of my favorite musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Among other things, the musical contains one of my favorite lines of all time: One of the “brides,” Ruth Jebson, says to one of the middle brothers, Caleb Pontipee, “If you’ll just follow me.” A starry eyed Caleb replies “To the ends of the Earth!” The poor man is clearly smitten. I confess I always wanted to feel that way about someone. Then I met my wife, Charlotte. I’m happy to report that we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary in September. And I’m still following her.
Some of Jesus’ disciples, like James and John, were willing to follow him “to the ends of the Earth!” They were the ones who
“. . . immediately. . . left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matt. 4:22 NIV). But there were others who were prepared to follow him–well, maybe to the end of the block. Or until the healings, miracles, and free food ran out (John 6:26).
Jesus told one would-be follower, “‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” (Luke 9:58 NIV). Another potential disciple said to him, “‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’” (Luke 9:59b NIV). Again, Jesus gave a no-nonsense reply: “‘Let the dead bury their own
dead, . . .’”(Luke 9:60b NIV). Jesus knows what is in our hearts. It may be that the man would have made one excuse after another and never been ready to follow Jesus. Yet another said, “‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’” But Jesus said, “‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62 NIV).
After one would-be follower had gone on his way, Peter said, “‘We have left all we had to follow you!’” (Luke 18:28 NIV). Personally, I suspect Peter really wanted to know, “What about me?” It’s a natural reaction. He had just seen a man turn away from the path he himself was on, unwilling to make the necessary sacrifice. He wanted reassurance that his own sacrifice would prove to be worthwhile. And Jesus told him—and by extension you and me—
“‘. . . noone who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.’” (Luke 18:29b-30 NIV).
Later, Jesus told the twelve disciples, “‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.’” (Luke 18:31b-32 NIV). He knew how his life on Earth would end and he wanted his disciples to be prepared to face the same. As the time of his death approached, Jesus said to the people, “‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.’” (John 12:26a NIV).
Jesus’ words apply to us today. The call “Follow me,” echoes down through the ages. The author of Hebrews wrote,
“. . . letus run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:1b NIV). And James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (Jas. 1:2-3 NIV). God simply demands all that we have and all that we are (Deut. 10:12; 11:13; Matt. 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; Rom. 12:1). If we continue to follow Jesus, even when we’re weary or tempted, even when the way is difficult, we can grow spiritually. And our witness will be strengthened too. Our race is a long one that lasts a lifetime. It isn’t always easy. Jesus doesn’t call us to go where we want to go but to follow him, even if that means following him “to the ends of the Earth!”
“I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.”
”I have decided to follow Jesus” – Anonymous