It’s hard to get anywhere without movement. And in spite of how many “followers” you may have on Facebook, it’s impossible to physically follow anyone if you refuse to take the first step. In the early days of His earthly ministry, Jesus offered the following challenge to a handful of young, Jewish men: “Follow me.” And each time He said it, Jesus would turn and walk away, leaving the choice of whether to follow Him or not up to each individual. In the case of Peter and Andrew, two brothers, we’re told that “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20 ESV). When He offered the same challenge to James and John, “immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:22 ESV). Some time later, Matthew, a tax collector, heard the same words from the lips of Jesus “and he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9 ESV). Time and time again, Jesus said, “Follow me” and they did just that. They stopped what they were doing and got in line behind Him. In doing so, they were making a commitment. They were also making a sacrifice. Later on, his martyr complex in full display, Peter would declare to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28 ESV). But the truth was, they had left everything. They had walked away from their careers, left behind their families, and dedicated themselves to a 24-7, 365-day-a-year lifestyle of following Jesus. What they each did took guts. It involved risk. It came with no guarantees or offers of benefits or any mention of a return on their investment. They didn’t know Jesus from, well, Adam. He was just some itinerant rabbi with a growing reputation, but not much else. And yet, they followed Him. There was something that drew them to this man. It would be months, if not years, before they began to grasp the full reality of who He was. Even then, they would still tend to view Him through the lens of their own self-centered ambitions. They were following Him for what they could gain from Him. For Judas, it appeared to be money. For James and John, it seemed to be prestige and potential position. For the others, it was the possibilities of being early adopters and first-come, first-served beneficiaries of His largess when He came into His kingdom.
But the bottom line is that they followed. They started out on the journey without a lot of information or a clear idea of where they were going. And the same is true of every one of us who have determined to accept Jesus as our Savior. He has called us to follow Him. He has challenged us to get in line behind Him and walk where He walked and live as He lived. Following involves commitment. It requires movement. Later on, near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus would tell His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV). Jesus knew His days on earth were coming to a close. He also knew He would be required to sacrifice His life by crucifixion. But the disciples were clueless. They could not comprehend His announcements concerning His impending death. And they surely could not understand His words that they were going to have to deny themselves and take up their own crosses. Following Jesus was getting increasingly more difficult and dangerous for these men. They were learning that following has costs. To go where Jesus was going was not going to be easy. He had told them, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV). On another occasion, in response to the offers of others to follow Him, he responded, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 ESV).
Following takes movement. But the farther you go, the more it takes commitment, sacrifice, self-denial, and an increasing determination to keep on keeping on, regardless of how you feel or what you experience. Following Jesus is not for the feint of heart. There is a sense of perpetualness to it all. No turning back. No giving up. A true follower of Christ keeps walking, come rain or shine, regardless of the pain or the absence of pleasure. Following requires movement, but it also requires trust. You may have trusted Jesus for your salvation, but how well do you trust Him as you follow His path toward holiness? Keep moving. Keep trusting. Keep hoping. He knows what He is doing and exactly where He is going.