The One Thing More Costly than Following Jesus

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43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:43-45)

There are a lot of reasons why I love the movie Braveheart. But one in particular is the contrast of leadership styles between the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace and the English king and generals. Both call armies to follow them into battle. Both give orders. Both demand sacrifice and self-denial. The difference between them, however, is one of location. The English king gives orders from the safety of the back. Wallace leads from the front. The former lead with instructions, but the latter leads by example. And at the risk of stating the obvious, to properly “follow” another requires being able to see their back, not merely hear their voice.

Jesus is the most trustworthy leader in the history of the world. Life under the rule of Jesus is not merely instructed, it is modelled. He is both our goal and our guide; a glorious King as well as our perfect example. John wants us to see that when Jesus calls us to follow him, he is calling for an all-of-life exchange: all that we are, for all that he is. Follow me.

Follow me. Interestingly, no reason is given to Philip for why he ought to follow. No enticement or reward is offered. The sermon is short—only two words in total—but the message pierces Philip’s heart and gets to the core of what real Christianity is: drawing near to Jesus, over and over and over again. The sum of which is a life that follows him, walks with him, and gradually yet increasingly reflects him.

Philip sees in Jesus a leader who is both worthy and trustworthy of his immediate devotion and allegiance. No one can place conditions or limits on the leadership of Jesus, and with integrity claim to be one of his followers. For the moment we say, “Ok Jesus, I’ll follow you if you bless me, if you make my career successful, if you make me healthy, if you don’t mess with this part of my life, if I can retain some sovereignty over my life,” we are actually confessing that there are created realities more worthy, more satisfying, and more important to us than Jesus.

Which is idolatry.

Which is, you know, really bad.

As Timothy Keller points out, whatever is “on the other side of that if is your real master, your real goal. But Jesus will not be a means to an end; he will not be used. If he calls you to follow him, he must be the goal.”

Christianity is not, “Jesus, I’ll follow you if you improve my life,” but “Jesus, I’ll follow you because you are better than life.” He is our goal.

Jesus later said to his disciples, “If any 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).

In other words, the only thing in all the world more costly than following Jesus… is not. Hold on to your life, and you’ll choke that life away. Release your life into the hands of Jesus by dying to your need to call the shots, and you’ll find more than everything you were ever looking for. It is counterintuitive, but God has ordained freedom to come through surrender and life to come through dying.

In this way, following Jesus may be hard, but it’s not complicated. In fact, all that is required to the two-word sermon of Jesus is a two-word response:

Yes, Lord.

Each day. Every day.

Yes, Lord.

Come to me. Yes, Lord.

Learn from me. Yes, Lord.

Trust me. Yes, Lord.

Do not be anxious. Yes, Lord.

Love one another as I have loved you. Yes, Lord.

Love your enemies. Yes, Lord.

Go make disciples. Yes, Lord.

Follow me. Yes, Lord.

Make no mistake: the loving leadership of Jesus in this life will include both green pastures that restore us, as well as dark valleys that trouble us (Psalm 23:2-4). But neither the absence of the former nor the presence of the latter means that he has abandoned us (v 5). And that is enough. For the command of Jesus to follow him, is infused with his promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Is there any part of your life where you’ve been keeping Jesus at arm’s length? Turn to him again, go to him again and say “Yes, Lord. You’re leading. I’m following. Let’s go.”

After all, who in all the world is more worthy of your devotion, your obedience, your trust, your life, and even your death, than Jesus?

As Charles Spurgeon has said,

“Christ has marked His sheep on their feet as well as their ears. They follow Him; they are gently led, not harshly driven. They follow Him as the Captain of their Salvation; they trust in the Power of His arm to clear the way for them. All their trust on Him is abiding; they lean all their hope on Him; they follow Him as their teacher … Has Christ said it? It is enough! … happiest of all the happy are they who see the footprint—the print of that foot that once was pierced with the nail—and put their foot down where He placed it, and then again, in the same mark, follow where He trod, till they climb at last to the throne!”

 


This article is an excerpt from Truly, Truly, I Say to You: Meditations on the Words of Jesus from the Gospel of John, published by The Good Book Company.

 

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