In our modern world, we have lots of people who say that they want to be Jesus followers. I am one of those people and I find it very challenging to be a Jesus follower. I suspect that my challenges aren’t much different than those who followed Him during His physical existence and those who followed Him shortly after His resurrection.
When I think about the people who followed Jesus when He had a physical existence, it’s important to look at who actually followed Him, who wanted to follow Him and those who were altogether opposed to Jesus.
If we look at those who opposed Jesus, these weren’t individuals who were crazed rebels nor pagan zealots. When you look at the Gospels, time and time again, the people who most consistently opposed Jesus were the religious leaders (minus Nicodemus). These leaders routinely confronted and challenged Jesus, citing Mosaic law and historical traditions. They never seemed to be able to see or hear Jesus in the authentic fullness of His message.
In relation to those who wanted to follow Jesus, I think that these individuals maybe saw Jesus as their ticket to free health care and / or maybe a free lunch. That’s not very surprising, as we humans can definitely have a selfish bend in our makeup such that we are ever tethered to pursuing our needs and wants more than being wholly devoted to Jesus.
Finally, there were several people who actually followed Jesus, day in and day out. These followers listened to His words, watched His actions, absorbed His values and let His convictions rub into the fibers of their souls. These followers were not fair-weather friends and didn’t disconnect from Jesus during tense situations or when they didn’t understand what He was teaching. When you read the Gospels, there are more than a few occasions when these followers didn’t understand what Jesus was saying, but they chose to follow Him regardless of their understanding of or agreement with Jesus.
I think that these three groups of people who followed Jesus are worth some personal reflection and honest internal assessment. Perhaps it could be helpful for us to see where we might possibly fit into one or some of these descriptions. To this end, I suspect that none of us would eagerly nor willingly admit that we might be a religious person, valuing our traditions and histories more than being in love with Jesus. We also might be embarrassed to admit that we follow Jesus primarily for what He can give us and / or what He will do for us. It can be difficult to admit that we want to use Jesus for what we can get from Him.
For myself, I would like to think that I follow Jesus because I love Him, full stop. When I think about the individuals who expressed full blown love for Jesus, I can’t help but remember the sinner woman (in Luke 7) who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, couldn’t stop kissing His feet and anointed His feel with sweet perfume. Her actions were an extravagant outpouring of love for Jesus, and He was very touched by her extravagance, in contrast to a pharisee’s judgement and piety. I’m also reminded of Peter, Jesus’ disciple who often put his foot in his mouth, but stayed in daily fellowship with Jesus, following Him no matter what.
I hope that as you read this, you’re encouraged to fall in love with Jesus very deeply. I hope that you chose to follow Him, regardless of how much you agree or disagree with Jesus and no matter the various circumstances and experiences in your life. Let’s choose to be loving and devoted followers of Jesus.