What does it mean to follow Christ?

In the beginning, God created the… Well, that was abrupt and straight to the point. Similar to the way Genesis starts, God speaks and there it was, Mark’s Gospel begins full steam ahead and never slows momentum until the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Read Mark’s first chapter and you will see what I am describing with the immediacy of Jesus. In this chapter, Mark covers Matthew takes four chapters to describe. Here are the first 13 verses to get us started.

1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 12 And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mark 1:1-13

Mark wrote to Romans and demonstrated Jesus was a man of action and selective of His words. The style of the writing is not mean to make us feel rushed or that these other facets of Christ’s ministry weren’t important. However, it is to make understand the enormous importance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Mark 10:45, considered to be the key verse to understanding this Gospel perspective, states, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Christ came to save you and to do that He bids you to follow Him. What does that mean? Let’s look at Mark again (make sure to read the whole thing):

16Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. 19 And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. 20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

Mark 1:16-20

Jesus, with authority, calls us to follow Him.

The Lord in the passage above displays the divine initiative and we are to respond to it. To follow Christ, first means we have heard the Gospel call. We by no worldly means can save ourselves. Paul explains in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Paul further states in Ephesians 5:14, “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Christ calls out to us through the Gospel and arouses us from our dead sleep in sin. He lights the possiblity of faith through His Word to us. Paul wrote, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We cannot wake ourselves by being enlightened through any pursuit of our own. No false gods will wake us up. No amount strength of body, mind, or other ability, will do the job. God initiates our call to follow Him. Once He calls “follow me,” we must make the decision.

The decision to follow.

The disciples, once they heard the call of Christ the disciples quickly moved to follow Christ. Now, quickly, I want to dispel any thought the call is irresistible. Jesus gives several examples of those who resisted the invitation to follow.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Mark 10:17-27 (21-22*)

16Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. 22And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Luke 14:16-24

These are just two examples out of the many who heard the call to “Follow me” and resisted Christ. However, in returning to Mark’s Scripture, we see the disciples make an immediate decision to follow Christ. Matthew describes the calls in this way.

18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-22

And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

Matthew 9:9

Again, from another Gospel perspective, Christ initiates the call to follow Him and the disciples react immediately. This in itself was different for this time period. Rabbi’s typically did not call people this way, and it would be the disciples initiative to follow a particular Rabbi. Why? It was understood that allegiance was primarily to the Torah and not the Rabbis themselves. However, when you have The Word of God in Flesh standing before you, He will certainly display a different authority. Making the decision to follow different as well.

No supporting evidence accompanies his call—no miracles or debate or moral persuasion. Unlike rabbinic aspirants, the fishermen are not required to do anything before they become disciples; they need not exhibit knowledge of the Torah or pass a qualifying examination in theology. What they need to learn and do can only be learned and done as they follow Jesus (10:52). For Mark, the act of following Jesus entails a risk of faith, and faith must be an act before it is a content of belief. Only as Jesus is followed can he be known.

Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 50). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.

Following Jesus includes a call to serve

We have already seen Jesus state that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). However, His call to follow Him includes our call to serve as fishers of men. We learn from Jesus, and as we see in the life of the disciples as they follow Jesus, this can be difficult and dangerous. Jesus plainly stated in Lukes Gospel the seriousness of the call:

26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Luke 14:26-35

The call to follow Christ is lifechanging for sure. Downright impossible in our strength. But, thanks be to God who gives us victory through Jesus Christ. We are given the Holy Spirit to be transformed and follow Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” He also wrote in verse 14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” When we follow the Lord, He leads us by His Word and by His Spirit. We are not alone and we are not left powerless. As these early disciples were in their calling, we must be willing to turn, believe the Gospel, and redirect our lives accordingly to His call.

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