Following Jesus

A few months ago, I went to see my doctor for a physical.

He did the nerviest thing.

He told me that I needed to get my blood checked for cholesterol.

So I made the follow-up appointment for the bloodwork for the following week. The night before the blood test was a real hardship for me.

I fasted all night. From 10pm on… with no food. In the morning, I got up extra early, got there right on time, and looked at one of the doctor’s many photos from his travels as the nurse took my blood. (I always steal a quick look at the procedure just to confirm that I still can’t watch the blood be drawn.)

I left feeling good about myself. I had followed the doctor’s orders and gotten my blood tested, just like he told me. If my arm wasn’t sore, I would have patted myself on the back.

But the next day, I got an email not only with the results, but with the doctor’s prescription, too. Very brief and to the point. It said, “Triglicerides too high. Lose 10 pounds and test again.”

And I thought, “Or?……”

I thought I had already done what the doctor told me to do.

He told me to get a blood test, I got the blood test! I did what he said.

But now he wanted me to make some changes, to follow his will in my life, so that I could be healthy.

I’ll bet you can see where this is going.

Jesus’ teachings are full of truth that will make our lives better, healthier, full. There are things he teaches that we should add in to our lives, and things he teaches us to get rid of. But every single one of them is not just something we can do once and say “Check!” “Got it!” “I accept the terms and conditions!”

They’re not things to believe or accept or affirm.

They’re all ways that we follow Jesus.

I’m not going to lie. There will probably be some things that you hear Jesus teach you to do, or not to do, and your first instinct will be to ask, “Or?……”

But still, Jesus invites you to follow him. Not because it will make his life better, but because it will give you life to the fullest.

No matter what you believe. No matter how you behave. Jesus invites you to follow him.

That’s what happened with the first people who followed Jesus. They didn’t all get it right away. Listen to how his disciple John, describes it.

Let me set this up a little bit. A different John, John the Baptist, is teaching people in the desert and baptizing them. He has followers of his own, but his mission from God is to point people to the Messiah, who happens to be his cousin, Jesus. This is where the story picks up.

John 1:35-51 NRSV
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

Before we go any further, we learn the most important thing about following right here.

The most important thing about following is… following the right person. If you’re following the wrong person, it doesn’t matter how great a follower you are, The most important thing is to follow the right person.

And Jesus is the absolute best person in the world to follow. Why? Well, we’ll see from his teachings this year that he is God’s Son. That he is the promised Savior of the world. And that not only did he die for us and rise again, but he told his disciples ahead of time when he would die and that he would rise again. If someone can predict his own death, have it come true, and then come back from death, like he said he would…this is someone you should follow.

These two disciples didn’t know any of that yet, but they had been following a man who they knew to be holy, and when he said, “Look, here is the one I’ve been talking about!” they didn’t even say good bye. They just followed him.

38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.”

Come and see. That’s what Jesus’ invitation to follow him boils down to for you and me. Come and see. Jesus doesn’t answer their questions before inviting them to follow him. But he does tell them they will find it. They will see for themselves. But they won’t see for themselves, and then be convinced and then decide to follow. They have to follow first.

And the same goes for us.

We don’t have to believe first and then follow. We don’t have to behave like good Christians first, and then get to follow Jesus as a reward. Jesus invites us to follow first, and the belief and the changed life will come later.

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Now we’ll see that Peter became a dedicated follower from day one. When he first hears his brother’s report, he gets up and goes. And as John tells it, the first thing that Jesus does is give him a new name, which means the Rock. That’s about as good as a first day of following can go.

But it doesn’t have to start out with fireworks and a new name. It can start out with doubt and disbelief too. Just look at what comes next.

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

So Philip does basically what Andrew just did. The first thing he does after finding the promised savior is go tell his friend what he discovered. But it doesn’t go as well for Philip. His friend hears why he says, and makes a joke, or maybe it’s meant more as an insult, about the backwater town that Jesus is from.

But Philip has already started to act like Jesus, even though he just started to follow him. He doesn’t respond to the tone of the question. He doesn’t get offended. He just says what Jesus would say.

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”

And that’s not just a promise for Nathaniel. It’s a promise for you too. Start following Jesus now, even if you don’t believe, even if you aren’t ready to fully commit, and you will see greater things than these.

We are going to study Everything Jesus Taught this year, not so we’ll know everything Jesus taught and get an A on the final exam. We’re doing this so that we will follow Jesus.

We’ll talk about everything Jesus taught for about our families, about our money, about forgiveness. We’ll study his teachings on truth and justice. We are going to start the year with four things Jesus taught us to add into our lives, and four things he taught us to cut out in order to live life to the fullest.

But it all starts with one decision.

No matter what you believe. No matter how you behave. Jesus invites you to follow him.

So come and see.

Things Jesus Taught Related to Following Him:

  • Matt 11:28-30
  • Matt 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19a, Luke 6:12-16, John 1:42
  • Luke 5:1-11, Mark 1:16-22, Matt 4:18-22
  • Matt 13:1-3, Mark 4:1-2, 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11, John 21:1-11
  • John 10:22-39
  • Matt 3:13-17, 17:5, , Mark 1:9-11, 9:7, Luke 3:21-22, 9:35, John 1:29-34, 12:28-30

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