As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
This is all about roads and following. Jesus was in the business of making disciples. Today we vicars and evangelists are often struggling to create converts and church attenders. Of course a disciple is a convert and a good one will be a church attender but there is much more to it than this.
Converts think Jesus is a good guy and his ideas are true. Disciples think Jesus is the most important person they have ever met, and that his ideas are life transforming. They don’t just agree with him in their mind, they set out to follow him with all of their lives. So for the next three days we shall be looking at three discipleship issues bubbling up out of the Jesus story. But first I thought I would share what I think of as the discipleship formula:
D = L x F x HS –> W.C
D = Disciple
L = Learner
F = Follower
HS = Holy Spirit
WC = World Changer
(So here is something for you to ponder – disciples become world changers)
The phrase ‘Follow me’ is a key one for Jesus and often reminds me of the childhood game ‘Follow my Leader’. Here there are two people saying to Jesus ‘I will follow you’ whilst to a third Jesus actually takes the initiative in saying ‘follow me’.
Now here are three key elements in all this ‘following’ way of life:
- Following Jesus means making choices. ‘Yes’ to Jesus means ‘No’ to other options. Too many people say yes without ever saying any nos. The result is they are always a bit half-hearted, always holding too many cards, never quite focussed. Why, because they have never made a clear and definite choice.
- If you are not following Jesus, who are you following? Are you following the crowd like a sheep? Perhaps you are listening to all the crazy opinions and rival philosophies that we find in the media. Or maybe you are following your own materialistic self-centred self? The biggest choice in my life is, ‘Will I follow Jesus Christ or Robin Gamble?’
- Followers keep close to Jesus. At the time in his life when Jesus gave out all this ‘following teaching’ he was literally on the road. He was a travelling man. Anyone who held back or delayed or did a few other things was going to lose contact, because Jesus, the Son of Man, was on the big Kingdom March. Sometimes you have got to ‘keep up to keep close’. So, yes this makes discipleship a tough business, but I would never give it up for the world. One, we are on a road that actually leads somewhere. Two, we are following the greatest leader that the world has ever seen. Three, I keep meeting lots of other people travelling alongside me on the road.
Alfred Wainwright was one of the most respected road followers of our time. Most of his roads led him through the Lake District and the North of England generally. Thousands have read his books and followed his paths – roads. Here is a big piece of advice that he offers to all road following disciples.
“One should always have a definite objective, in a walk as in life – it is so much more satisfying to reach a target by personal effort than to wander aimlessly. An objective is an ambition, and life without ambition is …aimless wandering.”
I have discovered,
Or been discovered by Jesus, your son.
Help me now to become his follower,
To say some ‘No’s’,
And a big Yes,
To place my feet upon the road,
And to follow him.