Who and Why Would Anyone Follow Jesus?

Thursday is for Discipleship

question MarkSometimes we proclaim commitment beyond and before we know what we are saying.

“Teacher, 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.”

(Matthew 8:19b-20)

Think about that. On the surface, it is Jesus helping a would-be follower come to grips with the “cost of discipleship.” He is driving home the point that discipleship is more than a will to follow in the sunshine when the thrill of his words in the air find an echo in the heart. Following Jesus is costly. He did not live a cushy life and slaves are not greater than their master. We shouldn’t expect that following him will lead to cushy comfort or security from dangerous tasks.

Think a bit deeper about what this scene as well as some other New Testament and Bible facts imply or state about Jesus:

  • There is no physical description of Jesus in the New Testament.
  • But Isaiah tells us that there was nothing special about his appearance or the resonance of his voice, no majesty in his form, no beauty that drew people to him. (Isaiah 53:2)
  • Luke 8:3 tells us that his ministry was basically funded by some wealthy women.

So the short bio is:
No home, no job, no income, no wheels, no beauty, no grand social pedigree, no wife, no children, no books written … yet

… twelve men left everything to follow him,
… crowds in the thousands flocked to hear him teach about the kingdom of God
… and a small band of 120 left an upper room after his resurrection and changed the world forever.

Napoleon (surprising source) said it well.

“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him.”
(Frank Mead, ed. Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, Westwood, CA: Fleming H. Revell, n.d., p.56)

So here’s a brilliant question posed to me by Pastor John Byrd of Jubilee Baptist Church in Bolingbrook, IL. “How do you contextualize Matthew 8:20 for 21st century American Christians?”  “Teacher, 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.”

Let the discussion begin!

Mary talking to Jesus upon discovering him in the Temple

2 thoughts on “Who and Why Would Anyone Follow Jesus?

  1. Something I’ve thought about a lot over the last couple of years – often in evangelism we say that God gives us the free gift of eternal life, yet it appears looking at Jesus’ life and teaching that there is actually a very high cost to following Jesus. Matthew 8:20 is a great example – Jesus isn’t saying ‘Hey, sure you can follow me, it’s free, the benefits are great and it won’t cost you anything.’

    I guess where I get tangled up is exactly what you’ve been preaching on, and that’s the issue of joy — more specifically not experiencing joy in my life. Maybe it’s rooted in an early expectation that salvation is a free gift, and then being surprised by the high cost of following Jesus, rather than cultivating a desire to willingly give up everything for Him at the very beginning of the journey. I think it’s also probably a perspective thing – not looking at where I’m going or trusting in who I’m following, but spending too much time looking at the wind and waves around me and feeling completely inadequate to handle the situation.

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  2. So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:9. so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:14. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Galatians 4:15. What does blessed mean? It seems as if being blessed is very important. It is the fruit of faith, that we might receive the Spirit and it is a source of self-sacrificing love. Most of my life the word blessed has been almost meaningless. People who are blessed, properly defined, abandon what they have to love others.

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