This past Sunday we started a message series called, “Pilgrim Way,” looking closer at Jesus’ words, “come follow me.” The word “come” is an invitation and summons, but it also implies that we will leave something behind to turn and pursue that invitation. “Follow” is a word that we often tie to the metaphor of walking, but outside of that metaphor it really means we imitate. “Me” is Jesus, and because of his validated claims of who he is, causes us to respond to the summons and begin to imitate him. But there are some overtones, foreshadowing, and words connected to “come follow Jesus”—words like “cross”, “deny”, “die”, and “lose”. It’s a summons to lose our life. But take heart, because there are other words also connected to “come follow me”, words like “resurrection”, “raised”, “life”, and “find”. It’s what follows the cross, what follows when we lose our life for Jesus! Our life is an ongoing journey with God, and the temporary sacrifices, suffering and losses are momentary and light compared to the eternal and weighty life, glory, and joy that is at our destination. The pilgrim way has “many dangers, toils, and snares” as John Newton wrote in “Amazing Grace”. Grace has led us safe this far, and will continue to lead us safely home.
Part of the reason for talking about this, is that “Come Follow Me” is tied directly to our mission: to help people come find and follow Jesus. Jesus is our final destination—followers will one day be totally transformed into his likeness (II Cor. 3:18). We become what/who we love. Another reason is that I really hope to help believers and yet-to-be-believers to not be unpleasantly surprised to what they’re being called to follow. It seems obvious to some, that if we follow Jesus, we will eventually—and not be able to avoid— having to face a ‘crucifying of ourselves” (Galatians 2:20) so that he might live in us and through us. But I guess in our American culture, which has co-opted only the pleasant parts of the Gospel to promote a self-fulfillment message, has influenced us all to forget Jesus’ original call includes a denial of self, a call to lose our lives for his sake. There is a power in that call, that let’s us know that Jesus and authentic Christian faith isn’t trying to “sell us something”. My hope and prayer is that like little ducklings that imprint on the first thing they see (and begin to follow), that believers will imprint on Jesus—not on an institution, a self-fulfillment dream, an idol of our own choice, or even a mission. The Father doesn’t desire us to become like an institution or an idol; He wants us to become like his Son.