There was always one command from Jesus that stood out above all the rest. It is the single command given most often by Him. It wasn’t the one that he called the greatest or even the one he referred to as second. That was to love God with all our being and love our neighbor as ourselves. It wasn’t even the command to have faith in him as the Son of God. That one command that seemed to be constant was, “Follow me!” It is the imperative of discipleship. Let’s face it we can obey tons of the commands that Jesus gave and never look like or act like Jesus at all. Some of the biggest sticklers for obeying the Bible I’ve ever met were also some of the most arrogant, difficult and unlikeable people I’ve ever known. They were intent on doing what they understood God to say, but never picked up on the heart of Jesus. You can’t follow Jesus and act like a Pharisee at the same time. They head in exactly the opposite directions.
Why does it matter so much that we follow Jesus? First, it is vital because Jesus demonstrates to us what God the Father is really like. He came to give us a clear explanation or exegesis of the Father. In John 1:14-18 Jesus is declared to be the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” He gives us grace on top of grace. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus is the Son of God, the Word that became flesh, and is God. He possesses the exact nature of the Father and thus gives us a clear picture of what the Father is really like. We can learn tons of things about God from looking at his creation. Paul said the creation demonstrated his eternal power and divine nature in Romans 1:20. We can learn a tremendous amount about God by reading the Old Testament and looking at all the different names and descriptions that are given about God. We can there learn of his being Almighty, all knowing, everywhere at the same time and that he cares for his people. But there was never a picture of God that was such a clear presentation of him and his nature until Jesus came into the world as a man to show us the Father. In John 14:6-9 Jesus declared that he was the way, truth and life and no one could come to the Father except through him. Philip asked him in response to “Show us the Father and that will be enough.” Jesus response to Philip was, “Have I been with you for such a long time and do you not know who I am? He that has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the clear picture of the heart and nature of God.
Second, it is vital to follow Jesus because he is the example and pattern of what godly living is all about. The very word “disciple” means to be a learner or apprentice of Jesus that is learning both what he says and how he lived among us. When we use the word “Christian” we are talking about being like Jesus. When we use the words, disciple or Christian to simply refer to someone who believes in Jesus but who doesn’t act like or look like Jesus in any way we are misusing the words. When Jesus gave the beatitudes that were at the heart of the sermon on the mount he was laying out the heart necessary to look like and be like him. It starts with the poverty of spirit that recognizes we need God and can’t be what we are called to be on our own. It moves to being broken or mourning over the sin and failure of our life. Such mourning over sin leads to turning from sin to God in repentance. It moves to gentleness or being tamed by God. We yield our control to the Lord rather than trying to live the way we want to live. When someone sings, “I did it my way” it is shouting the message I’m not a follower of Jesus. My way and God’s way are not the same thing. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, it leads to submitting to God’s will in obedience in everything. At that point we learn to be merciful toward others since we desperately need mercy ourselves. It leads to a pure, unmixed heart that is fully devoted to Jesus. It leads from that to being peacemakers in the world. When we are peacemaker others recognize we are God’s children since we look like him. There has never been a true disciple of Jesus that is a troublemaker. Now when we have that heart, it leads to others persecuting us just like they did Jesus. We don’t tend to like those whose lives convict us of sin in our life so we begin to try to take them down anyway we can. Yet it is that very person that is being persecuted that is the salt of the earth and the light of the world to lead others to God and His salvation.
Third to follow Jesus means we become servants of others. When Jesus began to talk to the twelve about his coming death it brought out in them the discussion of which one of them would be the greatest. James and John even brought their mother to plead with Jesus to have them sit on his right and left side when he entered his kingdom. Of course, it frustrated and aggravated the other apostles to learn that these two went to such lengths to get in the front of the line. But Jesus challenged the whole attitude by saying the gentiles had those who lorded it over them but it wouldn’t be that way among them. He that is greatest among you will be the servant of all. “For even the son of man didn’t come into the world to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many.” Just before Jesus would head to the cross to give his life for us, he laid aside his garments, took a towel and wrapped it around his waist and began washing the feet of the twelve. They didn’t understand. Peter even tried to stop him. But Jesus told them he had left them an example and they should follow him and wash one another’s feet and so be his disciples.
Fourth, Jesus is the pattern not only for the disciples life but for the church as a whole. People often declare that we should look at the early church as the pattern for us as the church, but the Bible never says that. Instead it constantly points at Jesus saying that he is the one we are to follow. When we follow a church we are following one who is trying to follow Jesus. The right thing to do is simply hold Jesus us as the pattern for us and strive to imitate him in everything we do. “Christ has left us an example that we should follow in his footsteps” (I Peter 2:21). Let’s never forget this simple command and always notice it is the single command given more often by Jesus than any other. No other command even gets close to being given as often. What an amazing pattern he is!