Note from our Senior Pastor
"16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men. 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him" Mark 1:16-20.
Jesus says, "Follow me," and they followed. But why? How? And where did they go? These are questions that many who follow Jesus might ask - "What does it mean to follow Jesus? How do I do it? Where will we go? What will life look like?"
I think the best way for anyone to understand what it means to follow Jesus is to first follow him from the perspective of his first disciples. Jesus calls and they follow. He invites and they receive. He didn't say where he was going and yet they still follow. So let's see where they go.
The disciples follow Jesus to a synagogue and they hear him teach. They follow him to the home of Simon Peter's mother-in-law where he heals the sick. Then they follow him throughout all Galilee as he preaches and drives out demons.
But the disciples find out this is just the beginning. Jesus says "Follow me" and they follow. They follow as Jesus goes to the paralytic and the demon possessed; to the outcasts and the outlaws; to the hopeless and to the hypocrites.
Jesus says, "Follow me" and they follow. They follow him as he goes to the meek and to the poor. They follow him as he goes to those with broken homes and broken hearts. They follow him as he goes to those overwhelmed with grief and those overloaded with life.
Jesus says "Follow me..." and they followed him as he speaks words of comfort, as he forgives sins, as he heals the sick, as he stills a storm, as he feeds 5,000 and as he raises the dead.
Jesus says, "Follow me... and I will make you become fishers of men." Do you see how he does it? To follow Jesus is to believe what he says, go where Jesus goes, care for those whom he cares for and to love those whom he loves. Jesus says, "Follow me..."
However, Jesus never said it would be easy. This is because the way Jesus was going wasn't an easy way. Jesus said as much: "31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected... that he must be killed and after three days rise again... 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'" (Mark 8:31, 34). Not an easy way to go is it? To be a disciple of Jesus is to take up our cross and follow Him. We call this the theology of the cross, that is, to see all of life through the cross of Christ.
Here life becomes real - life with all of our hurts, with all of our failures, with all of our sins and with all of our disappointments. The cross reminds us that we live in a fallen, broken and unfair world. The cross reminds us that following Jesus will include pain and sacrifice.
Jesus says, "Follow me..." and the disciples follow. So the time comes and the way of the cross is at hand. They follow Jesus, this time to the Garden of Gethsemane. But then come soldiers, then come accusations, then come threats. Even so, Jesus does not withdraw his call to follow.
Interestingly, in the midst of this fear Peter tries to reverse things and tell Jesus to follow him. He draws his sword and cuts off the ear of the High Priest's servant. But Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away. Jesus was going to the cross and those who would follow him must do the same.
And what happens? Here the disciples stop following Jesus. Can you blame them? Who of us wouldn't have done the same? It is hard to follow someone who is going the way of pain. It is hard to follow someone who is going the way of suffering. It is hard to follow someone who is going the way of death. In fact, there may be times when, like Peter, we want Jesus to follow us.
But as he did for Peter, Jesus does for us. In the midst of our fear and hurt, in the midst of our sin and selfishness, he looks at us with eyes filled with compassion and he says "Follow me."
You see, he knows what it is like to battle temptation, experience fear, feel pain and suffer the hurt of this life. In fact, this is why Jesus says, "Follow me." For in following Jesus we are invited to follow him through the sin, the pain and the struggles of this life all the way to the empty tomb! Followers of Jesus Christ take up the cross so that we might rejoice in the power of the Resurrection. Here there is unconditional love. Here there is irreversible forgiveness. Here there is the resurrection and the life. Here there is hope!
To follow Jesus is to believe what he says, go where he goes, care for those for whom he cares, love those whom he loves, and live the life he gives.
Jesus says, "Follow me." At Zion Lutheran our endeavor is to follow Jesus Christ - day after day, week in and week out, year upon year. We desire to live in his love and rest in his forgiveness, and therefore to share it with others, especially those who do not know Jesus Christ. Consequently, the vision for our life together as a family of faith is grounded in the distinctive marks of being followers of Jesus Christ. Week in and week out we gather around the life giving Word and sacraments given by Christ so that we might be renewed, refreshed and resent into a world that so desperately needs the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
Our worship life (following Jesus) frames our daily life. At Zion we call it liturgical living. It is the understanding that as Christ serves us with his Word and sacraments we can, in turn, live out the life of faith as rays of light in a world of darkness. Thus liturgical living is the understanding that the liturgy is meant to be lived and not merely performed. It means we walk around having our lives shaped by the truth of God's Word expressed by the church year and the liturgy - our worship life. In short, we follow Jesus. In so doing, we receive his love and we share it with others.
In Christ's love,
Pastor Lucas V. Woodford