The New Testament believers of Acts 2, who regularly worshipped, and regularly brought unbelievers with them to worship, whether that was at the temple or the home, had the Lord adding "to their number day by day those who were being saved."
Likewise, the New Testament believers of today are called to regularly worship and go to unbelievers, the hurting and the heartbroken to share the hope of Christ with them and bring them to worship, so that they too, like the believers of Acts 2, might have the Lord adding "to their number day by day those who were being saved."
Therefore in order to know to whom and to where we are to go we can follow Jesus through the eyes and ears of his first disciples and see for ourselves to whom and to where he went: "Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men'" (Mark 1:17). And so the disciples followed.
Early on the disciples followed Jesus to a synagogue where they heard him teach. Then they followed him to the home of Simon Peter's mother-in-law where he healed the sick. Next, they followed him throughout all of Galilee as he preached and drove out demons.
However, the disciples found out that this was just the beginning. Jesus said"Follow me" and they followed. They followed Jesus as he went to the paralytic and the demon-possessed; to the outcasts and to the outlaws; to the hopeless and to the hypocrites.
They followed him as he went to the meek and to the poor. They followed him as he went to those with broken homes and broken hearts. They followed him as he went to those overwhelmed with grief and those overloaded with life.
The disciples followed him as he spoke words of comfort, as he forgave sins, as he healed the sick, as he stilled a storm, as he fed 5,000 and as he raised the dead.
They found out that to truly 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.
However, Jesus never said that following him would be easy. "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).
Jesus says, "Follow me..." and the disciples followed. So the time comes and the way of the cross is at hand. They followed Jesus, this time to the Garden of Gethsemane. But then came soldiers, then came accusations, then came threats. Even so, Jesus did not withdraw his call to follow.
In the midst of the commotion Peter tries to reverse things and tell Jesus to follow him. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest's servant. But Jesus told Peter to put the sword away. Jesus was going to the cross and those who would follow him must do the same.
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.
However, to be a disciple of Jesus is to take up our cross and follow Him. This is called 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.
But as he did for Peter, Jesus does for all people. In the midst of fear and hurt, in the midst of sin and selfishness, he looks at us with eyes filled with compassion and he says "Follow me."
Jesus 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 all people 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 in order to 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, 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.