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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Follow Me! With Urgency

Read: John 21:18-25


This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
John 21:19, KJV

Today I would like to focus on those two words: 'Follow me.'

The expression shows up 16 times in the gospels1, each time from the lips of Jesus. These words are the theme of Jesus' hardest sayings:


  • Follow Me and let the dead bury their dead (Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:59).
  • If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and Follow Me (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).
  • Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and Follow Me (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22).


Our text in John could obviously be added to this list.

Follow me! Two simple words - but what a command!  (1) It is an urgent command, (2) it is a difficult command and (3) it is an exclusive command. Today we will only look at the first, but I invite you to return tomorrow and the next day for the rest of this study. Please read the passage each day.

An Urgent Command

The command to follow Jesus is not something to be put off. Do not wait to bury your father, let the dead bury their own dead. One thing particularly striking in this command of our Lord is how he lets nothing else get in the way of it. The usually patient Christ, who explains simple things to his disciples time and time again, has no time to waste here.

It is, first of all, the basis of all other commands. Until you follow Jesus, everything else is in vain. When we tarry on the foundation, any other work done is wasted. Anything done outside of the will of the Lord, no matter how worthy, will be wasted. A captain may direct a ship bravely  in the face of storms and stones, but if he ignores the map he has done nothing. Our lives are worthless until we fall behind the master. What do you know of Abraham in the time before he left his country to go to the place God had shown him? He lived for many decades, but it did not matter until he followed Jesus. For 80 years, we know but little of Moses, until he came to the burning bush and followed the I AM. Every man's life is a vapor and his every work futility, until he follows Jesus.

Second, it is a command with lasting consequences. When you die, do you expect to see heaven? If you have not followed Jesus by trusting in Him for the forgiveness of your sins, you will not. You do not know when you will die and pass beyond the point of all choices. Choose the Lord now, while you are able! Today, do not harden your hearts. Today is the day of salvation.

Last (most simply and importantly), it is a command of God. This is obvious. If someone you do not care about tells you to do something, you may give them pause. With certain restrictions, the more you respect someone, the quicker you will comply with their requests. If God Himself says 'Follow Me!' who are we to say 'In a minute'? If He is sovereign, benevolent and omnisapient - He ought to be obeyed now

When Jesus says 'Follow Me!' Do it then. Whether it be a call to salvation, baptism, professional ministry2 or anything else, do not put it off! The hour is later than you think and the task is more urgent than any human being can know.

This is best punctuated with a story, reportedly told by Billy Graham:
In January of 1936, the Southern Baptist songwriter B. B. McKinney was leading the music at the Alabama Sunday School Convention which was held that year in the town of Clanton. 
The featured speaker was the Reverend R. S. Jones, McKinney’s friend of many years, who because of ill health had recently returned from missionary service in Brazil. 
The two men were visiting over dinner one evening when Mr. Jones revealed to Dr. McKinney that his physicians would not allow him to return to South America. 
When asked about his future plans the missionary said, “I don’t know, but wherever He leads I’ll go.” 
The words stuck in Dr. McKinney’s mind, and before the convention’s evening session began, he had written both the words and music of this song. 
At the close of Mr. Jones’ message, Dr. McKinney related this story and sang “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go” to the congregation.

And the hymn:
“Take up thy cross and follow Me,” I heard my Master say;
“I gave My life to ransom thee, Surrender your all today.”
Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.
He drew me closer to His side, I sought His will to know,
And in that will I now abide, Wherever He leads I’ll go.
Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.
It may be thru’ the shadows dim, Or o’er the stormy sea,
I take my cross and follow Him, Wherever He leadeth me.
Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.
My heart, my life, my all I bring To Christ who loves me so;
he is my Master, Lord, and King, Wherever He leads I’ll go.
Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

Have some thoughts? Leave a comment!

1 The gospels are the accounts of Jesus' life on Earth: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you search, you may count 19. Once, follow is a different word with a different sense in the original language (Matthew 4:19) and one verse contains two instances of 'follow me' which are not commands and are grammatically different in the Greek (John 13:36).
2 What an awful term! I use it in the conventional sense of someone who works as a full time pastor, Christian writer, etc. We should all, however, be in professional ministry!

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