Posted in Spiritual Growth
Scripture: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” – Matthew 16:24
What does it mean to you to “follow?” Some of us “follow” the Gamecocks, Tigers, Braves, or Panthers. We “follow” the news related to this topic or that celebrity. “Following” friends, acquaintances, and famous people on social media has exploded over the past decade. And yet, wouldn’t words like “watch” or “spectate” or “know about” be more accurate than “follow?”
Not long ago, seeking direction in an unfamiliar city, a friend told me to follow him. I asked for the address so I could plug it in my map. He said, “There’s no good address, so just follow me.” “What about all the traffic,” I asked. “Just follow me,” he repeated.
Jesus’ call for his disciples to “follow” him is not passive. He does not seem interested in accumulating observers, admirers, fans, or “likes.” Here in Matthew 16, but also in Mark 8, Luke 9, and Matthew 10, our Lord’s message is the same, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). The call requires action. Living differently. Denying ourselves. Taking up the cross. Not merely plugging the final destination in our maps and choosing our own convenient path. But following, as in “just follow me.”
In a world filled with “silver tongued devils” trying to control the narrative, God became flesh in Jesus and said, “Follow me.” Absolutely, Jesus taught better than the best of them, but part of what made his teaching so profound and powerful is that, unlike others both then and now, he lived it. Really. Lived. It. And he calls us to do the same, by following him.
Yes, I know these are the dog days of summer, and we yearn for the peaceful escape and relaxation of the beach, lake, and mountains. I’m with you on that! But this summer, while enjoying the majesty of God’s creation and the goodness of God’s grace, seize the opportunity to have a conversation with our Master about specific steps we should take to deny ourselves and take up the crosses so that we can follow, actively follow, Jesus.
Prayer: O Lord our God, thank you that you meet us where we are even as you love us enough to not leave us where you find us. Thank you for the ways your Word continues to be a well of Good News, purpose, and direction amid the drought of good news around us. Give us the faith to not just watch you, but also to follow you. Amen.
Submitted by Rev. Dr. Brad Smith