The Gospel of Mark is the first recording of Jesus’ story in its entirety, and it’s remarkable to see that right away in the first portion, Jesus makes an invitation for the disciples to come and follow him. Looking at the scripture passage above, what made the disciples come and follow Jesus? They dropped everything they were doing at once and followed Jesus. Without delay, they even left family, occupation, identity, and current purpose and followed Jesus. Why?
Who Followed Jesus?
Most people believe that being a disciple of Jesus means to strive for a moral life (Morality Gospel), the good life (Prosperity Gospel), or a golden ticket to heaven (Half Gospel). But the good news of Jesus starts with an invitation.
Jesus invited the disciples to come and follow him. What does that mean? And how is that tied to being a disciple?
We would like to think that the first disciples followed Jesus immediately because of some sort of special calling on their lives or because they felt inspired to become “fishers of men.” But the truth is probably that they were pretty similar to you and me.
The reality of why the first disciples followed Jesus is that there was probably some sort of tug from among the promises of power, popularity, or productivity. “Maybe if I follow Jesus, and if he is truly the Messiah, the Anointed One, then maybe I’ll get to share leadership with him!” “Maybe if I follow Jesus, then I’ll finally become someone important!” “Maybe if I follow Jesus, then I’ll finally get something important done!” Jesus invited people just like you and me.
A Simple Invitation
Come and follow me. That simple invitation, in actuality, pulls us away from the enticement of power, popularity and productivity and it draws us towards Jesus. The invitation to Come is the invitation to be near to him and to experience his presence and his community. The invitation to Follow is the invitation to imitate him and do, think, and feel as he does.
Come and Follow is the invitation for being close to Jesus and copying him. Practically speaking, the invitation to Come (closeness, presence, community) is a space for safety. And the invitation to Follow (imitation, challenge, copy) is a space for stretching/challenge. Jesus’ invitation to Come and Follow is the invitation for both Safety and Stretching; for both closeness and challenge.
Both of these invitations are necessary for becoming shaped people. If you think about what discipleship really is, it’s about being transformed into the likeness and maturity of Christ through being with Jesus and being formed and directed by Jesus. Discipleship is imitating the self-giving love of Jesus within the same community that Jesus banked his whole life on – the idea that a community’s love for one another will demonstrate to the world who Jesus is. Discipleship is being transformed by imitation alongside a community on mission together."Discipleship is being transformed by imitation alongside a community on mission together." ~ Eun Strawser Click To Tweet
Safety and Stretching
The chart above shows what happens when we accept Jesus’ invitation to Come and Follow in both safety and stretching and in both closeness to and challenge from Jesus. When both are happening, then we are being shaped and transformed by Jesus.
When only safety is valued and stretching is avoided, then we become people who are static, insular, with no movement towards mission, and only valuing a small comfortable community of people. When only stretching is valued and safety is avoided, then we become people who are spent, burnt-out, with no eyes towards relationships and people, and only valuing accomplishment and tasks. When we are avoiding both safety and stretching, then we become isolated people, moving away from both community and mission.
But, if we follow Jesus, both being close to him and being challenged by imitating him, then we become people who are shaped by Jesus’ presence and purpose. We imitate him and become more and more mature into the likeness of Christ within community for the sake of the culture around us."If we follow Jesus into both being close to him and being challenged by imitating him, then we become people who are shaped by Jesus’ presence and purpose." ~ Eun Strawser Click To Tweet
Questions for Reflection:
- Where would you place yourself in the above chart and why?
- How are you drawing near to Jesus (towards safety) today?
- How are you drawing near to Jesus’ community (towards communal safety) today?
- What might Jesus be inviting you to imitate him in (towards stretching and formation)?
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