By Tom Wacaster
The invitation that Jesus extended to Matthew is as timely today as it was almost two-thousand years ago. “Follow me” is the standing invitation that heaven extends to all men. It is an invitation to enter into a relationship with God and Christ that is far and above any and every human relationship. That same invitation is expressed is some of the most beautiful language imaginable in at least two other passages in the New Testament: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and by burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Yet there is something about those two words, “Follow me!” Two words, yet the implications of those words could fill a dictionary, and when expounded upon would surpass the largest of encyclopedias. Consider the following.
From the standpoint of the Master Who uttered those words, it is a call to submit to His leadership. He does not lead from behind, but rather as the Captain of our faith, He marches forward leading His army into battle, ultimately to rest on the banks of the Jordan having once and for all conquered every enemy, not the least of which is death itself (1 Cor. 15:26). Having “been in all points tempted like as we” (Heb. 4:15), He now sits on His throne taking “captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8), and assuring us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward” (Rom. 8:18). “Follow me!” No coercion, no force, no high-handed tactics. Only two simple words: “Follow me!” With those two words He has captured the minds and hearts of men for generations; men and women who are willing to die for Him. Willing to go where He leads without question, complaining, or murmuring, they go forth conquering and to conquer. John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more, you are a leader.” Jesus was, and still is, the ultimate leader, and from Matthew Levi to the lowliest saint in the kingdom of God, the acceptance of the invitation to follow our Lord has never disappointed those who have truly heeded that call and followed in obedient faith.
That brings us to the second point. From the standpoint of the disciple, those two words, “follow me,” present a challenge to the one and only thing that can keep us out of heaven – our self-will. So far as the disciple is concerned, he must be willing to consecrate himself fully to the Lord, “deny himself, and take up his cross daily” and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24), “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). The element of self-sacrifice is an absolute essential if we are to accept the invitation to follow Jesus. Without full and complete surrender to the will of God and the determination to weather the storms of persecution that come our way, following in the steps of Jesus will soon become wearisome and complete abandonment will follow as sure and night follows day. James Hastings is credited with the following:
In every life there must be a cross. ‘Follow me’ came the call to those early disciples, and they arose and followed Him. And as His road led Him to His Cross, so for some of them their following led them to their crosses. And for all of them their following of Him meant increasing self-sacrifice. They emptied themselves of their own desires and wishes that they might fill them with the desire for His purposes. They saw the Cross along the road they had to travel, but they did not shrink (Hastings, quotes in my file system).
“Follow me” is the call that comes to all men through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14). There is more to this call than simply claiming to follow Jesus. It is more than having our name on some church roll, for even some of the most devoted ‘followers’ of Jesus later learned that their “mighty works” were of no avail (Matt. 7:21-23).
“Follow me” is not a frivolous call, nor is it a futile call. It is one filled with promises and blessings the likes of which we may never fully appreciate this side of heaven. We may have to “suffer hardship…as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3), as we attempt to “walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), but fellow-sojourner, be assured that the promises that stand behind the call to follow Him are as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.
No, we cannot see heaven with the physical eye; but then Abraham did not see that “city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10) with the physical eye. It has been said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
Thank God that Jesus spoke those two words to Matthew. And thank God that He continues to speak those words to all of us, and to generations yet unborn. “Follow me!” The question is, “Will you?”