During a trip to the Holy Land last November, I experienced the awe of walking where Jesus walked. As we strolled along the sea of Galilee, we heard with fresh ears the story of Jesus calling several fishermen to leave their nets and follow him (Mark 1:16-20). These first followers were eventually joined by large crowds, many who were simply admirers who were drawn to Jesus as a teacher and healer.
We also walked the old city streets of Jerusalem, including the route that is believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. This route is known as the Via Dolorosa, a phrase in Latin that has been translated as “Way of Grief” or “Way of Suffering.” Stopping at fourteen stations of the cross, we heard the story of Jesus’ trial, humiliation, flogging and suffering as he carried, then was to put death on, the cross (Mark 14:1-15:47). As we joined crowds of other admiring tourists at many of the stations, I struggled with the true cost of being followers of Jesus. I felt the huge gap between the comfort of admiring Jesus, and the demands of following him.
This seems to be the point Jesus made clear to the crowds of admirers and followers, when he said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and the sake of the gospel, will save it,” (Mark 8:34-35). In other words, when Jesus calls us to follow, we are called to die in order to live.
Called to die in order to live? What does that mean? Sorën Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian and philosopher put it this way:
“It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression ‘follower.’ He never asks for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.
“Christ understood that being a ‘disciple’ was in innermost and deepest harmony with what he said about himself. Christ claimed to be the way and the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). For this reason, he could never be satisfied with adherents who accepted his teaching – especially with those who in their lives ignored it or let things take their usual course. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible,” (www.plough.com, Feb. 20, 2017).
In the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday (April 1) it is my prayer your life will be shaped by hearing the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May your journey of faith be rooted in hearing Jesus graciously say to you: Follow me!