This past Sunday I talked about the different levels of meaning that the New Testament word, akolootheo, i.e. “follow” has in Greek. There were those who were willing to tag along with Jesus (level 1), but Jesus called his disciples to cleave to him and be conformed to him (level 2). I used the example of following Dan Fortin’s marathon adventures on Facebook or Twitter to actually training alongside of him so that you could run a race with him. People seemed to like the analogy.
So let’s take it a step further. Let’s say that you “follow” Britney Spears on Twitter. As one of her followers you pick up on every new post from, or about her. You know who she’s dating, where she’s spending her vacation, what she’s wearing and probably how she’s feeling at the moment. You know a lot about her – and probably feel like you know her really well. Maybe you even have some Britany memorabilia and can sing the words of every one of her songs.
Now imagine that Britney is coming to Toronto for a concert at the ACC. You’ve scored a back-stage pass along with a group of a hundred and fifty other die-hard fans. When Britney walks into the room to say hello – would she be able to single you out of the crowd and say, “hey” because she recognizes you? Would she even know who you are?
It’s kind of a scary thought that we find a scenario similar to this in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says that not everyone who calls him lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Some of these will complain because they did lots of things in Jesus’ name – but his response to them is this: “Get away from me – I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). Just because someone knows a lot about Jesus doesn’t mean that He knows them. And it’s the latter that counts more.
How does a follower of Jesus stand out from the crowd? Jesus gives us the criteria himself. He says it’s the one who is doing the will of the Father (verse 21). He also says that answering the call to be one of his followers means stepping into the service of the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62). As I said in the sermon, Jesus wasn’t looking to draw a crowd – he was looking for disciples. His expectations were high. Discipleship is costly, urgent and mission-focused. Let’s make sure we’re not merely bystanders to the Kingdom of God – but rather active participants. Let’s be true followers of Jesus – in the deepest sense of the word.