“…they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:11b
Who do you follow? The rise of social media has surely changed the way we think about this question.
A quick Google search tells me that, currently, Katy Perry has the most Twitter followers, Christiano Ronaldo from the Real Madrid soccer team has the most Facebook followers, and Selena Gomez has the most Instagram followers, followed closely by Taylor Swift.
Who do you follow? Do you follow celebrities? News outlets? Politicians? Athletes? Religious leaders? Family members? Friends? I know I do. And I spend more time than I’d like to admit checking up on the latest in my various news feeds. So why do we follow who we follow? Undoubtedly some of it is for entertainment or curiosity. But we also follow certain people because we relate to them or we are inspired by them or we feel we can learn from them.
All this talk about following makes me think of another person who invites us to follow him.
Early in his ministry when he was near a lake sharing about God with a pressing crowd, Jesus asked three fishermen ending their “shift” if he could sit in their boat away from the shore to preach. The fishermen must’ve been tired, but they said ok anyway. When Jesus was done preaching, he told the fisherman to let their nets down. Even though they had fished all night and not caught a single thing, they agreed. And wouldn’t you know it? They caught tons of fish. So many fish that their boat began to sink! The miracle was enough for these three men to leave fishing behind and become the first followers of a man they had only known for a few hours.
That’s amazing to me. Following someone today generally means clicking the “follow” or “like” button on social media and occasionally reposting something or donating money to a cause. For the three fishermen who encountered Jesus that day, it meant a lot more.
Would I have done the same thing if I was in the fishermen’s shoes? I’d like to think that I would. But I really don’t know, and that makes me sad.
One thing that comforts me is that the disciples had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They didn’t know that they would follow Jesus for the rest of their lives, that they would even follow him to his death, and, for many of them, to their own deaths. They probably just thought it would be a nice break from the monotony of living in a small fishing village and that they would be back home in a few weeks’ time.
Another thing that comforts me is the fact that Jesus didn’t load them down with requirements before they could follow him. He didn’t require that they believe he was the son of God. He didn’t require that they be perfectly holy or that they perform duties without question or that they know how to deliver a great speech. He just invited them to come with him in that moment. And they did.
I don’t know where following Jesus will take me. And that both excites and terrifies me. I don’t know about the highs and lows that I’ll experience, the sacrifices I’ll be asked to make, the strength I’ll discover. I just know that, in this moment, Jesus is inviting me to step out of my familiar, self-sufficient, little boat and follow him.
That’s really what this whole blog is about. This is a space for me to grapple with what it means to be a follower. To examine what following looks like and feels like. To think about the ways it’s hard and the ways it’s awesome. To be honest about the times I succeed and the times I fail. Maybe these are questions you’re asking, too. Thankfully, following someone means we’re never alone. Thank you for joining me in this moment.
If we are to be a follower, what other distractions might we need to unfollow? What’s one thing you can do today to step out of your boat?
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic and hearing other insights about the passage I summarized, Andy Stanley, a pastor at an Atlanta-based group of churches has a great sermon series called “Follow” that you should check out!