Jesus’ ministry was abuzz with rumors, questions and “office water cooler” talk. He was famous throughout Israel. It would seem that people were not really quite sure what to think about this commoner who taught with authority and worked miracles. Who was this man?
Jesus asked his disciples about what others were saying about Him:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14)
I can imagine all the stories that the disciples heard that were going around Galilee. People were talking and I am sure that the disciples were hearing the different things that were being said. This scripture makes that clear. I am sure the disciples even had their own opinions and questions about who Jesus really was.
Jesus takes things one step further by asking the disciples another question: “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
It’s interesting to me that Jesus wanted to know what the disciples were hearing about who He was. It’s so easy to get carried away with the latest gossip or the latest celebrity buzz. I am sure it was that way in the time of the disciples. I am sure that all that they were hearing from others, coupled with the things they heard Jesus say and seeing the things He did was enough to really bewilder them. I am sure that they didn’t know what to make of Jesus. In one particular instance, Jesus calms the storm and the troubled sea whereby the disciples proclaimed, “Who is this man?” (Mark 4:41).
More importantly, Jesus wanted to know what they thought about Him. Now, Jesus didn’t have an identity issue here. I believe he wanted to know if the disciples were “getting it” about him. As human beings, we have the disposition to believe the first thing we hear. Did the disciples believe the crowd? Did they belief Jesus? Did they belief their own ideas? Were they really beginning to believe that Jesus was sent from God and that He truly was the One?
Peter answers Jesus’ question: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16)
Jesus then responds back a blessing over Peter: And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)
Peter had gotten it. He was tuning in to the frequency of the Father. He was being spiritually perceptive. He was getting the message and he proclaimed it.
Why is this important though? We must ask ourselves the very same question. Who do we say that Jesus is? The importance to this question lies in the fact that how we see Jesus is how we will relate to him. It will ultimately determine how we will live our lives.
If we see him as the Lord of all, sent from God then we will live our lives in accordance to his lordship. If we just see him as the savior only, then we will not surrender our lives to his lordship; we will only come to him to cleanse us from sins. He is not just the savior, he is the Lord!
How we see Jesus is how we will relate to Jesus.
As a one who identifies myself as a Christian, I am declaring that I am a follower of Jesus. That was Jesus’ invitation: to come follow me. I see him as one that I need to follow.
In most churches today, or in most evangelism programs, the central question being asked deals with where you will spend eternity when you die. A very common question is: do you know if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? The idea is to get people to realize that without Jesus in their hearts (another misnomer) they will go to hell. Hell is hot; it’s bad; it’s not where you want to spend eternity. So goes the rhetoric. Of course people don’t want to go to the bad place, so they ‘get saved’ and are then told they are now officially on their way to heaven. This has gotten many people to become Christians. However, this is not the invitation Jesus gives.
Jesus invitation is very simple: Come follow me. There is no mention of heaven, no mention of rewards in the afterlife in the invitation. Now, please let me clarify what I believe. I do believe in heaven. I do believe that followers of Jesus will spend eternity with him in heaven (wherever that might be). I also believe that there are eternal rewards for serving the Lord.
But that’s not the primary reason for becoming a Christian. The primary reason for becoming a Christian is so that you can follow Jesus the Lord!
I am not planning on dying anytime soon so heaven for me is not much of an issue. I want to go there someday but not today, or tomorrow or the next couple of decades. So, since I am planning on being around on the earth for a while I must have another purpose in being a Christian. It’s to follow Jesus on a daily basis.
Let’s look at some of his invitations to people.
- As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:15-17)
- But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matt. 8:22)
- And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. (Matt. 10:38)
- “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. (Matt. 19:21-22)
- Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)
- Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good- bye to those at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)
- My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:27-28)
- If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26)
- “If I want him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” (John 21:22)
Jesus puts a lot of emphasis on following Him. Notice that He doesn’t mention heaven when getting people to follow Him. He just simply says, “follow me.” It’s a daily adventure. He didn’t tell them, “follow me and when you die you will go to heaven.” No, it’s all about living! It’s all about living for him on a daily basis by following him wherever he may lead you.
Now you and I have 2000 years of church history, countless numbers of books, sermons and articles to help understand what it means to follow Christ. These first century folks didn’t know what they were getting into. What an adventure!
But do we really know what we are getting into in following Christ? I’ve been following Jesus now for over 30 years and I can tell you that it’s not been what I thought it would be.
Just when I think I have it figured out and I’ve made my plans, He comes along and changes those plans and turns things around 360 degrees. Believe me, it’s happened numerous times. He wants us to follow Him on a daily basis. That’s the invitation . . . follow Jesus.
So the next time you are sharing your story with someone and you want to ask them if they are interested in becoming a Christian, don’t promise them heaven. Invite them into this adventure of following Jesus on a daily basis. Following Jesus is the invitation!
Lord Jesus, I want to follow you in every area of my life. I don’t want to focus on a particular destination. I want you to be the Lord of my life and I want to be your faithful follower. Help me this week to follow you wherever you may lead me. Help me to stay focused on you and you alone. Help me to seek your guidance, wisdom and grace as you lead me through the week. I commit my life to you.