One of my favorite ways to discover scripture is by going to crosswalk.com, typing a word or two into the Bible search engine, and looking at all of the verses that use those words. I find it useful in so many ways. For one, it really reminds you to always search the meaning of the words you read, as every word carries a wide range of meaning (ex: run: to move at a speed faster than a walk; an attempt to move a runner in baseball to the next base; to fail to stop at a red light; etc.). When I see God apply the different meanings of a word, it gives me pause to always consider how often I have misunderstood what He was trying to say to me because I was bringing in a certain meaning to a word without question. It is shocking how often this has been true. I digress, I didn't intend to write any of that. What I was intending to share was what I found when I typed in the words, "Follow me". In the New American Standard Bible, there are thirty-two verses that came up. What I focused in on was all the times Jesus said these words to specific people. Here are some of them:
Matthew 4:18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea ; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets ; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Luke 5: 27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 59 And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 60 But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead ; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." 61 Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord ; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." 62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack ; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven ; and come, follow Me."
All week my heart has been burdened, just as one who misses a loved one far away, to be near Christ. Just as someone who misses, my burden comes from the glaring distance between myself and God. Yes, my salvation is secure, nothing can separate us (Romans 8:35-39). Yet, my knowledge and intimacy with Him is not. Some will throw crowns down at Christ's feet, others will enter, (1 Corinthians 5:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident ; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss ; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.)
I want to bask in the only true joy, early and often. So, as I read these verses, it is... eye opening... to say the least. I look at how the first disciples responded. They were called. They responded, immediately. Contrast that with the young man who in Luke chapter nine, verse sixty one. (I had to read the commentary for this to be shown to me) He is not called, but instead approaches Jesus saying, I will follow you... BUT. There it is, all of that build up and bad writing and editing to come to this one thing... the BUT. This man has a divided heart. At first Jesus just sounds harsh, as if His desire for us is to, upon reading this verse, run out of the house without saying a word to anyone, run to China, (yeah, I said run, what you don't have enough faith for that?), and preach the gospel until you die, no sleep aloud. Sleep is for doubters. (insert cliche record needle scratch)
Jesus' ability to discern men's hearts, of course surpasses ours. This man had a divided heart. He was not all in. The response that Jesus gives about turning from the plow is one that needs to context, as I have never plowed a field in this manner. Apparently, it used to take an enormous amount of focus to till the ground properly. If you looked about, your rows would sway and your harvest would be less effective. Jesus at one point tells us in Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." This is one of those prime examples of needing to understand the context and meaning of what is said. As a child, this used to boggle my mind. On one hand God tells me to love everyone, then He tells me on the other to hate my parents. It wasn't until I studied a bit of greek a few years ago that I came to understand that, not only do we contend with the various meanings of words, we contend with the awkwardness of translation (if you have studied another language you already have experienced this.) We also contend with different cultural uses of words. (I thought about how, if somehow the line of written history was broken a bit, thousands of years from now historians might tell their students that we ancients believed that computers were indeed living things, as when they turned off involuntarily, we used the word "died") The word hate, at that time could be used in a way we don't, to draw contrast in our decisions. Simply put, the definition of the word here is "to show favor". In other words? We are supposed to favor God over everyone and everything else, even family. I was reading an excerpt from the book, "Heaven" the other day, and there was a quote by a missionary, and I don't have in front of me, but to paraphrase, she was asked how she was able to be so far away from her family. She responded by saying that it was very hard to be apart from them, but that she would have an eternity to spend with them, and that there was kingdom work to be done right now. (Head explodes from coolness) Such a perspective. All week long I have been praying about this, and been asking God to make me such a man, that I would be willing to obey God's call no matter what. I wonder how many excuses I buy into in order to not do it. "When I have more money I can... Somebody has to be a banker... There's nothing wrong with being rich..." Whatever. What I know is that the men we are to emulate most lived harsh lives. I am not going to be acetic and look for such things, that is stupid. Simply, I don't want to run from them, if God's call bids me meet them head on. Anyhow, that was long. Those are just some of my thoughts.
By the way, I always get this uptight feeling as write these things, because I feel it doesn't truly represent the whole of who I am. It might give an air that I am really "with it" or something, and that I am one of those people who makes you cringe after reading their stuff because they sound so blasted "spiritual". This is just a very focused excerpt of myself, one that has been thought out carefullyish and edited. Just be in the same room with me as I play XBox and you will see that I am very much pathetic like everyone else. I don't want any pretense surrounding this or anything else I write or say. I mean what I said above, but just understand that I struggle like crazy. Probably didn't need to say that. I doubt many of you think anything else. Just wanted to state it, just in case. Hopefully my comments and thoughts have been of some benefit to you. May God guide you in your searching of the scriptures. Feel free to comment or to me. I enjoy hearing from people. May we both not reserve anything from God. May we both grow in knowledge and understanding of the Gospel, which is that while we were still sinners, God sent His son, Jesus, down to die on the cross as payment for the debt of our sins.