The Trumpet Sounds: Following Jesus

By Barry Pettit - Religion Columnist

Someone once said that what Jesus wants is followers, not admirers. He’s right. To admire Jesus without trying to change our lives does nothing for Jesus or for us. Yet how exactly does one follow Jesus? A negative example might be useful here: The late 1960s saw the flowering of the “Jesus people” with their rather raw, literal approach to following Jesus. They tried to look like he looked. They put on flowing white robes, grew beards, walked barefoot, and tried, in appearance and dress, to imitate the Jesus that centuries of Western artists painted for us.

Obviously this kind of thing is not what discipleship means, not only because we don’t know what Jesus looked like (although we do know that he was not the fair-skinned, fair-haired young man of Western art), but, more important, because attempts to mimic Jesus’ physical appearance miss the point of discipleship entirely.

In John 6:26 Jesus replied, “The truth is, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign.” To what miraculous sign was Jesus referring when He spoke these words? The feeding of more than 5,000 men, women, and children. He’d taken a little boy’s offering—five barley loaves and two fish— broken the food, blessed it, and then fed the masses. Everyone stuffed their tummies, and 12 baskets of leftovers remained. The crowds were amazed and exclaimed, “Surely, He is the prophet we’ve been expecting!”

The same crowds gathered on the shore the next morning to wait for Jesus. When He arrived, He wasted no time exposing their reason for being there. Their motive, He said, was merely to satisfy their physical appetite—they were hungry again and wanted Him to provide breakfast. Their spiritual appetite—their desire to be with Him simply because of who He was—sorely lacked.

I wonder if Jesus felt used, like a lottery winner suddenly surrounded by new “friends” hoping to benefit from His wealth and generosity but not truly interested in having an honest-to-goodness relationship. And I wonder what Jesus would say to you and me individually if we were part of that crowd.

What does it look like to “Follow Jesus?” Do we want a relationship with Jesus because we hope He’ll give us a coveted position at work, restore our marriage, or heal a loved one? Do we regard Him as our personal genie in a bottle Whose purpose is to grant our whims and wishes? Or do we follow Him because we truly believe He’s the Son of God and long for intimacy with Him? What would Jesus say to us about our reason for following Him?

Read this sentence and then fill in the blank: I follow Jesus because ____________________. Ask Him to give you an unquenchable desire for intimacy with Him. This Sunday at South Side we will continue our series “Following Jesus” at 10:45. Our topic will be “Spiritual Priorities.” We would love to see you there as we all seek to Follow Jesus!

In Christ,

Barry Pettit

Lead Minister

South Side Church of Christ

By Barry Pettit

Religion Columnist