Follow The Leader by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche. 2023.
Author: A Little Faith Lift…Finding Joy Beyond Rejection
AWSA (Advanced Writers & Speakers Assoc.)

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you taller, nicer, richer, more popular, more creative, less wrinkly.”  If you know scripture, you know that’s not how Matthew 4:16-17 reads.  Jesus is choosing his disciples, and when he sees Simon and his brother Andrew fishing, he tells them to follow him and ends with “and I will make you fishers of men.” And here’s the cool part.  Immediately, they put down their nets and followed Jesus.

Just down the shore there was a boat. In it was a man, Zebedee, with his two sons, James and John. They had finished fishing and were mending their nets. Jesus called out to James and John, and they too, stopped what they were doing and followed Jesus.

Immediately.  Not after they ran home to explain to their wives that fishing would no longer be their #1 profession and they had no idea how they would support their family.  Not after they asked their friends’ advice on the prospects of following a complete stranger.  Not after they skinned and fileted the fish they already had caught.  Not after Jesus explained to them how this “fishers of men” profession would play out.  Nope.  None of that.                                         Immediately.

Yesterday, here at the lake, I watched from my deck as two fishermen patiently trolled in their boat near our dock.  I could hear them discussing the fish they hopefully would catch as well as the bait needed to be successful.  They were in no hurry.  If it took all day, so be it, and if today wasn’t the jackpot, there was always tomorrow.  It’s no wonder Jesus chose fishermen to be in his inner circle.  They inherently had characteristics necessary to share his way with others: patience, dedication, determination, focus and willingness to learn.

Jesus saw these men not as they were (dirty, smelly, uneducated) but as what he could turn them into (disciples who would give up everything to follow the Messiah).  Jesus wants to do the same for us.  But first, we have to choose to follow, to sacrifice what we consider important, to change our goals, before he can make us fishers of men.

Those future disciples had no idea how much their decision to follow Jesus would change the world.  The Bible is filled with how their imperfections, fears and inabilities were made perfect, fearless and capable, following Jesus’ resurrection.  Until then, they just followed…and sometimes, not well.  They listened as Jesus preached yet failed him when he needed them most at his crucifixion. They questioned what honors they would get in Heaven and panicked when Jesus asked them to use their faith to feed the crowds.  Still, except for the betrayer Judas, they all followed, and because of that, the Church was born.

Somehow the Church has done a great job of making Jesus-believers, but a horrible job of making Jesus-followers, people who sacrifice much (all!) to demonstrate their love for him.  In Jesus’ day, crowds too “followed” him, some to be healed, some out of curiosity, some because they hated him, and some because they believed in the faith about which he spoke.  There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to make a very personal decision to follow Christ, even though in this world of “every man for him/herself,” to follow Jesus, to be conformed to his image by growing in holiness, can be a lonely place.

Jesus has extended the invitation.  How shall we respond?

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