Summary: What does it mean to follow Jesus, the light of the world?
John tells us that Jesus spoke these words during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2). On the evening of the first day, there was a ceremony called the “Illumination of the Temple” which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge menorahs/candelabras (seventy-five feet high) lighted in the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. All night long the light shone their brilliance, it is said, illuminating the entire city.
In celebration and anticipation, the holiest of Israel's men danced and sang psalms of joy and praise, before the Lord. This festival was a reminder that God had promised to send a light, the Light, to a sin-darkened world.
So it was that Jesus declared Himself to be the Messiah. And in pronouncing Himself to be the light of the world, He promised that whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the “light of life.”
He lets us know that just like a flower needs the presence of the sun in order to blossom; we need the presence of the Son in order to blossom. It is only as we follow Christ that our lives will be filled with the sense of purpose and significance that we seek.
Which brings us to a consideration of what it means to follow Jesus. The Greek word here is “akolouthein,” and as we consider the different, yet connected uses of this Greek word, we can more fully understand what it means to follow Jesus in such a way as to make sure our lives blossom in the way God intends for them to.
To follow Jesus means . . .
1. To obey the commands of Christ.
The word, “akolouthein,” was used to refer to a soldier who followed His captain. In Hebrews 2:10, we are told that Jesus is “the captain of our salvation.” How are we to obey our Captain?
A. By obeying the Gospel - 1 Peter 4:17
B. By indentifying with Him through baptism.
C. By learning to live an obedient life.
Each of these is expressed in what we commonly call the “marching orders of the church,” the Great Commission.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” - Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)
2. To give allegiance to the person of Christ.
The word, “akolouthein,” was also used with reference to a slave dutifully accompanying his master.
In the same way, in following Jesus, we must be willing to dutifully serve at His pleasure where ever He calls. When it comes to service within Christ’s kingdom, there is only one person whose approval matters - our Master.
“Where shall I work today, dear Lord?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
He answered and said,
“See that little place?
Tend that place for Me.”
I answered and said, “Oh no, not there!
Why, no one would ever see.
No matter how well my work was done,
In that little place for me!”
His voice, when He spoke, was soft and kind,
He answered me tenderly,
“Little one, search that heart of thine,
Are you working for them or Me?
Nazareth was a little place … So was Galilee.”
3. To abide by the guidance of Christ.
The word, “akolouthein,” was used to speak of one accepting the advice of a counselor.
As mentioned earlier, the “Illumination of the Temple” ceremony was designed to remind the Israelites how God guided them with a pillar of fire in their wilderness journey. So it is that Jesus is telling us that if we are going to navigate in this dark world, we need to look to Him.
The Lord guided the Israelites in the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day that appeared as a pillar of fire by night. When the pillar moved, they moved. If they didn’t move, the people didn’t move.
Likewise, our Lord tells us, we cannot afford to make a move without consulting Him. We must learn to depend upon Him for all things and in all things.
How dependent are you on the guidance of Christ? Your dependence on Christ’s guidance can be revealed in the answer to one question - What do you pray about?
Oh, how we need to admit that apart from the Lord’s guidance in our lives, we are condemned to wander in the wilderness!
Commentary on Numbers 9:15-23 by Kevin Griggs
God guides us as we stay close to Him. The cloud that led the Israelites was not simply a symbol – the cloud was God’s presence. When the cloud moved, if the people did not follow along with it they would be separated from God.