Summary: Following Jesus can be tough in a sinful world. This sermon looks through the Bible to examine those who followed well and those who didn't and ends with 3 ways that we can follow better.
OPENING AND INTRODUCTION
Over the past few weeks, we’ve spent some time looking at what love does. Tonight, we’re going to finish up our sermon series with the final sermon on Following Jesus.
As Christians, we may think of ourselves as following Jesus. But let’s be honest. We don’t always follow Him the way we should.
Tonight, I’d like to look at what following Jesus looks like. We’ll look at a few stories from the Bible that show what Jesus’ definition of following Him was, the obstacles that many of us face as we try to follow.
Our story from our message this evening is recorded in three of the Gospels. So, I’m going to expand on it a little bit and take a closer look at what the first disciples experienced.
Prior to our message, a series of event unfolded and it started with Peter deciding to go fishing and some of his friends came along. They fished all night and caught nothing. What a disappointing way to use an evening. When they were finished, they took the nets out of the boat and began to clean them in preparation for the next time.
While the fishermen were busy preparing for another day, Jesus shows up with a crowd of people, and He finds Peter’s boat unused. He gets in the boat, then asks to put out a little way from land. Peter does what our Lord asked, and Jesus sits down in the boat and begins to teach the crowd on shore. Once Jesus finishes speaking, He tells Peter to let the nets down.
Peter is an experienced fisherman who probably learned this skill from his father, and had likely been doing this most, if not all, of his life, and probably wonders “What does this teacher know about fishing?” Peter objects a bit, but eventually follows the crazy directions. Luke records that they gathered so many fish that the boat began to sink and they had to call over another boat to gather all of the fish.
The experienced fishermen are amazed and a bit perplexed that a man seemingly unexperienced with fishing could lead them to such a large catch.
Its then that Jesus tells brothers Peter & Andrew, and brothers James and John to follow Him. He expected them to follow without reservation. He told them to follow now… and they did.
We’re told that Peter and Andrew left their nets behind, but the language is a bit different for James and John. These two were probably a bit better off then the first two. They left not just nets, but their boat and their father behind. Can you imagine just dropping everything you’re doing, and leave it all behind to follow this guy that knows where to throw a net? They left their livelihood and their family.
Then there’s another story about a different disciple, a tax collector called Levi, but usually known to us as Matthew. Mark wrote:
Jesus went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. (Mark 2:13-14, ESV)
Matthew left his counting table behind, walked away from his job and his income, and walked into the unknown behind Jesus. Matthew didn’t know what the future held for him. But, he was willing to take the step to see where this rabbi would lead him.
Two pairs of fishermen and a tax collector. Each of these men knew that crowds of people were following this man Jesus. They probably heard some of His words of wisdom, but that didn’t necessarily translate into faith. They didn’t have much understanding yet. But they walked behind Jesus, just the same.
Not everyone followed Jesus so willingly. Luke tells a story of a rich man who asks Jesus what does he have to do to get eternal life. He’s obeyed the commandments, honored his parents, and led a good, clean life.
Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:22-23, ESV)
This wealthy man was interested in following Jesus, but only if it was on His terms. Jesus can see into everyone’s heart and this man was no exception.
Many rich men are recorded in the Bible, including famous figures like Abraham and Job. They owned significant property and God didn’t tell them they had to give it all up.