Summary: Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." He also said, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." So following him is vitally important. How is it done?
Note: I have prepared some simple slides the I used in delivering this sermon. If anyone is interested in them, send me an Email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words "Following Jesus slides" in the subject, and I'll send the PowerPoint file directly by Email.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Jesus treats following him--including bearing a cross--as a make-or-break proposition.
Luke 14:27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
A disciple is defined as a follower; an adherent to the doctrines (that is, the teachings) of the one followed.
A disciple, then, is dedicated to learning and accepting Christ’s teachings and commandments.
Jesus said if you do not carry your cross you cannot be a disciple; that is, you cannot follow him.
There are several allusions in the New Testament about following Jesus.
Those who follow Jesus:
Walk in the light.
John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Are known by name.
John 10:3-4 To him [the shepherd] the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Are honored by the Father.
John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Are counted in the 144,000.
Rev 14:4 (of the 144,000) “It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes...”
II. What does following Jesus mean?
I remember playing a childhood game “follow the leader.” The leader leads a line of followers (1 or more) through difficult places or maneuvers. Anyone who does not duplicate the leader’s course or actions is out of the game. The last follower in the game becomes the leader in the next game.
When Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” they left their nets and followed him for a lifetime.
To Levi (who we know as Matthew) Jesus said simply, “Follow me,” and he got up and left his tax collector’s booth and followed Jesus.
These and the rest of the twelve followed Jesus literally from place to place, observing, learning…following him.
But Jesus does not expect all of us to traverse the territories of Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Casearea Philippi, and Decapolis. His meaning in the scriptures we will examine today is something other than literal, mechanical actions.
Following Jesus is a lifelong vocation of adhering to his teachings and commands, and emulating his values, attitude, and actions.
III. “Following Jesus” is an analogy or metaphor, as it is when the Psalmist declares that we are God’s sheep.
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalms 100:3
Continuing the metaphor, the Good Shepherd says he knows his sheep.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
He not only knows his sheep, but he cares for them enough to go out in search of a lost one.
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' (Luke 15:4-6)
Sheep do get lost. They cannot exercise independent judgment about where they are going and how to get there.
What about “Other sheep”
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16)
Lots of people are curious about those “other sheep.” Who are they?