Summary: Jesus called disciples to follow him. What did he really mean by "follow me"? Luke 9 gives us some insight.
Martin Luther once said, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” (from Philip Gunther’s intro.) What does Jesus mean when he says, “Follow me”? We need to ask ourselves, am I just tagging along or truly following Jesus?
When Jesus says to us, “Follow me,” we need to see where he’s going. Because following Jesus includes going down the same path and to the same place while practicing the same attitudes and actions that he does.
Luke’s gospel makes a turn here at chapter 9. It is an important transition in Jesus’ ministry that marks a major milestone of the beginning of the end of his earthly life. From this point on, Jesus is heading for Jerusalem and he knows exactly what awaits him there. Jesus knows why he came and what he is up against. He knows that this journey will lead him into conflict and suffering. He will face abandonment of his disciples and betrayal by Judas Iscariot. He will be arrested on trumped up charges and be falsely accused by the very Jewish leaders that are supposed to teach and practice the Law of God, yet they miserably broke it as they piously put Jesus to death. Jesus knows what is coming. He knows it full well.
Look with me at a few passages in Luke 9 that tell us this and remind us that Jesus willingly went to the cross, obedient to his Father’s will. Jesus was following his Father’s will, and along the way he calls others to follow him too. He also teaches his own disciples and us what following him is all about.
Look at 18-26. Is there any doubt here that Jesus knows what he will face? Did you notice what Jesus expects of those who follow him? This definition sets the course of the rest of this gospel. Jesus describes a radical calling here. So radical, so self-sacrificial, we want to turn away from it. Do we dare answer this call?
Look at 28-31. What did Moses and Elijah discuss with Jesus here? This is followed up by God’s confirmation of Jesus as the one we must listen to: 32-35. Wow! Above Moses and Elijah, God is saying, “This is My Son, listen to Him!” God is confirming not only that Jesus must go to Jerusalem to die, but also this: When Jesus calls us to follow him, we must listen and do it, no matter what!
Next in Luke 9 Jesus heals a demon possessed boy and as everyone is amazed at this he turns to his disciples and says this: 44. Don’t get so impressed with what just happened that you forget where I’m going and what’s going to happen to me. Following Jesus is not about making big impressions on people through powerful works of wonder. That may happen, but that’s not the point.
After this the disciples have an argument about who among them is the greatest. Typical! Are they listening to Jesus? Are they getting the point? Is his message getting through to them? Seeking greatness is not what it means to follow Jesus.
Then John pipes up and tells Jesus that they saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but we tried to stop him, because he doesn’t follow with us. What does Jesus say in return? 50. Jesus isn’t building a campaign. His disciples are not to spend their time shooting down others that are doing good things in Jesus’ name, but not joining their following. This is a distraction at best, and destructive at worst. Trying to stop others who aren’t with us who are doing good things in the name of Jesus is not what it means to follow Jesus!
Then look at verse 51. The days are drawing near for Jesus. Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem. The Samaritans reject Jesus because of this. Interesting. Luke’s gospel is the one that tells more positive stories about Samaritans than any other, yet here we see their prejudice coming out against Jesus because he is heading to Jerusalem. The Samaritan rejection made James and John upset! They were mad! Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and burn them up! Oooooh! Youuuuuu! Samaritans!
Jesus rebukes them! Retaliating against those who reject you is not what it means to follow Jesus!
And now we come to the very last part of the chapter. This last part is very concentrated. It is all about following Jesus. Two people tell Jesus that they will follow him and one person Jesus calls and says to him, “Follow me.” These three cases reveal the radical commitment following Jesus entails.
57-58. This first guy is obviously impressed with Jesus. Perhaps he has seen Jesus feed the 5000, or heal the demon possessed boy. What he sees he likes so he says to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go!” Now think about those words. Isn’t this a good commitment? You know, Peter told Jesus the same thing on the night he was betrayed. Peter stood their right with Jesus after Jesus told him that by morning Peter would deny him three times. Peter stood there and said, “Never! I will die with you! I will never deny you!” Those were his words to Jesus. That was his promise to Jesus. He said, “I will never deny you!” But he did.