With the advent of Twitter, “follow me” has become a ubiquitous phrase, but those of us who spend any sort of regular time in the Church are already familiar with this powerful two word sentence.
Since the preacher has the authority to expand the readings as necessary, I am very much considering taking the Gospel appointed for Sunday and stretching it from John 1.43-51 to John 1.35-51. It just makes sense to have the whole story of Jesus’ first disciples. If you skip 35-42, you miss John the Baptist telling his disciples, “here is the Lamb of God!” Which, to my mind, gets the whole narrative rolling.
You also miss the great evolution the word “follow” in John 1.
John 1.37 – “The two disciples [of John] heard him say this and they followed Jesus.”
Following Jesus starts with literally following him – walking behind him on his journey.
John 1.40 – “One of the two who heard John speak an followed [Jesus] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
Andrew and the unnamed disciple followed Jesus to the place where he was staying and then hung around until four o’clock in the afternoon. Following Jesus continues with abiding with him, sitting at his feet, listening, learning, growing.
John 1.43 – “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Sometimes following Jesus comes by direct invitation. We find elsewhere that this call demands an immediate response, but I think even those who fall short can take the path of 1.37.
John 21.19 – “And after this he said to him, ‘Follow me.'”
After his resurrection, Jesus and Peter have a bit of a “come to Jesus” conversation, during which, Jesus calls Peter to follow him not as rabbi and student, but all the way to the cross. Following Jesus requires a high cost no matter how you find him.
In my life, I’ve followed Jesus from afar, I’ve followed Jesus as disciple, I’ve followed Jesus to points of extreme discomfort, and back again. The journey is ever-changing, but the call is always the same, “follow me.”