You follow Jesus… really?

Recently at our Missional Mondays study I started a discussion beginning with Matthew 28:19-20, the now famously named Great Commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What is it that Jesus calls us to do? (and by implication to be)

Make (and be) disciples!

So what does it mean to be a disciple  of Jesus.  We decided that at a very basic and simple level (we could nuance it more finely but decided against the temptation to spend our time “defining our terms”)  one could define a disciple as a FOLLOWER OF JESUS.

Going where Jesus goes, doing what Jesus does, believing what Jesus does, carrying the message that Jesus does….

Using that as a springboard I decided over the next few weeks for us to read together a few stories of Jesus and ask ourselves two questions:

What do we see Jesus doing here?

Are we following him?

(Yes it is worth noting that just because we see Jesus doing it, it does not mean that we are called to do it  exactly the same thing- like turning water into wine, being the Saviour of the world etc.  Of course there are exceptions in the specific events but that must not stop us from exploring the obvious question – if Jesus calls us to be “followers”  where is He going that we are to follow him.  And asking ourselves of every story – what is Jesus calling us to do )

As it happened one of the stories (Mark 2:13-17) took on a life of its own:

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Some of the questions this story raised, and which we discussed were:

Who do we spend time with?

Who are the sick, the lost, the outcasts, the bad people in our community?

We recognised that when we do spend time with unbelievers – they are the respectable, the moral, the “good people

We spent some time thinking about the homosexual community, HIV suffers, gangsters (tsotsis), homeless – are these not the equivalent of the sinful, rejected, outcasts that Jesus eats with in Mark 2.

What would it mean to “eat at their house”?

What are the “good” people doing in this story?

We so often read the word Pharisee through the framework of our long history of Christendom, where the Pharisees are the bad guys who oppose Jesus.  But in first century Palestine if you read the word Pharisee – you understood good guy, respectable, upstanding community leader.  If your daughter wanted to marry a Pharisee you would be over the moon.  Today we would think the opposite but we must read the story through the eyes of the first century reader.

What is Jesus’ verdict on them?

What would “church” people say if we were hanging out with this kind of crowd?

We would be regarded as backsliding, ungodly or unholy.

How should this change how we think about holiness?

How is our normal pattern of evangelism to the “sinners in our city” contrasted to that of Jesus?

Shout at a distance – placards, letters to the newspapers vs eat at their house

What most struck us was the reality that the very thing that the church most often tells us not to do – associate ourselves with the sinful in our society because we need to remain holy – is the very thing that we see Jesus doing.  How has the church so managed to turn it upside down?  If we claim to follow Jesus but refuse to go where he goes, do we really follow Jesus or are we more like the Pharisees?

Why is the light always gathered with more light, making little difference, instead of shining in the darkness where it is most needed? (Matthew 5:14-16)


~ by John on September 13, 2009.

3 Responses to “You follow Jesus… really?”

  1. That’s a good study. The questions you’re asking always lead us in unexpected places. They are deep and hard. At the same time, if we don’t follow Jesus, seriously, and if we don’t take Jesus seriously, we’re left with the idols of ourselves.

  2. people are comfortable in their holy huddles and afraid “”real sinners”” will expose their own sin and the charade they live will crumble . They will have to change radically in order to truthfully live a life of grace where no one can expose them ,as they have nothing to be ashamed of

  3. Col, I’m not sure I completely agree I think most of what you say I think is rather caused by a misconception of holiness. We think to be holy means:
    a) keeping ourselves pure by keeping away from “worldly” influences that will make us impure
    b) that for Christians being holy means having it all together – i.e.without sin

    Both of these are based on a commonly taught misconception that it is me who has to be holy, without sin in order to commend the gospel. Surely the gospel ought to to make a real and significant difference in my living. But the reality is that I am always in danger of being exposed because I am always a sinner. In fact I think it fair to say that it is not a danger of if I will be exposed but when.

    I am unholy, and sinful. I will betray the gospel. I will not live consistently with the truth. But the gospel is not about my performance. And in fact when I am exposed it is at just that point hopefully that the gospel of grace and forgiveness to unworthy sinners such as myself shines brightest. At exactly the point that the gospel exposes me for who I am it also shows Jesus for who he is – the perfect, righteous and glorious one who justifies unworthy sinners like me.

    When we grasp this, two things happen:
    1) We are no longer scared of being exposed. I am constantly exposed, in order that Jesus’ glory may be seen not mine.
    2) We are face to face again with the mercy and grace of the perfect and righteous one who came to save unworthy sinners like me. If this is the God of grace who I follow, how can the love of that God not overflow from this sinner to other sinners

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