“Come, follow me.” This was all Jesus said and they dropped what they were doing and followed Him. Wow! Each time I read that I am amazed. What would make these men leave their families and their livelihood to follow this man Jesus around the countryside? He doesn’t give them a time frame as to how long they will be “following Him,” so maybe they think they are just taking a few hours off to go and follow this man to see what He is going to do or say?
As they follow Jesus they soon realize what it is He is preaching and teaching. They hear his call to “Change your hearts and lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They watch as he heals every disease and sickness among the people. How captivating this must have been! We know that the disciples continue to follow Jesus throughout His ministry, to His death and resurrection. It is after His resurrection that the reality of what “following Him” truly meant. As He left them for the last time, He told them, (forgive the paraphrase) “go now in my name and do as I did – call people to repent – tell them the Good News of salvation through me – love them – carry on My ministry.”
Jesus called a group of everyday men to follow Him. They followed but let’s face it, these were some very human men. When Jesus was with them, they bickered about who would be first and last, they struggled to stay focused on Jesus, and they had a hard time understanding everything He said and did. Now, they are on their own to make this ministry work.
Peter takes over as the leader and they go out into the world around them to tell the story of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Most of the disciples are martyred and so the ministry is handed on to the “next generation of followers.” Each one though goes forth with the same story and with the same message of salvation…or at least we believe they did.
Our reading from 1 Corinthians though opens our eyes to a new reality. Not that the message changed but, just as the disciples had bickered when Jesus was with them, the believers soon start to bicker amongst themselves. Some claim to “belong to Paul”, others claim to “belong to Apollos”, others “to Cephas” and of course you have the many who heard the message from Paul. Somewhere along the line the people became followers not of Christ but of the men who shared the message. This was bringing about divisions that were never meant to be.
Isn’t it just like humans to take something holy and absolutely amazing and turn it into an ordinary earthly matter? The people were focusing on the messengers and not the message. The divisions were turned into rivalries and quarrels among the people. Did something change in how people were sharing the message of Jesus? Were they preaching more about themselves than Christ? No, not according to scripture:
Apollos (Acts 18:24-28)
24 A Jewish man named Apollos came to Ephesus. Apollos had been born in the city of Alexandria. He was a very good speaker and knew a lot about the Scriptures. 25 He also knew much about the Lord’s Way,[a] and he spoke about it with great excitement. What he taught about Jesus was right, but all he knew was John’s message about baptism.
26 Apollos started speaking bravely in the Jewish meeting place. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him to their home and helped him understand God’s Way even better.
27 Apollos decided to travel through Achaia. So the Lord’s followers wrote letters, encouraging the followers there to welcome him. After Apollos arrived in Achaia, he was a great help to everyone who had put their faith in the Lord Jesus because of God’s kindness. 28 He got into fierce arguments with the Jewish people, and in public he used the Scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Messiah
Cephas (aka Peter John 1:42) Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”
Paul himself says he is glad he didn’t baptize any of them so no one can say they were baptized in Paul’s name.
No, these men had not preached anything but Christ but the people are separating themselves by using their names. Separatism was a common problem in Corinth but it was normally based on political or social status. They were continuing to divide themselves by claiming Christianity in the name of the one who taught them. The people didn’t seem to understand the concept of being unified by the message itself. Paul asks them point blank, “Is Christ divided?” The message of Christ is one message for all…the message of the cross…. Salvation is for all who are perishing and who want to be saved. The power of Christ is not to be divided
This message to the church at Corinth is nothing we can understand is it? I mean can imagine anyone leaving a church to follow a minister to another church? Or would anyone ever leave a church because they didn’t like the Pastor? Never….right…?
Unfortunately this still happens today. People call themselves Christians and yet attend church because they like the minister or don’t attend because they don’t like the minister.
This also shows up in the many different denominations we see in our community and around the world. The Baptists believe Jesus wanted only adults baptized. Catholics believe in the need to confess to the priests. Pentecostals believe if you can’t speak in tongues you are not saved.
Wait! Do you see and hear the divisions raking up!! Jesus called the 12 disciples to “follow me.” Jesus didn’t say to them, “You go this way and teach this and you head this way and teach this.” NO, Jesus called them, and calls all of us, to follow Him, share the message of Love, grace, mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ!
As Christians today we have the same message to share. We are to be in a united ministry of showing love to everyone. Just like Jesus we can show love and yet speak of the need to repent and understand that God’s grace and mercy are greater than any sin.
When we tell the stories of Jesus we speak of all those, like Zacchaeus, the adulteress woman, and even Peter the focus is on how Jesus offered forgiveness and new life when they repented and turned toward Him.
Does everyone want to hear about repentance that leads to forgiveness? No, there are many that want to follow Jesus but they do not want to change their ways. Jesus came across these people and dealt with them.
Matthew 18 tells us of the Rich Man who wanted to know what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
There is also the story of those who could not accept Jesus teaching and turned back. John 6:63-66 records Jesus talking to his followers: The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
As Christians we have decided to follow Jesus. We know what is required, repentance and acceptance of Jesus as our Savior. We are His followers not followers of an earthly person called to also follow his example and teaching. Thus as we follow Jesus we are to love for and with and like Jesus. It is in the unity of Christ that we share this message.
I’m not a political speakers, I refuse to take a stand either way, but while I listened to the president’s inaugural speech I did not steal it, he spoke of unity and how we need to be united. I found it interesting he spoke of an entire nation being united and here we are talking about Christians’ being united in one message. Being united in the message of Jesus Christ and to follow HIM.
Who do we follow? Who do you follow? I hope its not me, I hope it’s the message of Jesus Christ.