Follow Me

May 5, 2019

Summary

Have you ever been at loose ends?  Meaning, have you ever not known what to do?  Now I don’t mean for a moment, or for a day.  I am not speaking of momentary boredom here, but rather have you ever not know what to do with your life?

I have.  This was not me simply wondering about my future either.  That was a consistent theme through my childhood and university years, important ponderings, yet still different from the situation of which I am speaking.  That of which I am speaking is a situation in life where one needs to ask the concrete question that demands a real answer.  “What do I do now?”

For me that time in my life was the late autumn of 1993.

I had graduated from university that previous spring and had kept busy for the following months. That summer I had spent working at a Christian camp as a wilderness guide.  Then at the end of the summer my mother had had a major surgery on her inner ear, right next to the brain and so needed daily help during her recovery.  I had been able to provide that help since I was done with my studies and was not into a career yet.

So it was that as that November passed and my mother prepared to return to work I started to ask myself, “What’s next?  What do I do now?”

Frankly, I was not sure.  Up to that point in my life I had always had the direction that my schooling had provided.  From the age of five right on up through that previous spring I had always known what was next, another grade, another class, another graduation.  Yet, at that point at least, my schooling was done.  I had a bachelor’s degree and numerous options before me, but no clear direction.  I was at “loose ends.”  I had any number of paths to take.  That which had provided me direction, endless schooling, was gone.  This big question sat before me, unanswered, “What do I do now?”

In today’s gospel reading I think Peter, and the other disciples found themselves at the same sort of cross-roads.

They had been depending upon Jesus for their life’s direction for the previous three years, they had simply needed to follow him, which they had.  Life had not necessarily been easy, but they had not needed to make any big life-decisions either.  Jesus preached, they listened.  Jesus taught, they learned.  Jesus performed miracles, they stood in awe.  Jesus walked down a road, they followed in his footprints.  Jesus died, they grieved.  Jesus rose to new life, their mouths fell open…and they were not sure what to do next.

Remember, Jesus came to them that first Easter day, and again, with Thomas present a week later, but then they didn’t see him for a while, a few weeks we think.  It seems that they had hung around in Jerusalem waiting for him to show up again, but when he didn’t they had to start wrestling with the question of what to do next.  In Jesus’ absence, and without clear instructions the disciples asked the big question, “What do we do now?”

As Jesus’ disciples though they might not have known exactly where he was leading them and to what exact end, he was their Rabbi, he was, at least they were starting to believe, the promised Messiah and so they followed him, figuring he would direct them in their life’s purpose.  Yet now, that direction and so that life’s purpose was gone.  Jesus wasn’t there to point the way.

We can gather from the beginning of this morning’s reading that the answer for some of them was to go home.  For Peter, Andrew, James, John and Nathanael that meant Galilee.  Either Thomas and the others were from there too, or they just followed their friends North.

They did not simply return home though, but as they also needed to eat, they went back to work, they went fishing.

Their fishing though was not any more fruitful than their question asking, for they ended the night with empty nets.  How fitting that must have felt for them at that time.  Even their fishing nets weren’t providing direction, nor the answer of what to do with their lives.

Thankfully they were provided direction the following morning, specific directions at that, and all their needs began to be met!

The shadowy figure upon the beach who they soon realized was their dearly missed Messiah not only tells them where the fish are, but already has a hot breakfast ready for them to eat.  Then after eating, Jesus singles out Peter and not only forgives him for each of his denials, but in forgiving Peter gives him his purpose for life.

When Jesus tells Peter to, “Feed his lambs and tend his sheep” he commissions him to love and care for Jesus’ followers, his church.  After prophesying about Peter’s earthly death, he closes their conversation with the same two words that started it all.  Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.”

In obeying that command throughout the rest of his life, Peter never needed to ask himself again, “What do I do now?”  Peter had his directions for life and though they were not always easy, they were simple…follow Jesus.

Interestingly enough, in my case twenty-six years ago, I realized that my call was the same as that of those disciples, the same as Peter’s.  As the autumn of 1993 became winter, I too heard, in my own way, Jesus say, “Follow me.”

That following February as a volunteer I traveled down into Mexico to live and work with churches there.  This was followed by time at a Bible school in California.  Then work with a global missions ministry for youth, eventually seminary and pastoral ministry in now four different churches.  Jesus’ call of, “Follow me.” hasn’t always been easy, by any means or measurement believe me, but his call has always been simple enough.  I just need to follow him every day.

Here’s the interesting part though, for you, as well as for me.  Once we come to understand and believe that Jesus does love each of us, no matter what, and very willingly forgives us of our sins when we give them over to him, and so gives us salvation.  What he says to each of us is always the same, “Follow me.”

It’s important that you understand this, and hear his simple call, the simple command that he gives to each of us.  Whether you are the Apostle Peter, me, or you, Jesus says, “Follow me.”

To follow him is our life’s calling.  To follow him is our life’s purpose.  To follow him is what makes us his disciples.

Following Jesus does not mean that we have it, “all together”, nor that we understand everything Jesus is telling us.  It also does not mean that we don’t have fears, or doubts, or are by any means perfect people, just forgiven.  Being Jesus’ disciple simply means that we believe enough to follow in his footsteps that we might learn more, grow more, and experience more, which then leads to his command to love more, serve more, and teach more.  Remember who our examples are, Jesus’ first disciples.

Read the gospels, see who they were, and what they did.  They didn’t understand everything, they weren’t full of belief, they weren’t perfect by any means.  In fact simply by looking at Peter we can see all of the contradictions that represent humanity.  Peter was a man who could not make up his mind, waffling as we say about what he should do and think. He was courageous one moment and cowardly the next.  He could by a bit of a bully, and yet have the biggest heart.  Peter was full of faults and he was a sinner too.  What made Peter Jesus’ disciple was that he was willing, simply, to follow him.

You do not have to have life all figured out, simply follow Jesus.  You do not have to have rock-firm faith, simply follow Jesus.  You do not need to be sinless, simply follow Jesus.

He loves you, and will give you all that you need for life, as well a purpose.  Jesus wants you to follow him, let him lead you, and live the life you weren’t meant to live.  Do you hear his voice?  He says to you; “Follow me.”

Amen.

Bible References

  • Acts 9:1 - 6
  • John 21:1 - 19

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