Following Jesus Part One – To the Cross

Following Jesus Part One – To the Cross

An Invitation to Meet the Lamb of God

“And Jesus turned, and beheld them following and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’” (John 1:38a NASB).

Easter 2020 may go down in history as one of the most unforgettable ever.  It offers a pause to the troubling events that terrify a lost world separated from God’s redemptive grace yet it also strikes fear even in those whose eternity is secured by Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29).  Jesus told us there would be troubles to endure, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).  He is our peace, our refuge, the One to whom we cling and cry out for help.  This present world is passing away.  One day it will melt completely (2 Peter 3:10) leaving nothing of the challenges we face today.

Upon seeing the Lamb of God for the first time, Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist, followed Him hoping to meet Him.  Their hope was realized that day.  It was a turning point for them and within three years, it became a turning point for the whole world.  The Word becoming flesh was the next leg of God’s marathon race to restore mankind’s broken relationship with Himself.  Easter can remind us of that hope when all seems hopeless.

The Easter story we hold so dear is based on factual eyewitness accounts of what took place during another extraordinary time—the 33 years—Jesus walked this earth.  The gospels tell us about Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, culminating with His death, burial and resurrection.  It is that resurrection, overcoming death and sin, that gives us solid reason to hope when the world is falling apart at the seams.  Don’t let the world rob you of your joy!

Jesus brought life-changing impact to every person He met along His amazing journey to the Cross.  Some rejected His offer of eternal salvation.  Others welcomed it with open arms.  Yet, for them, seeing the literalcross (that we can only read about) provided a stark reminder of what it cost our Lord to ransom their freedom from sin at that cross… and what their decision to follow Him could eventually cost them in their new life beyond the Cross.

As we contemplate what Easter entails this year, let us observe some of the interactions Jesus had with those who crossed His life-giving path.  May it deepen our appreciation for all that Jesus accomplished there at Calvary, creating an open-door invitation to all who desire a personal relationship with the sinless Lamb of God.

Leaving It All Behind

“’And He said to them, ‘Follow Me,  and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matthew 4:19).

Andrew followed Jesus to where He was staying that day, finally locating the Messiah, he and others had been seeking.  Andrew wasted little time introducing his older brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus thus forging an example for every believer ever since, as John recorded, Andrew “brought him to Jesus” (John 1:42).  But it didn’t end there.  Jesus found the brothers working at their day job as professional fishermen.  Two powerful words changed the lives of those would-be apostles, forever:  “Follow Me.”  For Simon Peter and Andrew, Jesus added the pertinent phrase, “and I will make you fish for people” (CSB).  Scripture tells us that they “immediately left the nets, and followed Him.”  James and John immediately left their fishing boat, as well, and followed Jesus.  Likewise, Philip responded to Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” as did Matthew who quit his job on the spot to follow Jesus.  They accepted the call of Jesus without hesitation or worry about giving up everything this world had to offer.

Splendors of a Fleeting Treasure

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36 NASB).

Among the multitudes of people whose curiosity could no longer be contained was a man identified by attribute, not by name.  A composite of three gospel descriptions of the rich young ruler.  For the sake of simplicity, let’s just call him “Worldly” since he epitomized much of what the world craves so desperately: material wealth, ageless youth and unfettered power.  Worldly was profoundly “religious,” and came to the right source to ask questions about inheriting eternal life.  Jesus clarified to him that religion alone could not provide it.  Maybe it had dawned on him that he couldn’t take his earthly treasures with him.  Jesus answered the young man’s question by responding, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17).  Then in typical human fashion, Worldly quipped, “Which ones?”  Jesus calmly listed five of the Ten Commandments plus another about loving your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus didn’t just throw this last one in by accident.  He was going, not for the jugular, but for the hardened heart beating within Worldly’s chest, in an effort to soften it up to the point of understanding what was really at stake here.  What could Worldly exchange for his soul?  Wealth? Vitality? Status?  None of the above.

Worldly—being religious to the core, retorted that he had kept all that Jesus listed… even from his childhood!  Yet he stumbled over one of the 10 commandments not mentioned by Jesus:  In fact, the very first one:  “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3).  Something in Jesus’ next statement proved to be the deal-breaker, “…sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21).  Notice it wasn’t about selling his stuff and keeping the cash.  This rich young ruler was unwilling topart with this life’s treasures for the sake of Christ.  Again, Jesus was getting to the heart of issue.  It wasn’t that the attributes themselves prevented him from receiving eternal life, but that he refused to put God ahead of all else.  Worldly apparently wasn’t looking ahead to the coming promised Messiah with faith like Abram (Genesis 15:6). 

Matthew’s gospel wouldn’t be inscribed for another 30 years or so.  Yet, Jesus was ahead of His time, no surprise, when He mentioned “treasure in heaven” in His answer.  Worldly could have benefited from listening to the Word, standing before him, rather than waiting three more decades to read it in Matthew 6:19-24, a passage about laying up treasures in heaven instead of the fleeting treasures of this world.  Two key takeaways for Worldly to have considered: “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” and “You cannot serve God and mammon.”   Worldly declined Jesus’ offer that day, content to stay on a path taking him further from the Cross.

Alan Summers, GBC Elder

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and when noted, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)