It might sound unconventional. Jesus a follower?? He’s the Great Shepherd. The King of Kings. Our Redeemer and Saviour. But in three ways he exemplified how to be a great follower. To truly understand Jesus as a follower, we must recognize and accept God’s upside down economy. Just look at Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:
This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. -I Cor 1:25-28 NLT
I don’t know about you but this brings me such hope! I may not be the smartest, strongest, richest or wisest, but if I’m chosen, then I will be used for far greater things than anyone counted as high and mighty by the world’s standards. Jesus is a perfect example of using someone the world despised and counted as nothing to bring to nothing what the world considered important. He was not born to royalty, taught by respected Rabbis nor trained as a soldier. And yet he told his followers he was sent not to bring peace, but a sword (Matt 10:24), he confounded the religious leaders of the day with his knowledge (Jn 7:15) and he sits at the right hand of the Creator of the universe (Eph 1:20).
Were you born to poor parents? Jesus was born in a stable. Think you work at a dead-end job? Jesus was a handyman. Do you have trouble making friends? Jesus was scorned, spit on and crucified. No matter how worthless you might feel, in Jesus’ eyes, and God’s grand plan, you have immeasurable worth. Recognize it. Accept it. Rest in it. Only the world calls God’s chosen foolish, weak, powerless. God calls you son, daughter, redeemed, restored. And as such, you are wise, strong and powerful. But in order to shame those who bask in their own knowledge and influence, God sent his Son to earth as a helpless baby born to a couple of teenagers. He then set to work proving the world wrong.
1.) Jesus was a servant
If you had any doubt about Jesus’ servanthood, just read his own words:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45 NIV
Jesus shows humility to teach us to be humble. He offers compassion so that we will be compassionate. He exemplifies service so that we will know how to be servants. Jesus had no doubts about who he was. He knew he had all the power necessary to defeat his detractors and break down his doubters. But instead he gave his life so that everyone could have a relationship with God Almighty. He served all of us in his life, and his death. In one of his most poignant examples of servanthood, Jesus washes his disciples feet just before the Passover meal:
Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him . . . After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” -John 13:3-17
Why would he do this? While necessary for a meal eaten at a low table where dusty, dirty feet would be in close proximity to the food, it was the lowest form of service for a person to do. It was also critical for the disciples to see their Lord and Teacher lead by example, not just in words, but in action.
2.) Jesus did what his Father told him
On this point let me make it clear: Jesus was completely human and completely God. Can I explain this? Absolutely not. Not anymore than my brain can wrap itself around eternity. But I know it exists. So there it is. We don’t always have to understand something to make it true. So while Jesus was made for a time “a little lower than the angels” (Heb 2:9) and therefore subject to God’s authority, he was no less God.
I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. -John 5:30 NLT
Have you been called on to serve as another’s spokesperson? Carry out someone else’s agenda? Lead others on behalf of someone higher up the chain of command? Maybe I haven’t got humility quite figured out, but sometimes I struggle with this. I don’t always appreciate my role as a follower. I often want to do things my own way. Even when we know God’s way is better, it’s easy to get caught up in doing it our way. One of my favourite verses is Isaiah 55:8: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” I have to remind myself even when things don’t make sense, God, not bound by time nor place, has the best plan. I can trust and follow Him. Jesus followed his Father to death:
Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. -Luke 22:42
He made his desire known. He was after all, human. There’s nothing wrong with expressing our own thoughts, opinions or preferences to God. And that goes for earthly leaders as well. Following doesn’t mean losing who we are. It doesn’t mean becoming something we’re not. But at the end of the day, if we’re called to follow, then we honor our leaders, and God, by following well.
3.) Jesus calls us to follow him
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. -Matt 4:19-20
With just this scripture it really does sum up what following Jesus looks like. He calls. He offers. We follow. The disciples immediately responded and left everything behind. Following Jesus looks different than following our earthly leaders. There’s a peace, a trust, a zeal we could never attain by following any other leader. Jesus exemplified followership through serving and obeying his Father. Then he uses the analogy of shepherding a flock of sheep to show how we are to follow him:
. . . the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. –John 10:3-11
While following can sometimes feel a little like brainless obedience, that’s only when we aren’t following the Good Shepherd. There will never be a leader who will call you by name, gather you up and walk ahead of you in perfect love. Even when we stray, as sheep will do, Jesus searches until he finds us and brings us back into his perfect protection: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.” -Luke 14:4-5. We will never comprehend his love, his compassion, his perfection. But we can trust it.
I love that Jesus calls us by name. You’re not just another sheep among millions. Jesus intimately knows who you are. He knows your personality, your dreams, your gifts. You are precious to him. He won’t lead you astray. We’re called to be like children. Trusting, innocent, full of wonder and hope. He is the Good Shepherd. Listen to his voice and follow.
Following well is an exercise in trust, humility, confidence, and more trust. People break trust everyday. It can be easy to guard against being led astray. But Jesus’ love is deep and wide and infinite. We can place our trust in him completely and follow with confidence. With hope. With peace. With Joy. Come and join me in the pasture!