A few times a year, a few students are asked to share why they follow Jesus in chapel for the school. I was asked to share tomorrow, and I spent today writing my response. It has been humbling to realize just how difficult it is to put into words why I follow Jesus. I wanted my words to be astounding, beautiful, impacting, worthy of the love I've been given. But I'm reminded that nothing I do will make me worthy of that love. Jesus showers me with love and grace because of his own mercy, not anything I can do for Him. And how freeing it is to know that while I do my best, at the end of the day it will still be me and Jesus, and I will follow Him.
Mark 1:16-17 - “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew … casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
I wasn’t a fisherman, I was just your average American teenager, busy with my daily life just like Simon and Andrew were. But Jesus came up to me with the same proposition: “Follow me.” When Simon and Andrew heard those words, “follow me,” I’m sure they looked up to see who the voice was coming from. They saw a poor, wandering, somewhat strange itinerant Rabbi, and yet they chose to follow him. Today, we see a 2,000 year-old story of a man doing miracles, dying, and rising again. We see a first-century Jew whose only connection to us now is a Spirit that we cannot see. Today, our culture tells us that following Jesus is naïve, anti-intellectual, and intolerant. But I chose to follow Jesus, and I’m honored to share with you why.
First, I follow Jesus because I believe He is true. Historically, there is more evidence and documentation around the life of Jesus than any ancient figure. He claimed to be God, and his claim could easily be disproven by proving him dead. If Jesus is still dead in a tomb, then I won’t follow Him. But even his greatest enemies couldn’t find a body. All of his disciples willingly laid down their lives on the claim that Jesus was alive, and that they had seen Him with their own eyes. Together with some of my closest atheist friends, I’ve dug deep into the historical Jesus, and I am convinced that the most accurate conclusion from all sources, both in and outside the Bible, is that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be. I follow Him because He is true.
But secondly, I follow Jesus because following and obeying Him is the most logical decision. My friends have told me “You’re so passionate about Jesus,” but I don’t think I’m really passionate about Jesus as much as I’m logical about Him. I’m going to be on this planet for 80 or 90 years at most, and then I’m going to be in eternity with Jesus. The logical choice is to live with an eternal perspective. We get so easily caught up in building a nice, comfortable life for ourselves until something shakes us to the core. I remember the day that shook me. It was my friend drowning while I could do nothing to save him. That day changed the direction of my life. I realized that I might not have 90 years on earth; I might only have 19. I wanted to live with no regrets, to live each day for what will outlast me. My car and clothes and instagram pale in comparison to eternity. It actually makes more sense to follow Jesus, even when He says crazy things like “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor,” or “Love your enemies,” or “Go and make disciples.” Following Jesus means living for a cause and reward that can never be taken away, and that seems logical to me. As the martyred missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Finally, I follow Jesus because I love Him. I’m crazy about Him. I’ve never known someone like Him, so full of power and yet full of love. The King of the universe has come to us, and he says, “I love you, and I want you with me. Come follow me.” I love and follow Jesus because He brings the kingdom of heaven to earth. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He walked in the midst of our broken world, and everywhere He went, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame could walk, the dead lived again. Jesus’ kingdom is the place where God’s will is finally done on earth as it is in heaven, where God’s presence dwells with humanity in wholeness and peace. I have felt tinges of the coming unity of heaven and earth as I surrender and let Jesus build His kingdom in my heart. I’ve caught glimpses of the kingdom of heaven in the love of people around me. We are a generation that longs for peace more than anything else, and Jesus brings it through a kingdom founded upon love, love that proved itself on a cross.
So ultimately, I follow Jesus for those three reasons: He is true, it makes logical sense, and I love Him more than I can put into words. When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, it says that “immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” We too have nets that we have to leave, nets that tie us to our former identity or entangle us with worldly distraction. The nets are anything that keeps us from following Jesus. I’ve had to drop nets like pride, comfort, and the need for approval. I’ve dropped the net of needing to know every answer, and the net of comparing my spirituality with someone else’s.
Jesus has called you, “Come, follow me.” Whether you’ve chosen to follow Him daily, or whether you’re still standing in the boat holding your nets, the invitation is open. Jesus wants you to be with Him; not just the people next to you, but you yourself. Have you dropped your nets? Is anything keeping you from following? Jesus is worth everything, and no matter where you are, His arms are wide open and He rejoices over you. So come, let’s leave our nets, and follow Jesus.