Follow Me. We’ve already looked at the Greek grammar of this phrase and realized that when Jesus says it to Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), that Jesus is usually commanding them to follow him. He is not extending an invitation for them to accept, but he is commanding them to obey. Today we look more specifically at why the Greek grammar is different in two of the occurrences: Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17.
Yes, the English translations all look the same, but I’m certain that you understand that Matthew, nor Mark, spoke or wrote in English. In these two references today, they actually use an entirely different Greek word, and in fact, different parts of speech. In these two instances, they do not use a command, but a phrase of words that includes an interjection and a prepositional phrase. Literally, it translates “Come, after me.” The Greek word for come is the interjection, which means that it carries an emphatic emotion, similar to a command. And then the prepositional phrase “after me” qualifies the word “come” with descriptive instruction.
Here’s the point:This phrase, used twice in our 6 occurrences of consideration, tells followers what it means to actually follow Jesus. It tells followers that to follow Jesus means to “come, after him.” It takes me back to me childhood when I would play “Follow the Leader” with my sister, and one of us would lead out on our bicycle adventure with the other close behind. Wherever one would go, the other would go. When one would turn down a sidewalk, or zigzag in between speed breakers in a parking lot, the other would be right behind. Jesus intended for his disciples to leave behind their lifestyle to go where he would go, to do what he would do, to think like he would think, to live like he would live; ultimately, to follow close behind him.
This is not about the decision these men made as they sat in their boats, or tax booth in Levi’s case. This is not about their conversion moment, but it is about a lifelong relationship that Jesus was calling them to. These men would follow Jesus extremely closely. They would go to Galilee when Jesus went to Galilee. They would go up on the mount when Jesus would teach. They would cross the lake to the country of the Gerasenes when Jesus would cast the demons out of the man living in the tombs. They would reluctantly go through Samaria with Jesus. They would go to Bethany when Jesus went to heal Lazarus. They would go to Jerusalem, and to the Temple, when Jesus would go. The disciples would go with Jesus to the upper room for the final supper together, and then to the Garden of Gethsemane. NO, you’re right, they would not go to the cross with him, at least not yet. Except for the beloved disciple, John, they would all forsake Christ as he was crucified, but eventually, except for the beloved disciple, John, they would all die their own martyr’s death.
Application: When Jesus called you, he commanded you to “come, after him.” He was calling you not to a one-time decision, but to a lifelong relationship. He was calling you to a new life, with a new set of values, and a new paradigm to view the world through. He was not calling you to get your name on the church roll, but to live a life fully devoted to following him anywhere he might take you.
Going Even Deeper
Why would Jesus want us to follow him? What are we going to do while following Jesus? These are questions that I might have been asking if I were one of those first five followers, but Jesus answers these questions. Jesus plainly tells them that while they are following him, he intends to make them fishers of men. To be clear, Jesus has a purpose for choosing these men; Jesus has a purpose for saving them, and he has a purpose for saving you. If Christ has saved you, it’s because he chose to save you, and if he chose to save you it’s because he has a job for you.
Fishers of men. That’s your job. That is what Jesus called Simon, Andrew, John, and James to do. Of course, you and I understand that Jesus is referring to evangelism, and sharing the gospel with humanity. Jesus intended to build his Kingdom one soul at a time, by word of mouth. And he chose four fishermen, and a tax collector, to be among the first mouths to be a crucial part of the process.
These men were not professional salesmen, and we have no reason to believe that they would make good evangelists. To our knowledge, they had no formal training in public speaking or even in communication. How would they ever be fishers of men?
Jesus clearly says in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus does not choose these men to enter into a discipleship relationship with him based upon their resumes. Christ was not concerned with their qualifications. In fact, prior to knowing Jesus they were unqualified. They were sinners, deserving of wrath, and that, their unqualification, is exactly what qualifies them. This is the mystery of the gospel! Jesus commanded these unqualified men to follow him, and he told them that he would make them, or transform them, into fishers of men. This is the beauty of the relationship; it’s ongoing.
You see, salvation is not just a conversion moment. Salvation is past tense, present tense, and future tense. I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved! To use theological terms: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. The day Jesus saved you is the day you were declared just. Your sin is atoned for. It’s the day Jesus said, “Follow me,” and you obeyed. But Jesus doesn’t stop there! He begins making you into something entirely new. He transforms you into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29), to perform good works prepared beforehand (Eph. 2:10), to make disciples (Mt. 28:19), to be fishers of men (Mt. 4:19). This is your sanctification.
More Application: What are we to make of folks that said, “Yes, I’ll follow,” but are nowhere near Jesus. What about those who made a profession of faith, walked the aisle, etc., but they now seem to have nothing to do with Jesus, and they are certainly not fishers of men. If it were the game that I played with my sister as a child, I would say that the leader kept going, they didn’t follow, and now they are wandering, lost. If it were fishermen in a boat, I would say that they are still in the boat. If it were a man at a tax booth, I would say that he is still at the tax booth. To not follow the leader is to remain lost in sin.
I’m thankful today for Matthew 4:20, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him,” and then verse 22, describing James and John, “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” I’m thankful for Matthew 9:9, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” They actually got up and followed Jesus, and Jesus transformed them. He kept his Word. Peter preached and saw 3,000 souls saved. John wrote the Book of Revelation, as well as a gospel and three epistles, and only Heaven will reveal how many lives have been changed eternally at John’s work. And Matthews, James and Andrew were all effective fishers of men.
What’s your story? When you agreed to follow Jesus, did you actually get out of the boat and begin following him? Did you leave the nets and boat behind? Did you leave Zebedee behind? Would anybody ever accuse you of being a fisher of men? All of the first disciples, except for John, were murdered in an effort to put an end to their evangelism. Has anyone tried to stop you lately? I know these are tough questions to consider, but I’m very concerned that our churches are filled with folks that never actually left the boat. I am absolutely convinced that our church rolls are inflated with names of people still sitting at the tax booth. They may have thought following Jesus sounded like a good idea, but the Lord went on and they never followed. They lost the game. They are lost.