When Jesus called His disciples He did not begin by telling them everything about Himself. He simply said, “Follow Me.” His call on the lives of the disciples was to go where He wanted them to go and do what He wanted them to do. “Follow Me.”
Imagine you are Peter or James or John. You’re sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walks up to you and says, “Follow Me.” You have a choice. You either get up, stop everything you’re doing, leave everything you have, abandon all your plans and follow Jesus or you refuse to obey Jesus and stay seated. The command is simple. But the reality of standing up and walking away from your ambitions and plans costs you everything. This is exactly what Jesus demands of us when He says:
Luke 14:27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Ok, let’s go back to the shore and think about how Peter, James, and John followed Jesus. Once they made the commitment to follow Jesus all they had to do was stand up and go where Jesus went. If He turned to the right, they turned to the right. If He turned left, they turned left. If He stopped, they stopped. If He told them to do something, they did it. Following Jesus was obvious. He was physically present and leading them.
But let’s fast forward to the end of the gospels. Jesus has died a torturous death on the cross of Calvary. He’s been buried in a sealed tomb. On the third day, He arose from the dead. Jesus meets with His disciples again but now He speaks to them as the resurrected Christ.
Does Jesus still expect His disciples to follow Him? How can they? Jesus has a glorified body. His followers are flesh and blood. Jesus is about to ascend into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. No human being has the capacity to follow Him there. And yet, Jesus still commands His disciples to follow Him. Speaking to Peter at the end of John’s gospel Jesus says:
John 21:22b “… You must follow me.”
How are the disciples expected to follow Jesus now that He is risen from the dead? They can’t physically follow Him anymore. Jesus changes the way they are to follow Him. Now they are called to follow Jesus through the leading of the Holy Spirit:
John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
The disciples had to shift gears. Instead of physically following Jesus as they had done for three years, following Jesus after His ascension into Heaven was to be done through the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We see in Acts 1:8 that the Holy Spirit gives disciples power to follow Jesus. In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of all the believers and they begin to testify to the reality of Jesus. From then until now all who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ are indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit.
There is a vital lesson for us here. Following Jesus is now possible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. How much of your daily life is spent seeking the Spirit’s counsel and guidance? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to lead our lives today as we follow Jesus.
Galatians 5:25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.