Monday, September 11, 2017

Come, Follow Me - A Simple Phrase



This morning I did a search for two words on my LDS gospel library app.  "Follower" and "Leader"

The results shocked me.  

The word "follower" appears more than 4 times as often in scriptures than the word "leader."  In the New Testament the difference is more profound.  Forms of the word "follow" appears 139 times, "leader", 17 times. "Follow" appears more than 8 times as often!  

Realizing this has caused me to want to study the concept of being a follower more deeply.  I want to learn more about what Christ meant when he said, "Come, follow me."
First, we need to remember that Jesus was a rabbi*.  



The life of a rabbi in Jesus' day was different than the rabbis we know today.  He was what was known as a itinerant rabbi. These rabbis


taught in the village square, under a tree, or in someone's home,




taught small classes, as few as 4 to 5 people



were dependent on the hospitality of the community for food and shelter, 
and stayed in a community anywhere from a few days to a few months.

At the time, Israel most likely had thousands of itinerant rabbis. 
 

In Matthew 4, Jesus is beginning his rabbi ministry**.  He walks along the shores of Galilee looking for disciples.  



He says to them, 

"Come, Follow Me"  
or 
"Lech aharai" in Hebrew. 

This Hebrew phrase literally means "walk after me."  It was a technical term that meant "become one of my disciples."



This is what it meant to be a disciple: 
  • travel with the rabbi usually for months. 
  • leave your home including family, but you must get your wife's permission if married. 
  • leave your profession. 
In Luke 18:22 we learn of a rich man who is extended an invitation to become a disciple.  In order to do so, he must first sell his riches and give it to the poor. Then he can "lech aharai" or walk with Jesus.  He decides that is too much to ask and turns it down.  


But the fishermen of Galilee drop their nets and follow him.

 

And we are to do the same. However, w
alking after Jesus doesn't mean to literally walk where He walked.  It doesn't mean we have to travel from village to village hoping someone will take us in and feed us.  We are not asked to leave our possessions, our family, our home, or our vocation like Peter or the rich man were asked to do.  Instead we are asked to leave that which the world tempts us to follow.  And usually that is the world itself.  

Time and time again we read in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants examples of people who worried more about what man thought of them than what the Lord thought of them.  These stories share a common thread.  Chasing after the world is fruitless, disappointing, and--quite often--bad for your health. Just ask Nehor and Korihor.   

There is an LDS hymn titled "Come, Follow Me."  Here are verses 2 and 5.  


“Come, follow me,” a simple phrase,
Yet truth’s sublime, effulgent rays
Are in these simple words combined
To urge, inspire the human mind.

 We must the onward path pursue
As wider fields expand to view,
And follow him unceasingly,
Whate’er our lot or sphere may be.


As I ponder this idea of following Jesus no matter what is happening in my life, I realize that I'm not as good at following as I'd like to think that I am.

I spent the first four decades of my life in leadership roles.  I became way more experienced leading in front than following from behind.  
Then a few years ago, my life took a dramatic shift.  In a single year all of my leadership roles went away--professionally, personally, ecclesiastically.  I have watched organizations, programs, and even my own children go on without me.  And in many cases become more successful than when I was involved.  I am now no longer asked to do much of anything. I feel like I have been put out to pasture to make room for the next generation.  This has caused me to wonder, if I'm no longer needed as a leader, then what am I good for?  

But Christ didn't stand at the shores of Galilee and say, 

"I need you to run the meeting so it ends on time."
"Lead this organization so it can reach its fundraising goals."

"Become a great teacher impacting thousands of lives." 


No, he uttered just three words.  "Come, follow me."


And it really is a simple phrase.  It's just not so simple to actually do.  And I am realizing I've got a long way to go.  



Alex Boyé and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - I Want Jesus to Walk With Me

*To read the article "Study Shows Jesus as a Rabbi", click here. 
** To see a video of Christ calling his disciples, click here.