As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
It sounds easy. Jesus is walking along the road with his disciples and someone says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” In a sense, this is the same declaration we make each and every Sunday that we gather for worship; we want to follow Jesus wherever he goes. But do we really?
If we assume that Jesus is revealed to us in the sanctuary then it makes sense that we will follow him there. Sunday morning worship is a comfortable arena where we can feel good about our Christian identities; we can sing together from the hymnal, we can pray for the world to be a better place, and we can hear a sermon that makes us laugh and reminds us that God is love. But what about the end of the service? Are we willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes between worship services?
If Jesus walked into a Hillary Clinton rally to demand more honesty from our politicians, would we follow him? If Jesus wandered into a Donald Trump rally to demand an end to racism and bigotry, would we follow him? If Jesus marched against the NRA to boldly request better gun control laws, would we follow him? If Jesus made his way into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando to spend time with a marginalized community, would we follow him? If Jesus asked us to take up our own cross and follow him to Calvary, would we follow him?
To follow Jesus is a radical thing. It means putting the needs of others before our own. It means seeking out the last, least, and lost in addition to the people who make us comfortable. It means we need to strive for mercy instead of sacrifice, communion instead of correctness, and Kingdom instead of nation. It means following him into the places of life that we would otherwise avoid.
Many of us have grown comfortable with our Christianity because it does not ask much of us. So long as we can be present for an hour on Sundays, we believe we are covering our spiritual bases. In turn, the church has become another civic organization and no longer the life-giving arena of grace, mercy, and love.
And honestly, this makes sense. Throughout the gospel narratives Jesus’s followers and disciples continued to grow in number until he set his face toward Jerusalem. The closer he came to the cross, the more the people started to fall away. As the expectations and costs increased, the level of commitment dwindled.
At the end, while he was hanging on the cross with only a few faithful disciples remaining, it was a thief who wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went. And Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Following Jesus comes with a cost, but the reward is beyond all measure.