I remember years ago when, in the Spring, we would sign our kids up for soccer and then spend weeks watching as small mobs of children circled a soccer ball and followed it around the field no matter where it went. It became a more refined game as they grew older, but early on it was just a mob of kids following a ball as it randomly zigzagged around the pitch.
It makes me think of how we use the term "follower" these days. It describes people who regularly watch or listen to a personality on social media whether they are an expert or not, whether they have a moral compass or not, and even whether they have anything of substance to say or not! People follow them, because they want to follow them and the content producers and influencers want to be followed: like a mob following the random zigzags of a soccer ball. It invites an obvious but scary question: "following them where, exactly?" I doubt that's a question these "leaders" even pay much attention to as long people are following them wherever they happen to meander. That's because, for many, if not most people on-line, it's about growing an income or feeding their own ego, not about leading.
Jesus looked for followers. We read about it in the Bible. He regularly invited people to follow him - literally. And many did. We don't see evidence that any of them asked where he was leading them but they seem to have made assumptions about that. They thought Jesus was leading them to a revolution and to create a new Jewish country. Eventually Jesus told them exactly where he was going:
"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." (Matthew 16:21)
He had a plan and a destination but it was a far cry from what the followers were hoping for. Even when Jesus started describing his end goal to them, they barely listened, couldn't understand and didn't accept it.
If you really think about it, it was a scary thing that Jesus was heading to his execution and they were following him there without knowing it! Thankfully Jesus was not looking for companions on the cross, but he needed them to witness the lengths he would go to to rescue them and the whole world from our blind rebellion against God. Jesus wanted followers, not to get something for himself, but to give something to them at personal cost to himself. They were following him and he wanted them to know, but they preferred ignorance.
The weeks leading up to Easter are called "Lent" and it is a season for reflecting on the hardships and sacrifice of Jesus as he prepared to go to his death on behalf of all people. It begs the questions: "Am I following Jesus?" "Why am I following Jesus?" "Do I understand what he did for me?"
It can also make us stop and think of all the people around us who are following anyone who is entertaining or inflaming or sounds like they know what they're talking about (even if they don't). But they don't know about Jesus Christ and that he loves them enough to die for them and came back to life to offer them life...because he loves them!
This Lent I want to remember that I'm following Jesus Christ. I also want to let others know that Jesus loves them and is inviting them to follow him. And I want to invite you to do the same. For that reason we are preparing a collage of hearts to display to our community the week before Easter (click here to read more or to take part). This is to point people to the one who is worth following, Jesus, who offers us "life...to the full" (John 10:10).