by David Lose
So perhaps Mark’s message to those reading back in the first century – as well as to those of us following along in the twenty-first – was more about following Jesus in general than it was about any following him only by leaving everything to proclaim the coming kingdom of God.Except that we can never follow “in general.”
We follow him in particular and distinct ways that may or may not be like the first disciples. And that, I think, is the point. Perhaps we follow by becoming a teacher. Perhaps we follow by volunteering at the senior center. Perhaps we follow by looking out for those in our schools who always seem on the outside and invite them in. Perhaps we follow by doing a job we love as best we can to help others. Perhaps we follow by doing a job we hate but contributes to supporting our family and helping others. Perhaps we follow by being generous with our wealth and with our time. Perhaps we follow by listening to those around us and responding with encouragement and care. Perhaps we follow by caring for an aging parent, or special needs child, or someone else who needs our care. Perhaps we follow by….
And, indeed, follow him immediately – here and now, in the world and time in which we live. What seems at the heart of the matter is that we can follow Jesus in all of these different situations and circumstances precisely by trying to imitate him – by trying, that is, to treat others with the same regard, love and patience that he did, including all manner of people but especially those who were overlooked by society. This, I think, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian: to try to live and treat others as Jesus did, embracing the values of inclusiveness, love, forgiveness, and healing that he radiated in word and deed.
In the closing passage of his monumental “The Quest of the Historical Jesus,” Albert Schweitzer – theologian, doctor, Bach scholar – offers a similar insight that I think is still both poignant and relevant. Having concluding that separating the “real” or “historical” Jesus from the “Christ of faith,” Schweitzer nevertheless discovers that we can come to know Christ Jesus Christ fully and authentically only by following Christ. As he writes,
"He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is."