As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.
As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.
After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.
The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
When Jesus says, "Follow me," and says it in the context of going to Jerusalem and having just been rejected in Samaria for going to Jerusalem, he is clearly saying two things, not just one thing. He is saying: "Follow ME." And he is saying "FOLLOW me." There is me, and there is my mission. There is a person, and there is a path. There is a sweetness, and there is suffering. There is Jesus, and there is Jerusalem.
This is the way missions has always been and the way it will always be. When Jesus said at the end of his life, "Go, make disciples of all nations!" he wrapped that mission and that path and that suffering and that Jerusalem in his mighty and merciful self. First he said, "All authority in heaven and on earth is mine." And last he said, "I will be with you to the end of the age." There is the "FOLLOW me!" (Go!) And there is the "Follow ME!" (I will be with you). There is the path to the nations through Jerusalem, and there is the person who will be with you, Jesus. So when you hear the words, "Follow me," hear two things (at least!) not just one thing.
Now what was Jesus doing in responding the way he did to these three would-be followers? No place to lay your head. Let the dead bury their dead. Put your hand on the plow and don’t look back. What was he doing? He was teaching, and he was testing. He was teaching that the Calvary road through Jerusalem will be a very hard road, and will require sacrifices of home and family. And he was testing to see if he himself was the greatest treasure of their lives. They said, "I’ll follow YOU." And Jesus said, "Really? You love me, you treasure me that much? Here’s what it will cost." So he is testing how much they treasure the "you" in "I will follow you," by telling them what the "follow" will cost.
So there are two things going then and now in this room and downtown. First, Jesus is offering himself for our fellowship and friendship and partnership in missions. Just think of it. This is the Creator of the universe. The King of kings and Lord of lords. The one who upholds all things by the word of his power. The one who is from everlasting to everlasting. Born of a virgin as the Holy One of God. Perfect in life. Triumphant over sin and death and hell and all the demons you will ever meet. In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. This Jesus says to you, as you ponder the possibility of missions, "Follow me." Not, "You go there while I stay at Bethlehem." But, "I am going there. Follow me . . . I will be with you to the close of the age . . . I will never leave you or forsake you."
In this life, we are called to follow Jesus in his footsteps as he goes before us in the straight and narrow way of his lordship. In this world, we are pilgrims, sojourning to our heavenly city. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Isaiah tells us, “A highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isa. 35:8–10). This is the way of Jesus, the way of the Holy Spirit, the way of the word, the way of eternal happiness.