Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19, HCSB). That is a powerful statement and is packed full of meaning. There are three major phrases in that statement.
First of all, Jesus says, “Follow Me.” A disciple is someone who has made a decision to follow Christ. They thought it through, have repented (which means a change of mind) and surrendered their life to Jesus. This deals with the head.
Secondly, Jesus says, “I will make you.” A disciple is being changed by Jesus. As we follow Jesus He changes us internally. We gain a new heart that begins to desire new things. Our values begin to align up with God’s kingdom. Our motives and emotions are reflecting God’s values more and more. We become more other-centered rather than self-centered. There is a distinction about us that says we love God and love people. Jesus is making us and transforming us into His image. This deals with our heart.
Third, Jesus says He will make us “fish for people.” Jesus saved us for a purpose. You have a mission. You have a ministry. You have a job to do in God’s kingdom. You have been created in such a way and have been given a spiritual gift that equips you to reach and minister to other people (Eph. 2:8-10). This deals with your hands.
When Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people,” He was addressing their head, heart, and hands: what they thought, how they felt, and what they did. This was a call to total life transformation.
In this article we will focus our attention on the phrase “Follow me.”
“Follow Me” is an invitation
The phrase “Follow Me” is an invitation by Jesus. It is an invitation to be in a relationship with Jesus. It’s an invitation to hang out with Jesus, learn from Jesus, and let Jesus rub off on you and in you. It is an invitation to be with Jesus.
According to Acts 4, Peter and John were brought before Jewish leadership and they were questioned regarding a miracle and what they had been teaching. After being interrogated, Acts 4:13 says, “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus” (HCSB). Peter and John had answered the invitation to follow Jesus and Jesus rubbed off on them by the power of His Holy Spirit and people noticed. What are the implications of this invitation to follow Jesus?
- “Follow Me” is an invitation initiated by Jesus, not you. We love Him, because He first loved us. He left heaven to come to us. He sought us, we didn’t seek Him. Jesus is not calling these disciples because of who they are, but in spite of who they are. They do not have many qualities in their favor. They are lower class, rural, uneducated Galileans. Likely not well respected, they are hardly the culturally elite. Moreover, their exceeding ignorance, narrow-minded ways, Jewish prejudices, and competitive pride make them the least spiritually qualified for the task to which Jesus is calling them.
But that is the point. These men do not warrant Jesus’ pursuit. Yet He comes to them. He walks up to them in the middle of their work, and He invites them to follow Him. Later he tells them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you” (John 15:16). These men become disciples of Jesus solely because of the initiative – and invitation – of Christ. This is also true for you and me.
- “Follow Me” is an invitation to follow a person, not a program. When we take a closer look at this our souls are struck by the greatness of the one who has called us. We are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the words “follow Me” because we are awed by the majesty of the “Me” who says them.
Consider the eye-opening, jaw-dropping portrait of Jesus that Matthew paints leading up to this initial encounter between Jesus and His first disciples.
- Matthew describes Jesus as the Savior who came to deliver men and women from their sin.
- He tells us that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah whom God’s people for centuries had eagerly anticipated and anxiously awaited.
- In his description of the Virgin Birth, Matthew puts Jesus’ full humanity and full deity on display, making it clear that Jesus is unlike anyone else who has ever been, or will ever be, born.
- Jesus’ birth is heralded by a host of wise men who journey hundreds of miles to bow at his crib.
- His ministry is preceded by John the Baptist’s proclamation that the Savior King of the nations and the righteous Judge of all men has arrived.
- At the end of Matthew 3, heaven itself opens up, and God the Father declares, “This is my Son, whom I love.”
- The beginning of Matthew 4 portrays Jesus as the new Israel who will not give into sin and the new Adam who will reign victorious over Satan.
After all this, when Jesus comes to these fishermen and says, “Follow Me,” one thing is abundantly clear: Jesus is not some puny religious teacher begging for an invitation from anyone. He is the all-sovereign Lord who deserves submission from everyone. He is worthy of more than church attendance and casual association; He is worthy of total abandonment and supreme adoration. “Follow Me” is an invitation to follow the glorious person Jesus Christ!
- “Follow Me” is an invitation to respond too. There is a decision to be made. A call to answer. To follow Jesus will require repentance. The word “repent” literally means a change of mind. This involves a head-level change. You think differently about Jesus. You think about your life. Your response is to surrender all and follow Him.
But the bottom line is: this statement by Jesus to follow Him is an invitation to follow the glorious person of Jesus Christ by responding with complete surrender. I heard this invitation when I was 13, my wife heard it when she was 5, my mom heard it when she was 32. We all surrendered to the greatness of Jesus and followed Him, I hope you already have. It is the greatest invitation you will ever receive.
“Follow Me” means someone else leads
The phrase “Follow Me” means someone else leads. If we follow Christ, we must come under His authority and direction. We must submit to His leadership. We begin to be disciples when we understand that we are positioned behind Jesus. He leads; we follow. In John 12:26, Jesus said it this way: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me” (HCSB). As leader, Jesus is Lord. Many Christians think Jesus’ job is to follow them and fulfill all their wishes. They say, “Here is what I want for my life, Jesus make it happen” or “Here is what I want for my church, Jesus get it done.” But this makes us the leader and Jesus the follower. We follow Jesus. We do what He desires. He lovingly commands; we humbly obey. He is the Master, we are the servants. He is the potter, we are the clay. He leads, we follow.
- Whatever Jesus says about marriage, we follow it.
- Whatever Jesus says about money, we obey it.
- Whatever Jesus says about forgiving others, we apply it.
- Whatever Jesus says about parenting, we do it.
- Whatever Jesus says about church, we submit to it.
- Whatever Jesus says about sin, we agree with it.
- Whatever Jesus says about prayer, we surrender to it.
- Whatever Jesus says about heaven & hell, we believe it.
- Whatever Jesus says about anything, we follow it.
When Jesus says, “Follow Me” He is saying, “Let Me lead your life. Let Me guide you. Let Me point you in the right direction. Let Me take you where you need to go.” Jesus leads, we follow.
“Follow Me” requires a commitment
The phrase “Follow Me” requires a commitment. To follow Jesus is to obey Him. Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me [follow Me], he will keep My word” (HCSB). To follow Jesus is to do what Jesus says. Now listen, to follow Jesus is to follow Him wherever He leads you and that will take commitment when He leads you through a valley, into a battle, or into a storm. Even if keeping His Word cost you, you will stay committed to His Word.
The concept of commitment comes up over and over again throughout the Scripture for the follower of Christ. You see it in words like faithful, devote, and commit. Let me give you some examples.
- 1 Peter 4:19 says, “Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (NIV 84). God is saying, “If you are going to follow Me it will be difficult and there are going to be times you will suffer because you chose to do the right thing.” It takes commitment to follow Jesus.
- 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV 84). Ministry can be difficult and tiring, but God says stay committed to using your gift. When you are following Jesus in ministry and blessing others with your spiritual gift you will sometimes go unnoticed, unappreciated, unthanked, and even criticized. But you are to faithfully commit yourself to using your gift wherever God leads you.
- Titus 3:8 says, “…those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works” (HCSB). Following Jesus involves doing good works and you will need to devote yourself to them.
- Titus 3:14 says, “Our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that they will not be unfruitful” (HCSB). Part of being fruitful in ministry is devotion. Commitment means, I’m not going to give up.
When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He is requiring a commitment. He is asking you to dedicate your life to Him. Following Jesus means you say, “I will be faithful and committed to using my spiritual gift in ministry, dedicated to doing good works for others, devoted to praying, and faithfully live for Jesus every day.” That takes commitment.
“Follow Me” means leaving things behind
The phrase “Follow Me” means leaving things behind. Right after Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people,” we are told in Matthew 4:20, “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (HCSB). For them it was a job change. When Jesus invited them to follow Him, Jesus was asking them to leave their jobs, their community, and security behind. Whenever you hear Jesus say, “Follow Me” into something you will always have to leave something behind. It may not be your job or the town you are familiar with, but there is going to be something you will have to let go of.
Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (24) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it” (HCSB). To follow Jesus means you leave self behind. I like how David Platt described this when he wrote, “Jesus beckoned these men to leave behind their professions, possessions, dreams, ambitions, family, friends, safety, and security. He bid them to abandon everything. ‘If anyone is going to follow Me, he must deny himself,’ Jesus would say repeatedly. In a world where everything revolves around self – protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself – Jesus said, ‘Slay yourself’” (Follow Me, 3). To follow Jesus is total abandonment. You are willing to give up everything.
- What stands in the way of you following Jesus? What do you need to leave behind? What do you need to let go of? Jesus is saying let go of your lust, your materialism, your greed, your selfishness, your fears, your pride, and your vanity… and Follow Me. Die to yourself and follow Me, Jesus says.
- What stands in the way of your church following Jesus? Are there sacred cows? Idols? Traditions? Conflicts? Programs? Methods? That, as a church, you will need to let go of to follow Jesus.
Jesus said that we must take up our crosses daily and die to self.
The point Jesus made over and over is that to be one of His disciples, you must follow Him. Jesus is saying, “I will lead. You will go where I want you to go. You will do what I want you to do.” When this happens you will let go of some things, but you will also pick up some things. What you pick up will always be greater than what you let go. Jesus says, “Follow Me,” and that means you will need to leave some things behind.
“Follow Me” refers to imitation
“Follow Me” refers to imitation. When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was telling us to follow His example, to imitate Him, to walk as He walked, and to live as He lived. Listen to how 1 John 2:6 says this, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (NLT). Then in 1 Peter 2:21 we read, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps” (NLT). To follow Jesus’ example does not mean we wear what He wore, speak His language, or eat only what He ate. It means to follow Jesus regarding the kingdom of God. Follow His example when it comes to righteousness, grace, love, joy, peace, patience, endurance and living by the Spirit. We are to imitate Jesus in those things.
Today, Jesus is saying “Follow Me.” What are you going to do with that? How are you responding to His invitation?