What does following Jesus mean?
As a child I enjoyed trying to fit my little feet into adult footprints in sand, mud or snow. It was never easy. It meant taking huge strides - not a comfortable way to walk, but certainly a stretching one. I'm writing this on Tuesday of Holy Week. Holy Week is not meant to be comfortable. To enter into even a little of where this week leads takes me out of my comfort zone. It reminds me that Jesus never promised that following him was an easy route.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Here's a quote that gives one of the implications of following Jesus:
“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us. To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always derivative from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. To follow Jesus means that we can't separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it. To follow Jesus is as much, or maybe even more, about feet as it is about ears and eyes" (From 'The Way of Jesus' by Eugene H. Peterson).
Following Jesus is not primarily about believing certain things about him. It is more about accepting Jesus as 'the Way' and learning to walk in that way. It is not something we can do without help - the help that comes from God and through companions on the way. The hymn by John Bode, 'O Jesus I have promised' has in it these lines:
"O let me see thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
my hope to follow duly, is in thy strength alone."
The image at the head of this post has footprints seen clearly in the sunlight. They remind me of Jesus' words from today's gospel, spoken at at time when Jesus was deeply troubled as he spoke about his impending death:
"Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going." (John 12: 35)
Image Credit: Val Bul on Flickr, CC License