Everyone’s parents have asked the question of them at least once.
As a kid you would come home and talk about a friend you have. This was typically the friend who lived in a house that seemed more like Vegas than a home two doors down. The friend got to do whatever they wanted. They got to buy whatever they wanted. They were the masters of their own destiny.
You would come home and tell your parents how Bobby got to light his pants on fire while he was still wearing them. You told your parent’s that his parents encouraged. You stood dumbfounded and frustrated when your parents refused to allow you to light your pants on fire. On and on you would make your case why because this friend did it, you can do it too.
Then your parents pulled out the question out of some magical parenting toolbox filled with, because-I-said-sos and My-house-my-rules.
If Bobby jumped off a cliff would you too?
Even though I was clearly bested by a greater wit than my own, I would still respond, “Yup.”
Your parents intention was to help you understand that just because someone else does it, doesn’t me we have to.
And there in lies the problem. As crazy as it is, we have applied that to our spiritual lives.
Jesus jumped off a cliff and we didn’t go.
He jumps off a lot of cliffs. He goes a lot of places we see as dangerous. He does a lot of things we don’t see as safe. He calls us to a lot of places we aren’t sure if we can make it back from. But he calls us nonetheless.
One of the central topics of Jesus’ 3-year ministry was the idea that God was doing something on earth now, not in heaven out there but bringing Heaven here. His life was to be the exclamation point to their perspective that isn’t just going to do something but God is doing something now. He wants us to be a part of it.
But all too often we simplify what Jesus calls out of us: Our attendance, maybe a little money, maybe a quick prayer before dinner, and likely not much else.
Matthew records that shortly after the begging of his ministry that Jesus went and called his first disciples. This was not a unique task to rabbis of the day. One of the central foci of rabbinic culture was that you would find a group of followers to train in your ways. A rabbi would pass on his yolk (or practice and interpretation of the Torah) to his followers.
In Jesus’ case, as he was walking along the sea he saw Peter and Andrew fishing off the shore. He called to them, “follow me” and at once the followed him. Shortly after he saw James and John. Again fishing, and again he called to them. Matthew records that James and John left their boat and father who was fishing with them and immediately followed Jesus.
If the story of the calling of the disciples were going to be re-written for the average American Christian it would be told as such.
Jesus was walking along the shore when he saw Peter and Andrew behind the bar at Starbucks. Peter was working the drive-thru while Andrew was making drinks. Jesus said to them “follow me.” They got excited. They accepted the offer. They couldn’t believe it. They talked about their lives being changed. Then they told him they would see him Sunday. Jesus left alone.
He walked into Chillis where he met two brothers eating a meal with their father. Jesus approached the table and said to the two boys, “follow me. “ Their father was ecstatic. The boys also couldn’t believe that such an important figure would care about them, that he would want to spend time with them and mold them. As Jesus turned to leave the restaurant he looked back and noticed the boys focused back on the bottomless chips and salsa. “Aren’t you coming to follow me?” he asked them. “Oh, um, yeah. I mean we will see you Sunday right? We have a lot of things to do here. We only have so much time you know? But we will definitely see you Sunday. Unless we are out too late Saturday night, definitely the next week though!”
Now I spend a lot of time at Starbucks and I love me some chips and salsa so I am not criticizing there. But I wonder how many of us who are “followers of Jesus” are actually following Jesus. We may like him, know about him, see him around town, but are we really going to the places he is going? Are we really following him?
I know more often than I want to admit, I am not. Time gets in the way. Responsibilities pile up. I get tired. I get lazy. And sometimes I really just don’t want to follow.
But you know what God does when he calls us to follow and we don’t go? He calls us again. Moses gave a laundry list of excuses, but in the end, he followed. Elijah was hiding in a cave, from the enemy and from God, but God found him and called him. Peter had sold Jesus out publicly, but three days later, Jesus was there again, reminding him that written on Peter’s heart was the desire to follow God.
So when Jesus jumps off a cliff, go. It’s scary and you can’t see the bottom. You aren’t sure if you will be hurt, you aren’t sure if it’s safe, you aren’t sure if you will ever be back again. But wouldn’t you rather face the fear of following than the regret of missing out?
And even if you don’t, have confidence that he will be back again, calling you once again to follow him.
So, if Jesus jumped off a cliff would you too? Yup.