His invitation seems simple enough at first —
Jesus says, to an outcast of all people, FOLLOW me (Luke 5:27). The resurrected Jesus says, to a deserter of all people, FOLLOW me (John 21:19).
This invitation to follow is the start of our new and renewed lives as his disciples. We are Christ-followers first. As disciples follow along, we try to listen to Jesus’ words, learn what Jesus did, look at how Jesus worshipped and worked, and join others in trying to follow his way of living. Following Jesus will be anything but simple.
Jesus says (to an assortment of poor, troubled souls), You are my FRIENDS if you keep my commands (John 15:14).
As followers, we receive the Spirit that Jesus sends, and this Holy Spirit draws us nearer to Jesus and to one another. Disciples grow into friendship with the living Christ and with each other. Time together transforms us, lifts us, spurs us on.
As we grow closer to Jesus, followers find a deepening friendship with him and his body, the Church. But followers and friends of Jesus also become part of his family.
Jesus says (to friends and enemies alike), Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:34). Jesus tells a story of judgment in which our response to others in need is watched and weighed. In Jesus’ story, the judge says, Truly I tell you just as cared for one of the least of these who are members of my FAMILY, you cared for me.
Christian disciples are followers of, friends to, and family with Jesus. His way, the way of discipleship, is seldom a smooth, linear, or easy progression. In truth, following, befriending, and abiding with Jesus as brothers and sisters brings sacrifice, suffering, and hard-fought change. Discipleship is anything but simple.
But our teacher, friend, and brother — Jesus the Christ, the Lord and Savior, also says to you and me, to us and them, I am with you always (Matthew 28:20).