After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. (Luke 5:27-28)
The Two Greatest Words
When Jesus called disciples to Him, He used a powerful and concise statement to draw men to Him or send them away. There was little fanfare to the appeal of Jesus. He never spent long hours trying to convince people to follow Him and accept His teachings. Jesus’s words were two simple words: Follow Me. Matthew (or Levi) was a man of importance in the Jewish and Roman world. His brethren did not like him as he was used by the Romans. Being a tax collector came with its own distrust, dishonesty, and oppression. It was not uncommon for tax collectors to ask more than demanded by the Romans to line their own pockets. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector who admitted to being dishonest. Matthew was sitting at his place of business collecting taxes when Jesus came by. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Matthew rose and followed Jesus for the rest of his life.
There was some background to Jesus and Matthew, and the appeal was that powerful. It was not as if Matthew had no understanding of who Jesus was. When the time came for Matthew to dedicate his life to the Lord, he acted like a man who fully trusted with no doubting in the truth that Jesus was the Son of God. When Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew casting a net into the sea as they had done all their life. They were fishermen working the family business for generations. Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and they did. When Jesus found Philip, He told him to follow Him, and Philip obeyed. All these men gave up their lives to follow a man who claimed to be the Son of God. These same men would give their lives in martyrdom because they followed Jesus. Following Jesus was not for entertainment or worldly gain, or notoriety among men. Jesus demands His disciples to follow Him without doubting and in complete faith.
Following Jesus requires two things. First, a follower of Jesus is subject to everything the Lord demands. There are no options, democratic voting, or selecting which parts are desirable and which are not. When Jesus calls a man to follow Him, it demands a full heart of obedience to everything the Lord requires. Secondly, there is only one way to follow, one truth to accept, and one life to live. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and to follow Jesus requires allegiance to Jesus only – no one else. Many who want to follow Jesus will only do so on their terms. They claim to be followers of Jesus but deny Him in their obedience. Following Jesus is either all or nothing.
Not everyone Jesus invites to follow Him accepts His invitation. Being a disciple of Jesus requires taking up a cross, and few are willing to accept self-crucifixion. A rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all he had and give to the poor and to follow Jesus. The man went away sorrowful because while he desired to follow Jesus, he was unwilling to pay the price. Men try to make excuses when Jesus calls them. Jesus urges a man to follow him, but he excuses himself so he can bury his father. This ritual was probably what the Jews did a year after a loved one died by going into the tomb to bury the bones. Following Jesus cannot be done beginning with excuses. After this man rebuffed the invitation of the Lord, someone comes to Jesus and tells Him he would follow Him, but first, he must tell his family goodbye. Again, Jesus explains that to follow Him requires a man not looking back.
The two greatest words given by Jesus is asking men to “Follow Me.” When a man accepts the invitation of Jesus, he will hear two more words when judgment comes as the Father will say, “Well done.” To finalize the greatest joy a man will hear are two words: “Enter in.” Two words. First to follow, then to be commended, and finally to enter in. What a joy. Praise God (two more words).