This year at University Ministries, our theme is “Follower” and all last semester we invited you to consider what it would look like to actually follow Jesus. And I reminded you during the first semester that Jesus wasn’t and isn’t looking for “followers” in the same way that Miley Cyrus or Beyonce, Jay-Z or Eminem want followers. Jesus wasn’t and isn’t looking a fan base and people to retweet his profound thoughts. Rather Jesus was and is looking for actual followers, people who will live out his profound thoughts.
This year we are not inviting you to just believe that Jesus is your Savior, the one who rescues you from sin. Although, this is essential if you want to want to begin this new journey because like any journey it will be far easier to get going and stay going if you get rid of the extra baggage. But that’s not the totality of the invitation. We are not inviting you to follow Jesus as a fan or to just believe that Jesus forgives your personal sins so that you can get to heaven, we are inviting you actually follow Jesus because he is God and because he wants to bring his kingdom to earth just like it is in heaven.
We are inviting you to follow because Jesus is looking for people to actually join him in this mission, this mission to make manifest, to make clear and visible, the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
Just to be really clear about this call to follow Jesus, this is not a one and done. When you and I decide to follow Jesus we are not following Jesus to a destination on this earth. There will never be a spiritual GPS that announces, “we have arrived”, there will be no “X” that marks a final resting spot and there isn’t a line that you and I can call “finish”.
Now, there was a destination in the Old Testament, perhaps that’s why so many people get confused. The Promised Land was a point on a map that the people of God could actually go to, a location at which they could actually arrive. In the Old Testament the people of God were confident that there was a place where they could one day quit walking. For them stopping was an option… eventually.
Not so for those of us who believe Jesus is God and are therefore choosing to follow him. In the New Testament the journey doesn’t have a destination as its goal. On this earth followers of Jesus are not headed to a promised land and there is no place where we can quit walking, stop the journey and settle down. Because for those who are followers of Jesus our goal is not a destination, a particular place that we will live, or an income bracket we will achieve, a family we will create or a church we will attend. If there was a destination we could know when we had arrived and we could stop and settle down and quit focusing on our steps. But that is not the goal of a follower of Jesus; the goal of a follower of Jesus is not a destination, but rather a manifestation of Jesus himself through our very lives.
The goal of a follower of Jesus is that Jesus will be made visible and clear and tangible through us to the world we live in. As followers of Jesus we are called to be the “now Body of Christ”, to be the hands and feet and prayers and voices of the One that we follow. And let me tell you what, this side of heaven we will never completely arrive at that and you and I will never exhaust the countless ways we can manifest Jesus to the world around us. Which means our journey is never finished here because the opportunities for manifestation are endless and they are right in front of us.
Several years ago, during the early winter I was walking through the compass and I noticed a student sitting on the bench with her head down. Now it was cold out and I thought it was kind of funny that she was sitting there and I felt the nudge of Jesus saying, “I want to be present beside her”. I didn’t know her, but I took the risk and I sat down next to her and asked her if she was OK. She wasn’t and she needed a hug and she needed some help. See Jesus wanted her to know that she was not invisible and that she was so valuable to him, so valuable that he would stop for her. And so he invited me to make him manifest.
Or listen to this, at my chapel retreat this weekend, one of my team members told of a time when the cupboards in her kitchen were nearly empty and that very night she had a dream that there was food. And in the morning her family woke up to a knock at the door and a man who had an armload of groceries. It seems that Jesus didn’t want to feed the 5000 just once but that he continues to want hungry people fed and so he invited someone who was listening to make him manifest in an armload of groceries.
There are so many ways to manifest Jesus in this world, to make Jesus visible and clear and tangible to those who need to know that God continues to walk with people. And you and I will never exhaust the countless ways we can manifest Jesus. Which means as followers of Jesus who still live on this side of heaven, we are never finished. No matter if you are 18 and beginning a journey with Jesus or if you are 48 and have been following Jesus for some time I want you to know that on this earth you will not arrive at a destination and you cannot complete the manifestation. The world may say there is a destination and a retirement on this earth, but the New Testament does not support that. Rather, it says that in this life our job is continual manifestation and then one day, when we are dead, resurrection to the ultimate destination. Or said more simply, followers of Jesus are not done till we’re dead.