“Many people followed Him from Galilee and Judea. They followed Him from the cities of Decapolis and Jerusalem. They followed Him from Judea and from the other side of the Jordan River.”
As Jesus did what Jesus did and as Jesus taught what he taught, people were drawn to him. His love and acceptance of all people was overwhelming and people seeking hope and love wanted be around him at whatever cost. He was living and offering a new life free from the burdened life of the culture. The disciples were attracted to the life of Jesus and left everything to learn to live the life Jesus offered. When Jesus left, he told the disciples to teach others how to live this life. As they did, their life was as attractive as Jesus’. Following Jesus was a way of life not just a religion or belief system. As people lived that life, the people around them were attracted to a life free from burden and filled with love, acceptance and community.
Do we as followers of Jesus live a life that is attractive to others? Are people drawn to the Jesus that is within us? Do they experience Jesus as they experience us? St. Francis of Assisi said that we are to “preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” I think St. Francis was saying: “Let your life speak of the life you have found in Jesus.”
I think, for many of us, we have relied on the church to be the attraction and expression of Jesus. If I can get people to church, then they will come to know the Jesus I know and have experienced. Don’t get me wrong, the church is the body of Christ and a great expression of Jesus, but when I look at the gospels, it is Jesus living a way of life that is different from the world yet fully present in it. They didn’t follow him to Temple, they followed him everywhere he went. The church is a people beyond name, time and location.
People followed Jesus and Jesus asked the disciples to imitate his life. Imitating Jesus would mean becoming like him; doing what he did, teaching what he taught, and living the way he lived. The Apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” As followers of Jesus are we imitating his life? Are people seeking after our life as people sought after Jesus? I think for many of us, this brings up a great question of whether our life is attractive and worth following. Are we even attentive to the people that are already following our lives wanting what we have? Are we willing to invite them into our lives? Are we willing to invite others to follow us as we follow Christ?
Instead of inviting them to church, what if we invited them into our lives? What if we discipled them into the life giving grace rhythms of our life? Then as one of our life rhythms they followed us into our community; church.
I think Jesus would want to say to all of us, ” Invite people into the life you have found in me.” Who is following you?