Hey follower of Jesus, do you really know who you’re following?

6 min. to read.

You know some things about Jesus. I mean, you have a picture in your mind. A visual image, perhaps. A sense of what Jesus was like. How he treated people. His tone of voice, maybe. Certainly, the issues that he cared about most.

As a follower of Jesus that mental picture is vital to you. It probably motivates you. It may inform your decisions about politics, or vocation, or parenting.

Now stop for a moment. Have you ever really thought about where that picture came from? Where did you learn about Jesus?

You’ve been putting puzzle pieces together.

It’s an easy question to stutter over. I mean, Jesus is just Jesus, right? Church kids like me have known about Jesus all our lives. It feels like the picture didn’t come from anywhere, but that’s not true. If you’re like most people, your picture of Jesus is a composite. It’s been assembled from puzzle pieces picked up as you’ve moved through life.

  • You got a handful of pieces from your own church or religious tradition. If you grew up in church, you heard certain stories over and over. Maybe one of those stories captured your imagination, or spoke to a deep need in your heart. Now that story is the lense through which you imagine Jesus.  If your church spoke of “doing the Lord’s work,” or “obeying Jesus,” there was probably a clear indication of what those things meant. You got a sense of what Jesus must care most about. Was it evangelizing? Was it avoiding bad behavior? Was it sticking up for people or calling them out?
  • Your own family gave you another handful of pieces. Was Jesus talked about a lot, or barely at all? That gave you a sense of how important Jesus was. When he was talked about, what was the tone? Was Jesus someone you were disappointing Was Jesus someone who cared for you? And of course, your experience of your own mother and father shaped your pictures of how Jesus relates to you.
  • The culture around you gave you a few more puzzle pieces. Was Jesus seen as a polite, religious figure, the perfect pastor? Was Jesus talked about as an iconoclast, breaking down social barriers? Was Jesus on your side, or against your side? Was Jesus shown with your skin color or someone elses? How did that impact you?
  • As you grew you took in stories and ideas about Jesus. Books, academic lectures, popular movies, conspiracy theories, theological conversations, bad TV Shows. Each of these offered you more pieces to the puzzle. Some of the pieces made sense to you. Those got added to your picture. Others seemed alien, irreconcilable, and you let those pieces go.

As time passed you fit all your pieces together. Life experience has worn off their edges. Now your picture looks seamless. It feels right.

My words.  Beautiful puzzle photo by Jolene Fabor
My words. Beautiful puzzle photo by Jolene Fabor

So, who are you really following?

If you’re a follower of Jesus this raises a very important question.

If your picture of Jesus is a composite of puzzle pieces collected throughout your life, who are you really following?

Is “Follower of Jesus” just code? Does it really mean that you’re a member of a certain denomination or theological community? It is just a signifier that you like Jesus but don’t like insitutional church?

(You know… it’s more comfortable to say “Follower of Jesus” these days than it can be sometimes to say, “Christian.”) What does it mean for you?

In the past decade, I’ve grown more excited about Jesus and less excited about what has often been done in Jesus name.

In the past couple of years, I’ve felt a visceral reaction in my gut hearing people who proudly wear the label “Christ Follower” say deeply hurtful, exclusionary, and dehumanizing things about people they disagree with. The wider my online community grows, the more I see this. Maybe you relate. Maybe you’ve felt these same feelings.

This is a call to consider carefully what we mean by “follower of Jesus.” I’m mindful of the many puzzle pieces that have influenced my view over the years. I also know there are many other puzzle pieces I’m not even aware of. This has driven me to get more and more clear about who Jesus was, who Jesus is for me now.

I want to be clear about what I mean when I say I’m a follower of Jesus. I want to be clear when I encounter something that seems misaligned with Jesus’ heart. When that happens, I want to know it’s not just my own prejudice or preference asserting itself with a halo. Maybe you want this too.

Isn’t it time you learned from Jesus Himself?

The puzzle pieces you’ve been given, they aren’t all bad or wrong. But they are just puzzle pieces. Jesus’ invitation to us was not to put puzzle pieces together but to learn from Him.

Jesus invited us with these words:

“All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.” [note Matthew 11:29]

He asked us to learn from him. Not just to learn about him. But to learn from Jesus.

Jesus’ first followers were called disciples. A disciple was not a fan or a hanger-on. A disciple was someone who was so intrigued by a certain teacher, that they spent as much time as they could with him. Why? So that they could learn how to do life the way the teacher did. It wasn’t just about learning information. It was about learning a new way of being. Less a student, more an apprentice. (Here’s more on this idea.)

In my next post, I’ll tackle the how. How do we go about learning from Jesus? I mean, it’s not like he’s sitting in the coffee shop across from us, right?

Today I’ll leave you with this: To claim to be a follower of Jesus requires us to get clear about who exactly we are following. This isn’t something that someone can do for you. Like any relationship, it’s something you must pursue for yourself.

(Note: Part 2 of this post can be found here: How do we learn from Jesus when Jesus isn’t physically here with us?)

7 thoughts on “Hey follower of Jesus, do you really know who you’re following?

  1. I’m reminded of Martha and Mary… Martha knew the Master was in her house, and all of her actions and business reflected that. But Mary sat at the feet of the Master, dropping all pretense and drinking in His presence on a whole other level… I pray I’m Mary more often than Martha when it comes to Jesus. So glad I stumbled upon your blog, Marc. Awesome!

    1. Christine! I’m so glad you dropped by and left a comment. Thanks! I think the Mary/Martha struggle is a great place to look regarding this topic. I’m wired up to be busy and accomplishing stuff. That’s not bad, but it’s not how I’ll learn best from Jesus! I look forward to hearing more from you.

  2. Hi Marc
    I am at this point of wanting to know who Jesus is
    I have many puzzle pieces and some fit but alot of them confuse me and frustrate me
    I want to be ok with me with Jesus
    I am not the perfect picture but i am very real and honest with Our Lord Father God and The Holy spirit
    I want to always be honest no matter what
    But i get overwhelmed with the you should be doing this why did you do that is that the right way of living
    What i know and feel is no matter
    What i am
    Loved but i still struggle to find my way with Jesus
    His and mine
    Is that right?
    My way with Jesus?

  3. My influences were all over the place so in turn i am all over the place
    I wanna find the unique me with Jesus
    Not what ive learnt or heard or what people say i should be

    Im not perfect and theres alot i know needs to change but im tried of the you should you cant its not this or that
    I wanna find peace with myself and love me like they say Jesus does

    1. Hey there, Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope that you find the writing to be helpful here on your journey of learning about Jesus. I believe that Jesus is present to each of us through the Holy Spirit and that we can experience this presence and learn from him in this way. If you’re trying to find your own way to understand Jesus, I think the Gospel of John is the best place to begin, particularly chapters 14-17. Trust that Jesus will teach you about himself. On your journey, take heart knowing that you are loved.

      1. Thank you Marc I am doing the Gospel study you suggest with YOUVISION However i will read John and those chapters


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