In the eighth chapter of the Gospel by Matthew the Lord Jesus commands His disciples to depart unto the other side of the lake (v.18). They have been in home territory and are now faced with the command to leave for a new area of service. How will they respond to this call?
The first response is from a scribe who calls out, "I will follow thee withersoever thou goest". This man had looked at the crowds following the Lord, had seen the enthusiasm with which the disciples were met wherever they went and, carried away with emotion, declared his willingness to go anywhere the Master commanded. The answer of the Saviour reveals the motives of this man. The foxes did have their holes and the birds of the air did have their nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. This would-be follower coveted the popularity and excitement which he considered went with discipleship, but was he prepared to be a pilgrim and a stranger?
Society today longs for the spectacular and for the excitement of the crowd. Thrill, hype, buzz and atmosphere are necessary for any successful "event". The media promotes it, the participants covet it and others rely on it. Sadly, this has affected Christian work. There are those who are not happy unless they are involved in work that promises the spectacular. The bigger the better! The more "professional" the more effective! The broader based, the more attractive! The buzz, the hype, the thrill carry everyone along. Modern times demand modern methods. Where the "action" is, there they must be. It does not matter who we link up with, as long as they carry the badge "Christian". We must be "event driven". But when the great "event" is over many sink into spiritual lethargy, only spurred into action by the promise of another "great time". They will follow the Master provided He leads to "where it is all happening".
The danger is that believers can, without realising it, come to rely on the "action" rather than on the Lord. They will follow whenever the crowds are present, but walking a quieter road, and following in days when there is nothing to excite, is not for them.
The second response is seen in the man who wished first to go and bury his father. If the scribe was over enthusiastic, this man was over cautious. But why did the Lord Jesus ask him to follow Him and let the dead bury their dead? He was not teaching that parents have to be neglected - the Word of God is clear on this point. The Lord is simply stating that He wished His disciples to be completely devoted to Him regardless of the cost.
This attitude can be as damaging as that of the scribe. The determination to do nothing until the "time is right", the wish to let the testimony drift on without direction, and the desire to be left undisturbed can not only stifle the work, but can create frustration in others who seek to serve.
At the early part of another winter's service we must not embark on it with the thoughtless abandon of the thrill-seeking scribe who had never counted the cost or realised the implications of the call. The Master will never call us without laying out all that is involved in following Him. We must, however, avoid the opposite extreme of seeking reasons to do nothing at present. In prayer before the Lord let us not run ahead of Him nor run behind Him. The true pathway of discipleship is seen in those men who without extravagant claims or unacceptable requests follow Him into the boat (v.23).
The pathway of obedience may at times make claims on us which we do not relish, but the reward is to learn more of Him and to see His work carried on in such a way as others never experience. To cry without thought, thinking that service is all crowds and enthusiastic popularity, "I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest", is a recipe for disaster. The cost is set out in the Scriptures. Let us accept this and as a result, quietly, actively, soberly and devotedly, go on to experience the power which He displays to those who follow Him. May the winter ahead be a time of blessing in His service as we follow Him, lean on Him and learn of Him.