These days, on various social media platforms, people are craving for followers, measuring their worth by the number of followers they have gained. When Jesus said come follow me, He did not do that based on His agenda and to gain followers. He did that for us, and out of obedience to His Father.
Even as Christians, we often check who is following us and who to follow on social media or in our various communities. It has become part of our daily routine as modern-day children of God. Whatever we do each day (on or off social media), God wants us to follow Him and be mindful of His calling. He sent His Son to tell us, “Come, follow me.”
What was the true meaning when Jesus said follow me? What did Jesus really mean when he said follow me? With our human nature, we will only grasp part of the true meaning. We can get a better understanding of what it means when Jesus said follow me, by exploring various Bible verses in which Jesus said, follow me.
Where in the Bible did Jesus say come follow me?
God wants us to follow Him with our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our strength (Mark 12:30 NLT). That was already so in Old Testament times, and it didn’t change with the coming of His Son, Jesus. Rather, God stressed the importance of following Him even more.
Jesus’s ministry started with selecting His disciples to follow Him. Many records in the New Testament also showed many others following and serving Him. Others followed Jesus out of personal gain: they wanted to get healed, delivered, attention, or food. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees followed Jesus, though that was in most cases to trick Him.
Because of Jesus’ charisma, naturally many people followed Him, whether or not He actively invited them to follow Him. Apart from that, many Bible verses in the New Testament record Jesus using the phrase follow me.
How many times did Jesus say follow me? We can find Jesus using these two words together 22 times. He used it directly to His disciples, to the people around Him, and to explain the Kingdom of God (for example, in John 10:27 – “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”).
The combination of “Come follow me” is only in a few verses. Jesus said come follow me Bible verses can be found only in 7 cases.
The seven come follow me Bible verses explained:
Fishers of men
The first account of Jesus saying come follow me is when He called His first disciples. Jesus used this term when He called Peter and Andrew. Normally, young men who wanted to learn from a rabbi sought one out, but Jesus called Peter and Andrew to take part in His ministry. Later, Jesus also said come follow me to Philip.
It is to these men that Jesus said follow me and I will make you fishers of men. The first occasion is recorded in Matthew 4 verse 19:
“Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’”Matthew 4:19 (NLT)
“Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’”Mark 1:17 (NLT)
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Come, follow me’.”John 1:43 (NLT)
“Come, follow me” meant ‘come behind me as a disciple.’ It was an invitation, but in view of who Jesus was, it had the force of a command. The figure of fishing people out of divine judgment originates from the Old Testament. God was the fisher of men.
Likewise, the sea had a metaphorical meaning of sin and death (Isa. 57:20-21). This illustration appealed to fishermen. Jesus was calling these men to assist Him in delivering people from divine judgment by taking the gospel to them. As fishing, this calling would also involve hard work, self-sacrifice, and skill.
Jesus did not invent the term ‘fishers of men.’ It was a common description of philosophers and other teachers who ‘captured men’s minds’ through teaching and persuasion. Peter and Andrew followed Jesus immediately by quitting their jobs as fishermen and their commitment to Jesus increased as time passed.
Teaching His disciples
When Jesus was teaching His disciples later during one of their journeys, He used the term “come follow me” to explain the consequences for disciples who choose to follow Him faithfully. In the following two Bible verses, the Greek meaning of come follow me is: ‘to come after me.’
“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’.”Luke 9:23 (NKJV)
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’.”Matthew 16:24 (NKJV)
Coming after Jesus means becoming His disciple. Jesus stressed here that it includes denying yourself. Denying self is more fundamental than denying things. It involves forsaking one’s personal ambitions and desires to fulfill the will of God. It means living for His sake rather than our own.
Jesus used the term ‘take up your cross’ to imply bearing the reproach and burden associated with one’s chosen way of life. In those days, criminals going to crucifixion carried their own cross. To carry one’s cross daily meant enduring reproach and burdens as a disciple of Jesus day after day, no matter the consequences.
The rich man
Jesus used the same phrase (come follow me) to address the rich man. It was to him that Jesus said to leave everything and follow me.
“When Jesus heard his answer, he said, ‘There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’.”Luke 18:22 (NLT)
After a rich young man passed the initial test of faith, Jesus presented him with the higher hurdle of not coveting. Jesus’ command to come, give up everything, and to follow Him exposed the rich man’s genuine passion. His unwillingness to do away with his riches showed he valued them more than treasure in heaven. He really wanted material wealth more than eternal life.
After this, the young man went away. He is the only person in the Gospels who came to Jesus and went away in a worse condition than when he came.
Jesus also said “come, follow me” to a group of people who said they would follow Jesus everywhere. They clearly expressed their willingness to follow Jesus, but that did not impress Jesus.
“As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.’ He said to another person, ‘Come, follow me.’ The man agreed, but he said, ‘Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God’.”Luke 9:57-62 (NLT)
Jesus did not rebuke them, but clarified what following Him would involve, so they could count the cost intelligently. They needed to accept homelessness, physical discomfort, and rejection, among others.
The self-professed followers actually came to Jesus requesting permission to follow Him. Jesus replied with a command to follow Him in exactly the same simple but powerful words as Jesus used to call the twelve: come, follow me.
What does it mean when Jesus says follow me?
What does it mean to follow someone? The word ‘follow’ is rich in meaning and has many sides. It can mean to succeed after, to chase after, to comply with, to goose-step after, to obey, to note, and to observe. Interestingly, all facets apply to following Jesus.
- Succeed: to come after in time. Jesus came first; as disciples, we come after Him.
- Chase: to go after or on the track of. Jesus wants us to follow His tracks.
- Comply: to do what is required by the terms of. Jesus wants us to do what is written in the Bible.
- Goose-step: to practice an unthinking conformity. Jesus wants us to be conformed to Him.
- Obey: to act according to the commands of. Jesus wants us to act based on His commands, not just listen to them or know them.
- Note: to take notice of and be guided by. Jesus wants us to note what He does and receive guidance from it.
- Observe: to keep one’s eyes on. Jesus wants us to keep our eyes on Him all the time.
Jesus wants us to follow Him in every way possible. Each day. All the days of our lives.
Following Jesus through the Bible
If we read Scriptures the same we as we do with books, God’s Word can become like stories or like history. However, when we study the Bible for ourselves, we can make the Bible verses personal and relate to it more intimately. By studying God’s Word, we can allow God Himself to speak to us through His Holy Spirit.
When we do this, meeting passages in which Jesus says “come follow me” won’t look like an invitation to others anymore. It becomes a personal invitation. As if Jesus is addressing us directly. That is exactly what God wants us to do: directly. Not through someone else and not because someone else told us to do it.
One way to make reading the Bible more personal is by asking ourselves questions while we study. Such as what did Jesus mean when He said follow me? Pondering about what did Jesus really mean when He said follow me, helps us to take the invitation personally and to meditate around the deeper meaning of it.
So, what was the meaning when Jesus said, follow me? It means He wants us to give up self and follow Him, be like Him, learn from Him, receive direction from Him, etc. Much like children follow their parents, copy what they do, and learn from them.
God wants us to have the attitude of a child in following Him. With a learning heart, open mind, and a pure spirit.
‘The God of New Beginnings’ provides rich insights, examples, and guidance for receiving your new beginning from God. You will learn to grasp God’s nature, trust Him, and rely on His unfailing love for you.
Does Jesus call us to follow Him?
The books in the Bible were written a long time ago. Is it still relevant? Does Jesus’ invitation to come and follow Him still apply to us today? Does He really want us to follow Him?
Answering Jesus’ call to follow Him
Jesus still wants us to follow Him in the same as the fishermen did. And in the same way as with Peter and Andrew, Jesus finds us. We don’t find Him. Jesus calls us, even if we don’t look for Him. He still wants us to leave our worldly lives and follow Him in everything we do, quitting our previous fixation on ourselves and the world.
And similarly to the fishermen, when Jesus calls us, He does not promise an easy life without storms, challenges, or issues. He also doesn’t say it will be easy to follow Him. Our calling involves the same hard work, self-sacrifice, and skill. But we have the Holy Spirit to help us. We don’t do it by ourselves.
Carry your cross and follow Jesus
The same teaching that applied to Jesus’ disciples applies to us. Jesus wants us to carry our cross daily and follow Him as disciples. That includes denying ourselves and not just denying things. It involves forsaking our personal ambitions and desires to fulfill the will of God. It means living for His sake rather than our own.
When we choose to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, it may cost us something in this life on Earth. As Jesus’ disciples, we must keep following Him daily and bear the consequences that may involve loss and shame.
Give up everything and follow me
Jesus also still asks to give up everything like He asked the young, rich man to do. We should not necessarily sell or give away all our belongings, but we should give up our desire for worldly things and replace that with the desire to follow Him and be like Him.
God knows our focus will be on that what we treasure. If we don’t treasure following Him, we won’t be able to follow Him wholeheartedly.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)
The cost to follow Jesus
As it was with the self-professed followers, we need to double-check our hearts on our sincerity, count the cost, and then follow Jesus. This will ensure we stick to our choice, no matter what.
All God wants us to do is follow Jesus with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength, keeping our eyes closely on Jesus and follow His lead and instructions. He tells us to follow Him because He knows it is for our ultimate good.
God knows if we follow our own perceptions, our own desires, and our own will, we will end up unhappy and miserable. He loves us too much to let that happen. That is why His invitation to follow Him is as valid today as it was in Jesus’ time on earth.
Come, follow me
By studying all the Bible verses in which Jesus said, come follow me, we get a better understanding of the true meaning of it. By meditating on His Word, praying, and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide us, we make it more personal. It is then that we can grasp that the invitation is still for us today.
We can accept Jesus’ calling and follow Him, no matter what may come our way. If we keep our hearts and eyes on Jesus, we will navigate life’s challenges, knowing God will help us and strengthen us.
So, Jesus’ calling to come and follow Him is for us today as much as it was in the past. God knows we can’t do it by ourselves. He has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit to empower us to follow Him.
Is it going to be easy? No.
Is it possible? Yes.
With God, all things are possible!
“Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible’.”Matthew 19:26 (NLT)
Lord Jesus, You said come follow me. Thank You for Your wisdom to provide for me what I need. Following You is more important than anything else in this world.
I will follow You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. I know it may not always be easy, but I trust You will help me. Your Holy Spirit will strengthen me when I fall. Your gentle Word will guide me when I don’t know what to do.
In worship, I lift my hands to You. Thank You for Your invitation to follow You. I am honored You choose me.