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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

21 Times Jesus Said "Follow Me"

As a Christian for over 30 years, and a pastor for over 20, I'm passionate about following Jesus, and discovering exactly why and how I can follow Jesus more closely. I did a study of every time that Jesus uses the command "follow me," in the Gospels.

So how many times did Jesus say "follow me?" Well, depends on how you're counting verse references of the same teaching or conversation. So I decided to do both. I'll list the conversations, and put all the references in.

21 times jesus said "follow me"

So there are 21 times, in 12 difference conversations. Let's look at them:

Where did Jesus say "follow me?"

Here's the list of instances where Jesus commands "follow me," hyperlinked to the ESV for easy reference:

1. Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17 "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."

2. Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:59 - To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” ..."Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

3. Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27 - After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”

4. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23 - "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

5. Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22 - Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

6. Luke 14:27 - Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

7. John 1:43 - The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

8. John 10:27 - My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (I realize this one is not a command, but a statement of fact. I decided to include it anyway.)

9. John 12:26 - If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

10. John 13:36 - Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”

11. John 21:19 - (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

12. John 21:22 - Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

This list reflects instances where Jesus specifically uses the phrase "Follow me." The context of each verse can involve calling his disciples, encouraging a deeper commitment from followers, or teaching about the costs and rewards of discipleship.

What does it mean when Jesus says "follow me?"

When Jesus says "Follow me," it's far more than a simple invitation to walk behind Him. And it's more than Bible study. It means transformation. Following Jesus means to align our lives with His teachings and example, to embrace His values as our own. It signifies a willingness to leave behind old ways and habits, to take up our cross daily, and to live out a commitment to Him above all other influences.

Ultimately, this reshapes our priorities, our actions, and our very identity!

Remember, when Jesus invited/commanded his disciples to follow him, they:

  • left their boats and nets (their identity & livelihood)

  • began to obey his other commands (leaving their own priorities)

  • began to learn from him (beginning to leave their own opinions)

  • began to imitate him (beginning to leave their self-righteousness)

We sometimes fail to appreciate how much this would have turned the disciples' lives upside down! Do we have a right to expect any less when we respond to Jesus' invitation to follow him?

Why did Jesus command the crowds and his disciples to "follow me?"

Jesus called people to follow Him for several reasons.

Primarily, it was an invitation to participate in the Kingdom of God, to live under God's rule in a way that brings life, hope, and healing to the world. Jesus was initiating a movement that would spread God's love and grace to every corner of the earth. So, if you're tracking with me, Jesus was teaching them how to live out the values of the Kingdom (exemplified in the Beatitudes), both in their personal lives and in community with others.

Moreover, Jesus' call to "Follow me" was also about forming a community of believers who would support one another, learn together, and grow in faith. This communal aspect of discipleship is crucial, as it reflects the relational nature of God Himself. In following Jesus together, disciples are equipped and empowered to continue His mission in the world, spreading the good news of God's love and salvation.

How can we obey Jesus' command to "follow me?"

Obeying Jesus' command to "Follow me" is an ongoing process that involves several practical steps:

1. Intentional Learning: Imagine getting to know someone, without actually listening to anything they said! Doesn't work... you're going to need to spend time reading the Bible, especially the Gospels, to understand Jesus' life, teachings, and the principles of the Kingdom of God. Seek to apply these teachings in your everyday life.

2. Reflection and Prayer: Cultivate a regular prayer practice to listen to God's voice and seek His guidance. Reflect on your life and choices in the light of Jesus' call to discipleship. Learn how to pray the Psalms, turning prayer into a conversation, not just a monologue.

3. Community Involvement: I know, this one's not popular in a culture where no one wants to actually join anything any more. But it's vital! Connect with a local church where you can grow in your faith, receive support, and practice living out the teachings of Jesus together.

4. Service and Mission: Giving of your time and talents without the usual rewards of money and recognition are vital for Christian discipleship. Look for opportunities to serve others in love, reflecting Jesus' example of service. This could be within your local community or through global missions or training emerging Christian leaders.

5. Personal Holiness: Ultimately, this is the goal: to be holy like God is holy. Be open to the Holy Spirit's work in your life to transform your heart and mind, making you more like Jesus in character and action.

Following Jesus means Imitating Jesus

Following Jesus is about doing the things that he would do, having the values that he would have. It's about daily making the choice to live in a way that honors Him, impacts the world positively, and brings us into a deeper relationship with God.

That's what discipleship teaches us.

Does Jesus Still call people to follow him?

Absolutely! He does it through:

Honestly, he wants to use YOU! He wants YOU to be a part of this grand conspiracy to overthrow the order of the world-system, and make followers of Jesus!

Can we teach others to follow Jesus?

I sure hope so! That's what I've dedicated my life to doing. I'm the founder of NewStart Discipleship, and I am working hard on creating a clear discipleship pathway, so that:

  • Any Christian can make a disciple

  • Any pastor can multiply disciple-makers

If you want to download a sample copy of my discipleship pathway, put in your name and email here:

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