As Jesus passed on from there. He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9, N.K.J.V.)
A little boy got mad at his mother and decided to run away from home. A neighbor looked out the window and saw him on his tricycle going around and around in a circle in the driveway. The neighbor walked over there and said, “Son, why are you going around in circles in your driveway?” The boy said, “I’m running away from home, but mommy won’t let me cross the street.”
Many people, including many Christians, are merely going around and around in circles in life. They aren’t maturing. They aren’t growing spiritually. They aren’t getting anything done for Christ. They are just sort of trapped in an unproductive loop from which they either can’t or won’t break free.
One day Jesus walked up to a tax-collecting booth and said to Matthew, a Jewish man working as a tax collector for the Roman government, “Follow me.” In those early weeks of Christ’s earthy ministry, He had already been baptized by John the Baptist, tempted by Satan, performed His first miracle and probably several others, cast the money-exchangers out of the temple. and done a fair amount of preaching in not only the southern part of the land (Judah) but also the northern part (Galilee). So, Matthew had probably heard of Him. There is, however, no scriptural record of Matthew having talked with Jesus or even seen Him before Jesus said to Him, “Follow me.” Still, Matthew immediately left his booth, followed Jesus, and became one of the chosen 12 apostles.
Was that encounter Matthew’s salvation experience? Apparently. Was it his call into full-time ministry? Yes. Sometimes those two moments really can occur at the same time. The point, though, is that Jesus didn’t say to Matthew, “Believe in me and stay here.” No, He said to him, “Follow me.” That word “Follow” told Matthew that Jesus was going to lead him to new places. He had a plan for the rest of Matthew’s life, a plan that would take Matthew into unchartered areas of service. There would be no going around and around in circles, never getting anywhere, for Matthew.
It is interesting that when the gospel writers Mark and Luke offer their accounts of Christ’s calling of Matthew (Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28), they use the name Levi, which was Matthew’s birth name. Matthew, on the other hand, uses the name Matthew in his account. Evidently Matthew was the new name given to him by Jesus. It is as if Matthew is saying to his readers, “I don’t even want to remember who I was before I followed Jesus.”
Right now, no matter who you are or what station you hold in life, Jesus is saying to you, “Follow me.” If you are not a Christian, He is saying, “Follow Me and in so doing experience salvation right here and right now.” If you are already a Christian, He is saying, “Follow Me and let Me take you into new areas of service wherein I can use you.” He doesn’t want your life to ever get stale, stagnant, and boring, but He doesn’t want you to go racing off to do things that aren’t His will, either. What He wants is for you to always follow Him. It is often said that we need to be in good fellowship with Jesus. Well, the way to be in good fellowship with Him is to be in good followship with Him. You do that, and you’ll be amazed at the places to which He will take you and the ways in which He will use you.