When you were a kid did you ever make pretend that you were jumping across a river of lava or across a stream filled with piranhas? If you’ve played “Follow the Leader,” chances are that you did. Follow the Leader is a children’s game where the “leader” sets out on a course with the others mimicking each of his or her moves. The real difficulty happens, and of course much of the fun occurs, when the leader attempts to cross difficult obstacles like a wide jump, walking across a narrow beam, or climbing a big rock. People are eliminated when they fail at an obstacle, and eventually the game begins again with a new leader.
Although “Follow the Leader” is a children’s game, the reality is that we all are following while someone or something leads. If you work, odds are you have a supervisor or boss who is directing you. For the majority of my life I’ve been self-employed and, although I was the boss, I still very much had to follow the needs of my customers and clients. I love to watch the television shows about Alaska and those who live off the land hundreds of miles away from people, but even they are following someone. In their case their leader’s name is “nature” or “survival.”
Follow the Leader was a very important lesson that the Israelites had to learn when they first came out of Egypt. I’ve always thought of them as leaving Egypt as the “Nation of Israel,” meaning a well-organized and structured group of people, but that wasn’t the case. They were a massive mob, motivated to leave by the prospect of freedom from Egyptian bondage. One of the first things God had to do was to warn them to no longer follow the ways of the Egyptians, to avoid the customs of the pagan peoples around them, and to follow only Him. He even gave them the Law so that they would know what to do and how to follow Him.
Jesus was the physical embodiment of the Law, and his request to his disciples was always the same: “Come follow me” (Matt 4:19). The same request holds true for all of us today. In any given moment we are either following Jesus, or we aren’t. The mark of a true disciple is that he follows Jesus, the true Leader. One of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves in any given moment is, “Am I really following him now?” After all, he did say, “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).