For any relationship to work, there must be time spent together. Some call this “quality time.” However, “quantity time” is important, too. Ideally, we need both. To have an intimate relationship with another, we need to spend enough time together that we have positive experiences, make memories, and really get to know the other.
To refer to ourselves as disciples of Christ means that we are students and followers of Christ. In our times, we may not think of students as people who spend much time with teachers. In some educational settings, a student can get an A without ever seeing the teacher. When this happens, it is because success in the class is based on the learning of information. If you learn the information, you get a good grade regardless of whether you personally know the teacher or not.
But following Jesus is not strictly about learning information. What is it that we are actually following when we decide to follow Jesus? In Matthew 4:17, Jesus says, “Follow me.” Ultimately, we are following a person and His way of life. To be a disciple of Jesus is to spend time with Jesus and live as He lived. It is about knowing and following the teachings of Jesus, but we do this because it makes us more like the person of Jesus.
Some translations will include the word after in Matthew 4:19. “Come after me” or “follow after me.” If you’re trying to teach someone to do something and you say “follow after me,” you mean that you want them to do what you do. This might seem overly simplistic, but it is essentially what Jesus means. When Jesus says “Follow me,” He is essentially saying “Live as a I live.” In order to do that, we must spend time with the Teacher.
One way that we can spend time with the Teacher is by reading Scripture, especially the Gospels. Try to put yourself in the scene. What would it be like to be casting a damp, fishy-smelling net into the sea and have someone invite you along on an adventurous journey? What would it be like to hear Jesus preach? What would it be like to walk alongside Jesus as He healed the sick, fed the hungry crowds, confronted the powerful elite, and spoke of His impending death? What would it be like to see your teacher on the cross? And, what it would be like to see Him alive after He was put in the tomb? What are the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the emotions that you would experience?
If you are really captivated by a book, you feel as though you are a part of it. You get to know the characters, and you imagine what they’re like. You can’t put the book down. You picture yourself in the story. It becomes a part of who you are. If you are fully immersed in the world of the book, you may even feel like you know the characters and the author.
For some reason, it seems that we seldom read Scripture this way. Instead of reading it like a book that we can’t put down, we can be guilty of approaching it more like a tedious textbook. There are many ways that people approach the Bible—a book to be read through in a year, a book of historical and geographical information, a book of good advice. There can be value in all of that, but what if we started approaching our reading of the Bible as an opportunity to spend time with Jesus? I imagine we would get to know Him a little better. And when that happens, we’ll start resembling Him more.