In Jesus’ day, follow me was a famous phrase that was used to call the best of the best, in short, to call Rabbis. Rabbis were at the center of the community; they weren’t just teachers, they were judges, leaders and politicians of the people. They mattered. To become a Rabbi, you had to be mentored by a Rabbi, and to be mentored by a Rabbi, you had to interview with one. Even at that, most of the people who interviewed got turned away because only a small handful made the cut. To be selected, you had to be good looking, super-smart, and very religious. If you managed to get in, your acceptance letter to the “Harvard” of being a Rabbi was the phrase follow me. In short, it was a Rabbi saying to a future Rabbi, “I think you can be just like me.”
The fact that Jesus told Matthew, who was a tax collector, to follow Him was pretty much beyond comprehension. Tax collectors were really bad guys; they were the worst of the worst. Not only were they Jews collecting money on behalf of the Roman Empire, they were criminals, pocketing an arbitrary percentage of tax revenues for their own gain. How could Jesus make such a weighty and sacred statement to someone who was so sinful? Because that’s how the upside down Kingdom of God works. When Jesus calls Matthew and he assumes his identity as a disciple, everything changes.
Like Matthew, Jesus calls you in the midst of your sin and brokenness. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what you’re doing now. It’s all been paid for and you can follow Him right where you are today. Isn’t that good news?