April 14, 2016
by Tim Schenck
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter…Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15a, 18-19)
I first encountered “Iron Mike” at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1988 when I attended Airborne School as a young Army ROTC cadet. Precisely why someone with a healthy fear of heights would voluntarily fling himself out of a perfectly good airplane remains a mystery.
But besides training paratroopers, Ft. Benning is also home to the US Army’s Infantry School. And in front of Infantry Hall is a huge bronze statue of an infantryman known to generations of soldiers as Iron Mike. In one hand he’s holding his rifle; the other arm is motioning to the imaginary soldiers behind him, beckoning them to move forward. On the base of the statue, the infantry motto is prominently displayed: “Follow me.”
I’ve always struggled with the juxtaposition of Iron Mike leading soldiers into battle using the same words Jesus uses to lead us into salvation: “Follow me.” Jesus begins and ends the gospels with these very words. He invites the original disciples to literally drop everything to follow him and with this post-Resurrection appearance he uses the exact same words.
“Follow me.” There is something so personal in this invitation; so loving; so compelling. Part of us wants to cry out, “Are you nuts? Have you met me? Do you know what I’ve done and left undone?” And still the invitation remains. Always extended, always open.
Following Jesus doesn’t mean an easy journey awaits us. We need look no further than the lives of those who gathered for that beachside breakfast in John’s gospel. Life can feel like a minefield or a combat zone. Yet the Prince of Peace leads us into new life, encouraging us to follow him not into battle like Iron Mike, but into a dynamic, fearless relationship of resurrection.
In what ways are you following Jesus anew this Eastertide? If you kept a particular Lenten devotion or practice, has it carried over to this season of Resurrection? Have you taken time to reflect on how, through your intentional Lenten discipline, you were drawn deeper into relationship with the risen Christ?