What did Jesus mean when he said “follow me”?
KJV - 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
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Jesus said, if you follow me I will make you fishers of men. In that statement he was saying to go into all the world and preach to unbelievers to bring them into the kingdom. That Jesus was the Messiah who had come to save sinners. An evangelist is a fisher of men. Someone who preaches the gospel, First Corinthians 15:3-4 to save people from hell by accepting His free gift of eternal life. First Corinthians 1:21 We use the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Since the day the Holy Spirit came on those first converts in the book of Acts, it is the same today. Paul said he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize. Paul not only preached the gospel, but also discipleship for rewards in heaven. First Corinthians 3:11-21. But discipleship is preaching the gospel, that salvation is now a free gift from God apart from works or deeds of the law. That all one has to do to be saved is accept Jesus one blood sacrifice for all sin and receive the free gift of eternal life by faith alone apart from works. Anyone who has believed the gospel and received the free gift can tell others how Jesus died for their sins and gives eternal life as a free gift to all who believe on His name. John 1:12 A fisher of men is one who preaches the free gift of eternal life to others so they can believe it and be saved. There are rewards in heaven for those who fish. Paul's message never changed. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and though shalt be saved and thy house.
As indicated in the verse cited in the question, when Jesus told people to follow Him, He was not referring to the simple act of trailing after Him, but learning from Him, obeying His commandments, and assigning Him the top priority in their lives (even to the point of the forfeiture of life itself), with the specific goal of bringing other people to the faith in Him that was necessary for salvation and eternal life. In addition, Jesus' command to follow Him had the implication of immediacy, as indicated by Matthew's response to His call, despite being actively engaged in his duties as a tax collector. It was not something that permitted delay for any reason, as was evidenced by His response to people who wanted to defer full-time commitment, even for a reason that might be regarded as "natural" or "understandable" as wanting to say farewell to those at home first (Luke 9:61), or waiting for even someone as close as a parent to pass away (Luke 9:59-60). At the same time, in passages such as Luke 14:25-33, Mark 10:17-31, and Matthew 10:37-39, it was clear that He also wanted those who followed Him to make it an informed decision about the earthly cost that would be involved in doing so (although it was with the equally clear implication that anyone who was not willing to accept that cost was not worthy to be His follower, and that any such temporal cost would be far outweighed by the eternal rewards received.)
The command written by Matthew quoting Jesus in the Greek is δεῦτε ἀπίσω μου come after me [follow Me], simply means "be My disciples": Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17. Jesus, the Savior in Mark 1:16-20 calls Andrew, Peter, James, and John, promising to make them fishers of men! The call to discipleship is definite and demands a response of total commitment.
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