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While most of the time, reading the Bible in the language you best know is adequate, there are some moments of illumination which come from diving a little deeper. 

Unfortunately for us, that means plunging into ancient Hebrew, or in this case, Greek. 

Though Jesus himself spoke the ancient language of Aramaic (spoken only in a very few places today), most of the New Testament was written in the popular language of the time, Greek. In a similar way to how business at the multi-lingual European Parliament today might be conducted in the common language of English, people of the time of Christ, whether from Rome, Jerusalem or Athens, would often be able to speak or read Greek. 

In the gospels we find a couple of different words for “follow” or “follower”. We are interested in this because it is the invitation we receive from Christ. 

“Follow me”. 

The first, which Jesus speaks by the waters edge to Simon-Peter the fisherman, and his brother Andrew is pronounced “opeso” 

It means to follow: to get behind and follow the leader. Had Jesus wanted to start a conga at a party, this might have been the word he used. Jump in line behind and go where I go. Do what I do. I go first, you follow after.

The word demonstrates that one person in the conversation is the leader, the other the student. These are not interchangeable relationships or something you might take in turns. Jesus is clearly setting himself up as a Rabbi of note and intrigue who is inviting Peter (and the others) to learn while copying and pursuing. 

Other times though, Jesus seems to use another word, or at least the gospel writers do. For instance one day when passing Levi the unpopular tax collector, Jesus invites him to join the gang and follow along, with the word pronounced “ackaloutheo”

This sense of following has a sense of accompanying, and working alongside one another. 

In the way that a country path might follow the course of a stream, flowing alongside and in parallel. In the way that a child might follow the behaviour and mannerisms of a parent in an unfamiliar situation. In the way that you might slowly move a metal hook along a twisted wire, following to contours and bends carefully as not to touch the wire and make it buzz! This following conjures a picture of being in the same way as, or following along the same path together, closely. 

Both words are used by Jesus. We are invited both to follow him as he leads, walking behind our guide and protector, going wherever he goes. We are also invited to walk alongside, to accompany and follow along with all that he does, joining in side-by-side and working in partnership. 

And of course the remarkable thing is that Jesus also promises that he, through his Spirit, will continue to walk alongside us. When speaking to his followers towards the end of his earthly life, Jesus promises them each the presence of a counsellor, a guide. One who would be with and accompany us throughout our life. 

This is the relationship into which we are invited. 

To be sure, he is the master, the leader and guide. We are no more than students who could only ever hope to be a very pale imitation of the teacher. 

But equally sure is his invitation to friendship, an accompanying presence rather than a domineering overlord. 

Once the nature of the relationship is understood, our attention can then turn to the next and most obvious of questions. 

“Where are we going”?

And that is the beautiful quest: travelling through mysterious and wild open space which is neither mapped or paved, but that is no matter, because we are led by a guide who is safe and able. 

PRACTICE

Find stillness somewhere, and spend a few moments in quiet, distracted by nothing else.

Ask Jesus “Where are you leading me?”

Listen and notice who, what and where fill your mind and attention from this point on. Make a note of it. As you repeat this simple questions over a few days, does a theme emerge? Are there coincidental conversations which happen throughout your day? Do you sense peace as you consider these things? Are you prepared to follow?