Following leads to knowing

The UM Reporter has an interview with Bishop Will Willimon about his book Why Jesus?

In one place, the interviewer asks Willimon which comes first, knowing Jesus or following him.

From my experience and as the gospels portray it, following Jesus. The first thing Jesus says to people is, “Follow me.” He doesn’t say, “Understand me, think about me or get a good concept of me.” He just said follow me, and the amazing thing is people did, even when they didn’t know who he was or where he was going. Jesus unpacks that in the gospels.

Being a campus minister, I was around people who were trying to figure out if Jesus is historically true—Is he this, that or the other?—before they believed in him, and I kept saying, with Jesus you just have to follow him. And on the way, he sort of tells you who he is and tells you who you are. You follow him.

I know a lot of people who followed Jesus when they didn’t have all the evidence and they weren’t sure about things, but they just took a step. With every step we take towards Jesus, he’s already taken one towards us. Our step is a response. I’d say the following comes first, and that’s very Wesleyan. John Wesley tended to teach people good habits before he taught them the latest complicated theology.