Reverend Jesse Halsey | Chicago c1942
“Come after Me and I will make you . . .” Matthew 4:19
A group of Roman boys went with their troubles to Seneca, the philosopher. After hearing them patiently, he said: “What you need is someone to follow.”
The obverse of that coin I saw on Sunday at the Ravenswood “L” Station. On a billboard was chalked in big black letters, “Heil Hitler. To H--- with F.D.R.” Someone to follow!
That evening the senior class met for supper at the Headmaster’s house. I was asked to talk to them, so I asked them to ask me some questions. They said, “Tell us about Grenfell.” “Tell us about Lenin.” (They had been told I had been in Labrador and in Russia.) Here it was—“old stuff” sure, but “someone to follow.”
The Roman boys asked Seneca, “Whom do you suggest, sir?” He said, “Socrates.””
Immediately (likely with bad grace) the young men began to pick flaws in the character of Socrates.
Two seminary students years ago were spending the weekend in the home of a Moravian saint and learned Bishop. They had been airing their ideas on the Trinity, the person of our Lord, and whatnot. Finally, one of them with a belated courtesy turned to the Bishop and said, “Uncle Eddie, what do you think?” And the old Bishop simply said, “He is my hero,”—someone to follow!
Sir John Seeley in Ecce Homo indicates that unless we find Christ as a man, we are not likely to discover Him as a Savior. That is the experience of many, including the writer. “Someone to follow!” He is my “hero”! (I suggest that during the month that we read one of the gospels through every day. Suppose, for example, that the next thirty days we should each day read St. Luke (the most beautiful book ever written, Renan said), and intimately associate with the character there portrayed by the beloved physician.—“Someone to follow!”
He is my hero because of His infinite patience (one reason among a thousand others). I see him take shifting Simon in hand and of that characterless quantity make Peter—the rock. John, “the son of thunder” is transformed into the beloved disciple. It took a long time; the process is slow; but the grace irresistible. Thomas the doubter I am glad he was included, he is so like so many of us, included among the disciples not for his doubts’ sake, but for his loyalty—“Let us go up to Jerusalem and die with him.”
Patient with them, patient with us!
And then He is my Hero “because of His courage.” With the small cords and blazing eyes He cleanses the temple of grafters, overturning the money changers’ tables with indignant speech, “Make not my Father’s house a den of thieves.” Demosthenes, himself, never equaled the fiery invective in which my Hero denounced those who “steal widows houses and for a pretext make long prayers.”
The red badge of courage is worn by those who do the will of God, but even a greater courage is required to bear the will of God, and with a “face like flint” Christ set himself to go up to Jerusalem, where a cross awaited—“For this hour came I into the world.” Soul agony, but no hesitations—“My God, why?” “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Courage to bear the will of God—My Hero!
A group of children were wrestling with a jigsaw map of these United States. Maine and Florida and California and Washington—they knew the corners. Square Utah and Kansas, they were easy, but crooked Cape Cod—Massachusetts, and funny little Delaware didn’t fit. Finally, in desperation they turned the puzzle over and with swift progress put it together, for on the wall of their grandfather’s study they had seen many times the features of the “Father of His Country,” and the picture puzzle of Washington went together much faster than the States on the other side. This is a parable of the experience of many:
“That one face, far from vanish, rather grows,
Decomposes but to recompose,
Becomes my universe that feels and knows.”
“Someone to follow”---and Jesus said, “Come after Me and I will make you!”