Hear His Sweetest Voice: Follow Me

On the Commandments of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, Part 5

St. Justin of Ufa and Menzelinsk was ordained to the priesthood in September 1853. His wife died in 1862, and he was tonsured into monasticism in June 1863. He served at various monasteries and seminaries, and on January 27, 1885, he was consecrated Bishop of Mikhailovsk, vicar of the Ryazan Diocese. He served in a number of dioceses, and on October 14, 1896, he was appointed Bishop of Ufa and Menzelinsk. He retired in 1900 and spent the rest of his life until his peaceful repose on September 26, 1903, in monastic reclusion. In 1988, he was glorified as a locally venerated saint in the Synaxis of Crimean Saints.

Part 1, 2, 3, 4

And They Followed Him by Johannes Raphael Wehle And They Followed Him by Johannes Raphael Wehle     

There’s another commandment of the Lord in the Gospel—brief, but comprehensive in meaning: the commandment calling His followers: Follow Me. In conclusion, we draw attention to it, according to the explanation of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.

Follow Me, our Lord Jesus Christ told the Apostle Peter (Jn. 21:19). This word applies to every follower of Christ. This word is incredibly important and authoritative because it came out of the mouth of our Savior Himself.

The importance and power of this word was expounded upon by St. Tikhon, in the second part of his Spiritual Treasures Gathered From the World, in article 46, entitled: “Follow Me.”

Christian! Thus Christ the Lord says to every one of us: Follow Me. Read the Holy Gospel, heed it, and you will hear this sweetest voice of His: Follow Me. I am your Creator and you are My creation: Follow Me. I am your King, and you’re My subject: Follow Me. I am your God, clothed in your servile flesh: Follow Me. For your sake have I come into the world: Follow Me. To you and for your sake I have come; I, unseen, have appeared on earth for your sake and for the sake of all: Follow Me. I, unapproachable for the Cherubim and Seraphim, became accessible to sinners and to you: Follow Me. I, the King of Heaven, lived on earth for your sake: Follow Me. I, omnipotent and omniscient, became weak for your sake: Follow Me. I, being rich, became poor for your sake, that you might be enriched by My poverty (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9): Follow Me. I, the Lord of glory, was reviled and dishonored for your sake: Follow Me. I, the eternal and ever-present life, tasted of death for your sake—the death of the Cross: Follow Me. I, Who sit upon the throne of glory and am worshiped, praised, and glorified by angels, was blasphemed by sinners for your sake: Follow Me. I, Who alone possess immortality and live in unapproachable light, was numbered among the dead and laid in a dark tomb for your sake: Follow Me. I, your Redeemer, your Deliverer, your Savior, Who redeemed you from the devil, death, and hell, not with silver and gold, but with My own Blood: Follow Me. You see My love for you, so you too—show your love for Him Who loves you, and lovingly Follow Me. Your love is for your own good, not Mine, just as your lack of love harms you, not Me: Follow Me.

LORD, what is man, that Thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that Thou makest account of him! Man is like to vanity (Ps. 143:3–4). “I hymn Thee, O Lord, for I have heard report of Thee, and I was afraid; for Thou comest to me, seeking me who am lost. Wherefore, I glorify Thy great condescension towards me, O greatly Merciful One!”1 My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to Thy mercy! (Ps. 108:26).

What, Christian, will you want to renounce and refuse to follow such a Lord and Benefactor, Who calls you to Himself? Horror and shame! It’s horrible that you might move Him to righteous anger, fall under His righteous judgment, and thereby perish. It’s shameful because He has the highest love for you, and is your greatest benefactor. Tell me, please: If an earthly king were to call you to follow him, would you not hurry after him with joy, abandoning everything for the sake of small and temporary honor and gain? And here the King of kings and the Lord of lords—the King of Heaven is calling you to follow Him: Follow Me! And He’s calling you not to temporal honor, glory, and profit, but to eternal life and kingship, to eternal honor and glory: Follow Me! Follow Me, and I will bring you into My eternal Kingdom, to My Heavenly and eternal Father: No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me (Jn. 14:6).

O sinner! Will you really not give up everything after this and follow Him?! After all, He continues to call all sinners. O fornicator, adulterer, and lover of impurity! Listen to the voice of the Lord: Repent and follow Me. O malicious avenger and murderer! Listen to the voice of the Lord: Repent and follow Me. O thief, predator, robber, and usurer! Hear the voice of the Lord: Repent and follow Me. O reproacher, reviler slanderer, and all who speak ill! Hear the voice of the Lord: Repent and follow Me. O liar, deceiver, tempter, and hypocrite! Hear the voice of the Lord: Repent and follow Me. All sinners who live in unrepentance! Hear the voice of the Lord: Repent and follow Me. Hear the voice that’s calling you; hear the voice of Him Who so loved you—so merciful, so full of love for mankind, Who wondrously showed His providence for you; hear His voice: Repent and follow Me.

The Lord calls every man: Man is my beloved creation! I came down from Heaven to raise you up to Heaven: Follow Me. I lived on earth to make you an inhabitant of Heaven: Follow Me. I had nowhere to lay My head, so I could bring you into the house of My Heavenly Father: Follow Me. I labored to bring you into eternal rest: Follow Me. I became impoverished that you might be enriched: Follow Me. I wept, was sick, grieved, and bemoaned to give you comfort, joy, and happiness: Follow Me. I was blasphemed, reviled, and dishonored so that you—My dishonored creation—might be honored and glorified: Follow Me. I was bound in order to release you from the bounds of sin: Follow Me. I, the Judge of the living and the dead, was judged and condemned to deliver you from eternal judgment: Follow Me. I was numbered among the iniquitous in order to justify you: Follow Me. I tasted of death, the death of the Cross, to revive you—My creation, slain by the serpent’s venom: Follow Me. I ascended to Heaven that you might also ascend: Follow Me. I sat down on the right hand of God the Father that you might also be glorified: Follow Me. I became like you in all respects, save sin, that you might become like Me. I took your image upon Myself that you might be conformed to Me: Follow Me. I came to you to draw you—My dear, fallen creation—to Myself: Follow Me. You see, man, the love I have shown for you; you see My providence for you; for all of this, I require nothing of you, except that you should be grateful to Me and follow Me, and thereby receive salvation with eternal glory. This is what I want from you; may it be your desire. Follow Me, Who hungers and thirsts for your salvation, and I will give you My salvation.

Love My poverty and you will be truly rich. Love My humility and you will be truly great and glorious. Love My meekness and patience and you will become truly peaceful through them. Leave the earth and you’ll have Heaven. Leave the world and you’ll have God within you. Deny yourself and you will truly possess yourself. Give up the pleasures of the flesh and the world and you’ll have true consolation. Leave aside perishable wealth and you will have imperishable wealth. Give up earthly honor and glory and you’ll have Heavenly honor and glory. Follow Me, and you’ll have everything your soul desires—only true, and incomparably better than what you leave behind.

So, sinful soul! Listen and hearken to the voice of Jesus, your Redeemer Who loves you; and follow Him, and you’ll understand. Make haste, beloved, make haste while He’s still calling you and the doors are open. Heaven is open; and publicans, fornicators, and all penitent sinners enter into it. Hasten there too, you poor sinner, and you will receive the Kingdom of Heaven. The Apostles, martyrs, holy hierarchs, venerable monastics, and all the saints of God entered therein and are now settled in the mansions of the Heavenly Father. And many are headed there now, and all those who follow their sweetest Jesus enter by His grace, and dwell in eternal rest.

My soul! Listen to the voice of the Lord, and cleave to that holy brigade. With them, follow the faithful leader Jesus, that in the hour of your departure you might hear His voice: “Ye who have trod the narrow way most sad, all ye who in life have taken upon you the Cross as a yoke, and have followed me through faith, draw near. Enjoy ye the honors and the crowns which I have prepared for you.”2 Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously (1 Pt. 2:21–23), says the holy Apostle Peter. And the Lord Himself said: If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be (Jn. 12:26). And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me (Mt. 10:38). I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).

But it also happens that one calls a man, saying: “Follow me,” and another, calling him to himself, also says: “Follow me.” Christ also says to every Christian: Follow Me, as stated above; and satan, the enemy of mankind, calls a man to himself and whispers in his ear: “Follow me.” Man hears his whisper whenever he feels evil and God-defying thoughts rising up in his heart. All of this is his vile whispering. Oh, man! Who would you rather listen to? Christ your Lord Who has shown such wondrous providence for you and wants to save you and lead you into His eternal Kingdom, as you’ve seen above, or the evil whisperer, the devil, who wants to take you away from Christ your Savior, and cast you into eternal perdition?

Christ is Light; the devil is darkness. Christ is Life; the devil is death. Christ is Truth; the devil is a lie and the father of lies. Christ loves you; the devil is your enemy. Christ is your benefactor; the devil works evil against you. Christ is the true and highest good; the devil is the ultimate evil. Christ is your Savior; the devil is your destroyer. Christ wants to save you, for this is why He came into the world, for your sake; the devil wants to destroy you forever. Christ wants to give you eternal life; the devil wants to kill you forever. Christ wants to lead you into His eternal Kingdom; the devil wants to lead you into eternal torment. Christ wants to enrich you forever; the devil wants to make you impoverished forever. Christ wants to glorify you forever; the devil wants to put you to shame. Christ wants to honor you forever; the devil wants to dishonor you forever.

You see what Christ is and what the devil is, and why he whispers to you and calls you away from Christ—your Lord. He wants to destroy you forever, as he himself is in perdition. This is his cunning! This is his design against us! Renounce, beloved, renounce this evil whisperer, and spit upon him, as did you at your holy Baptism. And turning away from this deceiver, turn to Christ your Lord, and follow Him with faith and righteousness, as you promised Him in Baptism. He is your God, your Lord, the One Who loves you, your benefactor, your eternal Life, your ever-present Light, your true and eternal blessedness, without Whom we can’t be blessed—neither in this age nor in the age to come. Come and cleave to your Lord with the words: It is good for me to cleave unto God (Ps. 72:28).

But despite the fact that the devil is a destroyer, many listen to him, and follow after him in great crowds. Fornicators, adulterers, and all lovers of impurity follow him. The rancorous, the misanthropic, murderers, and those who shed human blood follow him. Those who oppose, dishonor, and vilify their parents follow him. Thieves, predators, looters, bribe-taking judges, those who withhold wages from hired servants, and those who steal others’ goods with all kinds of untruth and flattery follow him. Slanderers, revilers, and all who beat and sting their neighbors with their tongues as with a sword follow him. Drunkards and sensualists follow him. The evil, the cunning, seducers, and all who tempt others follow him. All kinds of iniquitous people, corrupted by their lives, resisting the word of God follow him. Finally, those who have loved his world, who mind earthly things, not Heavenly things, who love to live in the pomp and pride of this world follow him.

In a word: All those who ignore God and His word follow him—they cleave to earthly things with their hearts, but they care nothing for their eternal salvation, which was acquired by the Blood of Christ: All such people follow after satan. This Apostolic word befits all such people: Some are already turned aside after Satan (1 Tim. 5:15). For all such people are ashamed of the words of Christ and of Christ Himself. They fear Him—humble, reviled, dishonored—and they retreat from Him; but they want to be with the glorified ones. They don’t want to be with Him here in this world and follow Him; however, they want to partake of His Kingdom, which is impossible. Whoever we’re with here in the world is who we’ll be with in the age to come.

Oh man, you bear the name of Christ but follow satan! Remember what denunciations and vows you made in Baptism—how you renounced satan and all his works and all his pride, how you spat upon him, how you departed from him; and how you cleaved to Christ, how you promised and swore to work for him with faith and righteousness, to follow Him with humility and love, as the bride follows the bridegroom. Where are your renunciations now? Where your vows? Where the oath? Where the work for Christ? Where the following of Him? You lied to God, not man. You left God, not man. You left the Light and loved the darkness. You left Life and loved (chose) death.

Remember this and turn to Christ your Savior. Flee from the seducer like Israel from Pharaoh, though he’ll chase after you, because he’s lost his prey. But be bold, and from the depths of your heart sigh to the almighty Jesus, that He might not remember your iniquities, but might help you. He, Who died for you is waiting for you, and will joyfully and mercifully embrace you like a prodigal son (Lk. 15:20). And when you’re freed from the grievous work of your tormentor—you’ll joyfully sing a song of victory to your Helper: He was to me a helper and protector for salvation: this is my God, and I will glorify him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him (Ex. 15:2). The angels in Heaven will also rejoice over you: There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Lk. 15:10).

St. Justin (Polyansky) of Ufa and Menzelinsk
Translation by Jesse Dominick



1 2nd Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos, “Unexpected Joy,” Ode 4, Irmos—Trans.

2 Funeral Evlogitaria

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