"My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:26)

"Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:26)

What did Jesus mean by this?

Here Jesus is clarifying the role of his followers and disciples. He is also clarifying his role as God's representative.

Serving God's representative means serving the servant of the Supreme Being. Jesus stressed such a relationship of service:
"The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)
Jesus here defines what he prefers his disciples and followers do: "Whoever serves me must follow me."

What does it mean to "follow" Jesus?

The most basic element of following Jesus is to carefully hear (actually, read) his teachings, and carefully take those teachings into our heart.

The next step is to apply those teachings to our lives as best we can, according to the time and circumstance. As we follow his teachings, we begin to understand what Jesus' intentions. Jesus is very clear about this:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
Jesus is saying that it is not enough to be praising Jesus as "Lord." Jesus clarifies that to follow him ("enter the kingdom of heaven") we must do the will of Jesus' Father. Who is Jesus' Father? God, the Supreme Being.

What does doing the will of God mean?

To do someone else's will means to care about that person and act in a way that is pleasing to them. This requires that we come to understand what pleases them.

The best way to understand what pleases the Supreme Being is to carefully understand Jesus' teachings. Because Jesus is God's representative we are given an insight into what pleases God. Jesus is speaking on behalf of God. So we can understand God by understanding Jesus' teachings.

Jesus' teachings indicate the God is lovable. Because Jesus' "first and foremost" instruction is to love God, we know that God is a lovable person. That negates some of the threatening interpretations of God given by those sectarian teachers who have taught that God is to be feared.

What about fearing God in the Bible?

The word "fear" from the Old Testament in the Bible has been mistranslated.

The translation comes from the Hewbrew word יָרֵא (yare'). This word can mean to fear, but it also means "to stand in awe of, be awed," and "reverence, honor, respect" according to the lexicon.

Now consider this carefully. How can a person love someone they are afraid of? We can, however, love someone whom we also revere, and honor, and have respect for. Certainly, if we love someone, we will naturally revere them and honor them.

Furthermore, we can certainly accept that a person who loves God and be "awed" by God. We can certainly accept that the Supreme Being is awesome and love Him at the same time.

But loving God and fearing God simply do not mix well. The entire teachings of Judaism are founded upon love of God. We know this because Moses, who is considered the central Prophet, repeatedly stressed the importance of love of God:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)
“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 11:13)
“If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow – to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him – “ (Deuteronomy 11:22)
“…because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today – to love the LORD your God and to walk always in His ways – “ (Deuteronomy 19:19)
“For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws” (Deuteronomy 30:16)
“…and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life....” (Deuteronomy 30:20)
We also know that Joshua, Moses' disciple who continued Moses' teachings, also stressed love of God as the prime directive:
“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
“So be very careful to love the LORD your God.” (Joshua 23:11)
Love of God was stressed elsewhere in the Bible:
“Love the LORD, all His saints!” (Psalms 31:23)
“Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalms 97:10)
Jesus also stressed the importance of this teaching:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
We can add to this all of the directives in the Bible that have been translated to "fear God" can be translated to "revere God" or "honor God." This means that all of those Biblical verses are also teaching love of God.

How can we learn to love God?

Loving someone means caring about someone else.

We can compare this with any relationship that involves our caring about someone else. Let's say that we get married and have a relationship with our spouse. After we are married, do we just run off and continue to do what we want? No. We begin to find out what pleases our spouse, and do things that please them. This becomes the glue of our relationship: Doing things that please our spouse.

This is not like reading a menu. In order to do what pleases our spouse, we have to find out what pleases them, yes? This means that we begin to focus on them, and discover what pleases them. Sometimes it takes just observation, other times it takes asking questions and engaging in communications. This is called relating. As we relate more and more with our spouse, we gradually find out what pleases them the most, and then we do those things.

This entire process is called a loving relationship, and it defines Jesus' call to do God's will. In other words, Jesus wants us to turn to God, focus on God, relate with God and do what pleases God. This is following Jesus.

Jesus was engaging in a loving relationship with God while he was on the planet, and he told his students that he would be returning to the spiritual realm after the death of his body. So we know that if we truly follow Jesus' teachings, we will also re-establish our loving relationship with God and return to Him. We also know that by following Jesus we can be engaging in a relationship with Jesus and His Father, the Supreme Being, now.

Jesus confirms the mechanism of this as he says: "My Father will honor the one who serves me."

*Here is the translation of Jesus' statement according to the Lost Gospels of Jesus:

"If someone serves me, he will follow me; and wherever I go, my servant shall also go. And my LORD will honor one who serves me.” (John 12:26)