Monday, September 8, 2008

Next     Previous     Today

How Far Will You Go?

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

 A while ago, we looked at the feeding of the 5000 and drew some lessons about God's abundant provision from that story (see the July 25th Challenge).  I think that most of us would have loved to be with Jesus at that point.  A free meal.  Good teaching.  Even a bunch of healings and miracles.  That would have been a good time.  Just the other day, I read the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus came into town riding on a donkey.  It was a parade.  And there was singing and shouting and people waving palm branches and throwing their coats down on the ground for Jesus to ride in on.  The Pharisees even receive a rebuke.  That would have been a good day to be around Jesus.  On both of these occasions and many others in the early part of the gospels, large crowds followed Jesus.  It was popular to be around Jesus in the early days. 

The longer that we follow him, however, the more the walk with him intensifies.  And the question is, do we just want the spiritual highs or are we willing to continue with him when it gets tough?  Do we only want a comforting message, some miraculous provision and maybe some good praise and worship or have we signed up to be disciples no matter what comes? 

In the gospel of John, after Jesus fed the 5000, he withrew to a mountain by himself, "knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force" (John 6:15).  These people wanted the easy life to continue.  But when Jesus reappeared, his very next lesson was to teach them that he is the bread of life and that real life is not about physical bread.  And, he went so far as to suggest that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life (John 6:48-58).  Remember that he is speaking of spiritual rather than physical things but if we only think in physical terms, we will not be able to receive what he is saying.  This was a disturbing teaching because it was a call to go deeper with Jesus, and we read that "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (John 6:66).  He asked the twelve whether they were going to leave too.  Simon Peter says,

"Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).

The question that is being asked always is, how far will you and I go with him? 

Early on, many people followed Jesus.  And churches are still filled with many people.  How many of us are willing to go further than that.  Someone has said that you can tell how poplular a church is by the Sunday morning attendance, you can tell how popular the pastor is by the Sunday evening attendance, and you can tell how popular Jesus is by the attendance at the prayer meeting!  When it came time for the prayer meeting in Gethsemane, there were only 11, and only 3 went further.  When the trial came, they all fled although Peter stayed at a distance.  When Jesus was crucified, only John and a few women were there.  And Jesus died alone.

How far are you and I willing to go with him?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that, "when Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die."  Am I willing to go all the way with Jesus?  Am I willing to die daily, to take up the cross and follow him, really follow him no matter what?  How far will you go?  He is calling you and me to go all the way with him.  He wants disciplined followers, not just people who come for a good meal or a good time.

Next     Previous     Today