I’ve noticed this peculiar trend in Jesus’ life, that the closer He gets to the end of His earthly existence, the more He seems to be weeding out His followers.
When He first began His public ministry, He healed everyone. And became a sensation. But soon enough popularity became a burden and a hindrance to the mission that He really came to earth for… to purchase a Bride and tell the world about another (and better) Kingdom.
As time spun on, however, it seemed like He was more and more often trying to decrease His popularity, rather than improve upon it. How unlike us! I just want to be more and more liked by people. But Jesus, He kept saying things to chase people off. The rich, young ruler, chased off by the call to give all his possessions away. The masses chased off by His teachings on salvation and His comparison of His body to Manna-bread. The religious rulers, well, not really chased off so much as provoked to the point of wanting to murder Him.
Sometimes He’d say things to try to chase people off, but their fervent faith proved enduring and won them favor. Sometimes He’d do things that kinda seemed a little gross, like spitting on one guy’s eyes and another guy’s tongue. I’m wondering if that was also to weed out those that would follow Him only for earthly privilege and not for lasting favor.
And then He begins talking about His own death and suffering a bunch. I’m reading Mark right now, and He foretells His own suffering and death in chapters 8, 9 and again in chapter 10, like He hasn’t quite driven the nail (excuse the pun) home quite enough the first or second time. It’s like He’s really trying to freak them out, or something.
Or maybe He’s just trying to prepare their hearts.
To really follow Christ sometimes costs a lot. And it’s not really for the faint of heart. Sometimes it means losing popularity. Sometimes it means losing freedom. Sometimes it means being mocked.
But it’s actually really worth it! Once Jesus (in John 6), reflecting on the fact that the masses were annoyed with His rhetoric and that many had abandoned following Him, asks His disciples if they will leave Him too. Simon Peter, speaking for all (except maybe Judas Iscariot) says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I have found that the longer I walk with Him, the less fear of have of losing things. I would rather have Jesus than absolutely anything else that I do or don’t already have. There’s nothing that this world could promise that would bring me such happiness or joy as He does. And the longer I follow Him, the more solidified I become in my convictions about His glory and goodness. And some of the things I encounter, as an older believer, are much harder than the things I dealt with as a younger believer, but I have more joy in them, because I know Jesus more now than I did then, and I trust Him more now than I did then, and because I absolutely know that He is sovereign and doesn’t allow any suffering in my life unless His intentions are to bless me beyond the suffering.
So, I confidently say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” and I know, from this side of the Cross, that He is the very source of eternal life. I have been bought with that Bride-price. I know I’m beloved by the Most High and that brings more delight than anything else ever!
All this to say, this world may offer pleasures, but they aren’t lasting and they are so inferior to knowing Christ that they can’t even compete. Jesus proved His authority with all those miraculous healings, but it wasn’t His main mission. His main mission was to bring salvation and give eternal healing and blessing. He came to give us a glimpse of heaven and invite us to join Him there. And He knew that sometimes earthly junk gets in the way of true, deep knowing and blessing.
So, I will reiterate the immortal words of Christ, the Messiah… “Follow Me”. Because honestly guys, no matter what it ever costs, eternity is much longer than our finite existence down here… and He is worth more than all the treasures of the world combined!