Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Following Jesus

Following keeps on happening one step at a time no matter what happens.


John 12:12-19  The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors  13  took palm branches and went down the road to meet Him. They shouted, "Praise God! Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!"  14  Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:  15  "Don't be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey's colt."

16  His disciples didn't understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him.

17  Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising Him from the dead, and they were telling others about it.  18  That was the reason so many went out to meet Him--because they had heard about this miraculous sign.  19  Then the Pharisees said to each other, "There's nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after Him!"

Jerusalem was probably in a state of chaos, there were crowds in the city with their animals for the Passover celebration, and there were people that were amazed that Lazarus was back from the dead. It reminds me of the commotion that Mary and Joseph experienced when they arrived in Bethlehem to register for the census.

The excitement goes a little bit higher when the word gets out that Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. A crowd begins to parade out of the city to meet him as he comes to town.  The Pharisees are annoyed at the welcome party that Jesus received and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to silence the people, they told Jesus but he told them that "If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!" (Luke 19:38-40).

The crowds were amazed by Jesus. 

The thing the Pharisees most feared was happening right in front of them and there doesn't seem to be a way to stop it. "Everyone has gone after him!" And why not? Jesus has made their dull life of oppression and poverty so much better. He has fed thousands, given them help with their physical ailments and brought back relatives that have died. Following was easy and for a while it made their life better.

But are they really followers of Jesus? They followed him around but that didn't make them people of faith anymore than going to church makes you a Christian. A fully committed follower knows that Jesus isn't the key to your "best life now."

The Pharisees were amazed by the crowd.

These guys were deceived into thinking that they needed to worry about losing their position and power but Jesus knew better. Jesus knew that the crowds wanted something that he wasn't going to give them, Jesus knew that they didn't understand the mission that brought him to earth, he knew that they would turn against him in a few days. Jesus would disappoint the crowds when he didn't leverage his influence to overthrow the system.

Maybe it wasn't their position or power, maybe some of the Pharisees really believed that they were doing the right thing, in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 God instructed them to kill false prophets, maybe some of them believed that they were obligated to get rid of Jesus in the same way that Saul was persecuting the early church.

The problem with that thinking is that the Pharisees are the real false prophets and teachers that are leading the people astray. Somebody should be throwing rocks at them!
Following Has A Price
Luke 14:25-28  A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them,  "If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison--your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple. But don't begin until you count the cost.
Jesus didn't smooth talk his way into getting followers, he didn't give the itching ears the stuff that they wanted to hear, Jesus told the crowds that following him was not going to be easy. Many times he told the crowds that his committed followers would have to make great sacrifices.

Make sure that you follow Jesus because of who he is not because of what you think he might provide for you. The truest test of following comes in the “even if” moments, even if my marriage falls apart, even if this cancer never goes away, even if I lose my job, even if we never get pregnant. Following keeps on happening one step at a time no matter what happens.
Isaiah 43:2  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Are you a part of the crowd or are you fully committed? The crowd questions God's love when the going gets tough. The crowd isn't going to keep on following when the goodies and benefits are surpassed by the struggles and disappointments that will surely come.

We question God's love in the difficulty but he knows that in those uncomfortable situations we grow and we make choices that increase our faith, he will put us in those situations on purpose because he wants so much more for us. It is only when we come through the tough times that our faith muscle gets exercised and it gets put on display for God's glory.

We are satisfied with where we are and who we are but God wants so much more for us. Our amazement with Jesus only requires us to use our brain. God is after our heart and that is what he needs to get us to be his committed followers!

Do we have the faith to follow Jesus one step at a time? Will we follow Jesus wherever He goes, knowing that it is God who leads the way?