I know several who read this blog would not say they do. If you fall into that category, please indulge me for this post. This one is for those who confess they follow Jesus.
Before simply shooting back some canned statement (and prior to continuing on with this post), take some time to consider your answer. Why do you follow Jesus?
It is a legitimate question. As a matter of fact, it is one Jesus himself asked. We find the story in John 6.
The story picks up with Jesus hanging out around the Sea of Galilee. By this time in his ministry, he had gathered quite a large crowd. After making his way around to the other side of the sea, Jesus realizes he has a large mob of people following him and decides to teach his disciples a lesson. How? He asks them how they are going to feed all these people.
What follows is Jesus using the contents of some small boy’s lunch box to feed 5,000 men, a number which does not include women and children. It was miraculous, awesome, and one of those moments beyond belief.
Most of us know that part of the story, but are you familiar with what happens next?
John tells us that after the miracle, Jesus perceived that these people were about to take him by force and make him king. Now, that part usually seems to get skipped over. This miracle caused the mob of followers to decide he was the guy they had been looking for and they were about to make him be king, whether he wanted it or not.
So, what did Jesus do? He snuck off.
The evening turned into night, darkness came, and the disciples decided to go ahead to the other side of the sea. So, they get in a boat, the only boat there, and start making their way to the other side. Jesus catches up to them, on the water, with no boat. This was the second time that evening that Jesus made their jaws drop.
Despite all of that, what comes next is the real interesting part.
The sun rises on a new day, and the mob that was going to take Jesus realizes he and his disciples are gone. However, they are pretty confused because they saw the disciples leave without Jesus. So, they start hopping rides with fishermen to the other side. Basically, they chased them.
Can you imagine what was running through their heads when they got to the other side and Jesus was there? They knew he did not ride over in the only boat. So, the conversation starts there.
“Rabbi, when did you come here?” they asked.
What Jesus says in response to this question is the reason I wrote this post.
He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Wow. That is a harsh indictment.
Instead of answering their question, he completely ignores it and accuses them of following him, not because of who he is, but simply because they got their fill of food. Jesus continues by telling them not to chase food that perishes, but to seek the food that endures. He tells them to believe in him who God has sent.
Understanding that Jesus is now referring to himself, the crowd further proves Jesus’ point by saying, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” Again, they are asking for something from him. They will not accept his premise based on who he is, but what he will do for them. They do not want Jesus; they want benefits from Jesus.
The story takes one last twist here.
Jesus begins his famous discussion where he calls himself the bread of life. He confuses them by saying he has come from heaven, and then, he finishes by saying, “Truly, truly, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
To us who know the whole story, it is a beautiful explanation of Jesus and the role he fills as life-giver. We who know how the story ends read this and immediately think ahead to that last passover meal where Jesus says the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, broken and spilled out for us.
But this mob did not know what we know. Furthermore, this language was sick and offensive to their worldview. Truthfully, it smacked of cannibalism. So they did what any self-respecting person would do; they got offended and left.
Jesus grossed them out and ran them off.
His ministry had hit the big leagues, and he turned his fans away. A book could be written on why Jesus would choose to run off such a large following of people, but that is not what I want to point out. At the end of it all, after this mob disappeared, Jesus turned around and there were his 12 disciples. They had stayed.
“Do you want to go away as well?” Jesus asked them.
Peter, answering for the group, replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
In my short life, I have heard many reasons why someone should follow Jesus. Become a Christian, and you get to go to heaven. Become a Christian, and you find happiness. Become a Christian, and God will bless you. Become a Christian, and God will give you a better parking space at the mall.
And those are just the ones you hear from the pulpit.
The unsaid reasons usually have to do with fitting in to your family, or because all of your friends went forward during VBS and you did not want to be left on the pew alone. Sometimes, people do it because it is the “right” thing to do, at least in the Southern culture where I grew up. In the South, it is part of being a good person. Occasionally, it is for business or political reasons. As much as we talk about our country hating Christianity, it is an unwritten rule that politicians should be from some non-weird, Christian denomination. Just look at all the mess Romney stays in about being Mormon.
In the end though, how many people simply say they follow Christ because, somehow, it is supposed to make their life better? How many are looking for their fill of bread, just like the mob in John 6?
Are you that person? Or, when everyone around you has turned their back on the message, can you say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”