When I was younger I was extremely shy. I was the kid in the class that most people would look straight through. My mantra was to not make waves, be friendly to everyone, but in most cases do nothing to bring attention to myself. In short I was a great follower. Many times I agreed with people just to not argue with them. Overall it worked for me. I moved from school to school never making waves, always being a teachers favorite and simply being a face in a crowd.
As I grew older though I learned a tough lesson. Following Jesus often meant standing away from the crowd. Following Jesus meant that I would have to make choices that showed me to be different from my friends (which can be synonymous with the crowd I hid in).
In my life I can point to a number of times when I had to make the difficult decision of choosing to follow Jesus over following people. In these times I can remember shedding tears as I lost friends. I can remember people making fun of me for my stand (I think the modern term is bullied). All of that said, it was in those times of ostracization that I came to know Jesus Christ in deeper way. I look at the steps of faith in my life and I have realized those steps were more often steps away from a crowd than with it.
As I have read through scripture I have noticed a pattern in Jesus’ ministry. It is a pattern repeated over and over again throughout the gospels. First Jesus accomplishes a miracle so grand that no person could ever deny that there was something special about Jesus. After preforming the miracle, Jesus would then use that moment to teach about who he really was or about what the cost was of following Him. The pattern concludes as most of the crowd that came because of the miracle left because the teaching of Jesus was just to difficult. Only a few stayed.
Let me give you two instances.
- In the first instance Jesus had just fed 5000 people by multiplying a boys basket of fish and bread. Following this great act Jesus also walked on water. WOW! People followed Jesus. They saw a miracle and they wanted to see (and eat) more. Upon seeing the crowd Jesus began to teach that He was the bread of life. He taught that He was greater than moses. He taught that He alone gave eternal life. In hearing this the people who followed Jesus all responded “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” and they left. Jesus then looked at the small group that stayed, He asked them why they stayed and the replied “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.”
- The second instance Jesus raised a person from the dead. As the evidence of this act became more and more evident (the man who was raised ate with his friends and did the stuff all living people do) people began to not only follow Jesus, but also proclaim Him to be king. This escalated to the point where the people threw a parade for Jesus laying down their coats and placing palm branches on the ground. As the crowd grew Jesus taught about the coming cross and about God’s plan for Him on this earth. Following the pattern the people heard the difficult words of Jesus and left him, this time for a different reason. “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Only a small minority stayed.
I believe “modern Christianity” follows much of this same pattern. People follow Jesus for any number of reasons. If we are honest some follow Jesus because a church promises that your faith and a little seed money will make you successful. Others follow because that what you are supposed to do. Still others follow with great intentions.
What I believe we are seeing today is much like what happened with the crowds in Jesus day. Many follow Jesus for what they can get out of God, but fall away when the teachings of Christ become difficult.
It was very easy in a christianized America to stand in a crowd and be just another nameless face.
Today christianized America is fading and people are faced with either standing in a crowd that is moving away from Jesus or standing firm in a small minority with Christ.
The question that comes to the core of which direction you choose is whether you desire to please men or please God.
Choosing to please God is not an easy stand. It will mean that you may and probably will stand in stark contrast to a culture that is moving away from Him. It will mean that you can’t hide in a crowd.
Who do you desire to please?
+++ This blog is the first post unpacking the ideas from the March 3, 2014 blog.