Crowds pressed in from every side. News had spread through the entire region of this Jesus and people flocked from everywhere to see Him. Countless numbers testified to His healing power and the miraculous works they had seen. Some even said that He had raised the dead! Could this be the Messiah? The one whom they had prayed for, hoped for and longed for? One thing was clear, everyone wanted to be close enough to hear what Jesus had to stay.
You might think that Jesus would seize this moment at the height of His ministry to appeal to the large crowds, pointing out all the benefits and advantages of following Him. Yet, rather than presenting the slick marketing campaign, with glossy promotional pictures and campaign sign up sheets, Jesus seizes the moment to talk about the hard call to be a disciple. One thing is very evident in this account; Jesus was not after large crowds, He was after disciples! Jesus was looking for a people who would follow regardless of the cost. Not a people of comfort but a people of character & commitment.
Recently I went on a bike ride with my two eldest daughters. From our house all paths are downhill meaning on the way back the path becomes steep and results in an often unpleasant return journey. In one such moment my eldest daughter turned to me exasperatedly and exclaimed, ‘Dad I’m fed up with all the uphill bits, why can we just do the easy bits, why can't it all just be downhill?’ I responded; ‘Darling there are two reasons: Firstly hills don't work that way (if you find one that only goes down let me know) secondly its the uphill journey that builds character, develops muscle and proves your ready to take on bigger challenges.’
The same is true in following Christ, we would much prefer all the easy bits without any of the hard work and often end up asking; shouldn't this be easier? Shouldn't this life following Christ be all downhill? Cant we just take the good bits and leave out the rest? Jesus specifically addresses this question. He doesn't promise followers a ‘gravy train ride’ or a silver platter full of instant gratification. Christ did not say, ‘If anyone will come after me, let him enjoy himself with indulgent pleasures, let him be lavishly adorned and drunk with delight’. Rather He says, ‘if anyone would come after me let me deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’. Christ repeatedly makes it clear that there must be a cross before the crown, suffering before glory, death before victory and sacrifice before reward. This is the heart of Christian discipleship.
It’s easy to enjoy the ride when it’s all downhill but are we ready to be disciples who are willing to discover this hard but glorious call of following Christ? Join us this month as we explore from scripture what this call to be disciples is all about!!