There must be a million reasons to deny or disown Christ. He lays waste our human expectations. When he came into the world the people of Israel were expecting a Messiah that would establish Israel as a powerful earthly kingdom. On his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the hopes of many were held high. They lifted him up shouting “Blessed is the King of Israel!” About a week later he stood before Pilate while the crowd shouted, “Crucify him!” What happened?
There were some who were against him all along, but in the end the crowd was swayed because Jesus didn’t move forward with what they expected. He wasn’t there to establish and earthly kindgom. He came to establish an eternal spiritual kingdom completely beyond anything they imagined. They couldn’t make sense of it. He contradicted their beliefs. He exposed their sin and need for redemption. Ir assaulted their pride and expectations. That tripped them up.
Jesus challenges us the same way to this very day. To follow Jesus is to deny self. That’s pretty uncomfortable. We may accept him simply for fire insurance in the afterlife, but what if we could take heaven and hell off the table? Is Jesus worth following no matter what?
Unlike Any Other Man
You can’t really speculate on Jesus unless you read what he said. (The book of John is a good place to start. Go read it for yourself.) No one ever spoke like him before or since. No one ever acted like him. Even the letters from his Apostles that followed his resurrection, though powerful, are from the perspective of normal people like us following Jesus. He rises beyond all.
Throughout the gospels we see Jesus clarifying the difference between what we think and what God thinks. We’re on different pages. Before Jesus the message was never so crisp and clear. He came along and definitively separated truth from error. And he wasn’t talking to pagans. He was talking to his own people. They were religious. They believed in God and worked hard at following some pretty rigorous religious practices. What they didn’t get was that those practices weren’t enough to make them righteous before God.
In Matthew 5, Jesus spells it out. Here he tells us how God sees things versus how we see things.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
Now, if you take what Jesus says here at face value, even if you are a diehard follower of Christ, you’re going to come away convicted, because this list declares us all guilty of repeat felonies by God’s standard. It’s unreachable. And that was precisely his point. We are not holy. We are hopelessly lost. We cannot compare to God’s idea of righteousness. But Jesus was holy. He is unique. He was not guilty of any of these sins or any others for that matter. Jesus shows us God. He came to be our righteousness for us and take the punishment for sin. In him we are blessed with the fullness of God’s love. He reconnects us to God. He gives us ample reasons to follow him.
Reasons to follow Christ:
1.There’s nothing false in him. He called out the truth in spades.
2. He was up to all good. He only stood against things that were bad. He cared for people. He defended the weak. He helped people up wherever he went. He was the best person there ever was or ever will be.
3. He loves us. He gave his life to save us. He wasn’t a lunatic. He backed up his claims and did what he said he was here to do.
4. He is God become a man. We can relate to him and get to know God intimately through him.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3
Everything God is, Jesus is. He is more than just a man.
5. We need him in our souls.
“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1:1-4
We were made by him and for him; to have a relationship with him.
It is because of who God is innately that we follow him, regardless of the outcome in this life. It is not because of this world or what’s in the world for us that we should follow him. It is simply because of the greatness and wonder of who he is that makes him worth following. Who better to follow? To know? Jesus is worthy.