Over the course of my years, I must admit I have taken a liking to several public figures, perhaps following their advancements in industry, achievements in sports, or even the accolades of entertainment figures. I am especially drawn to the underdogs who have overcome incredible odds to excel in their given fields. What does that mean? It means that I am more likely to read those articles or listen to those reports about such figures. It means that I am more committed to knowing the “stats” and dates about notable benchmarks of their lives.
I am a fan. But, how far does that go?
Would I follow any one of them off a cliff? No.
Would I give them all my money? No.
Do I want to identify with them in every area of his life? Certainly not!
It simply means that I find them interesting, and certainly encouraging. I am a fan, not a follower. There is a difference and Jesus was well aware of this level of commitment in “fandom”.
In the book of John, we see a group of people who are simple fans of Jesus…
In John 6:48, 51-52, “He stated, ‘I am the bread of life… I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’ Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’”
The offended “orthodox” Jews seem to think Jesus is endorsing some sort cultic cannibalism, which He is not; He is merely clarifying the level of identification, or participation required to be a true follower of His and thus receive eternal life. He is drawing a rather high bar of what it means to be a genuine disciple of His.
Verses 53-57 continue, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.’”
The picture is that anyone who is claiming to live in Christ, or follow Christ needs to identify with Him on a very radical level, nothing superficial about it. The key to salvation and resurrection is inextricably linked to our identification with the person of Christ. Obviously, the Jews have a difficult time embracing this metaphor, and therefore the greater reality of commitment to Jesus as Messiah. “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’” (verse 60).
Jesus presses the issue, “But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble? But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.” (verses 61, 64).
The sad conclusion to this challenge is that many are exposed to be mere fans of Jesus and not dedicated followers. “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” (verse 66). The cost of following Jesus is not a half-hearted dedication to an interesting and encouraging individual, but a full immersion into the work and person of Jesus.
I must say that my number of “heroes” has diminished drastically over the years as I discover the “skeletons” which come with such stardom. Or the arrogance which comes with such ability. I am a little more careful to identify with any such figures. Mere heroes have feet of clay.
Jesus stands alone.
When we truly become followers of Jesus, we identify with Him intimately and completely; we embrace who He is and the work He has performed on the Cross for our redemption. Through thick and thin, in the trenches, we are right on His heels. And we celebrate our identity each and every time we partake of the Lord’s Table, a memorial of His work of redemption.
So, how about it? Are you a fan, or a follower of Christ Jesus?