Why Follow Jesus?
And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6: 25-29)
Why do you follow Jesus? Be careful, because the first answer you’re likely to give may come more from what you were taught to say, or what you’d like to be able to say rather than the truth that is in your heart. I know that’s a tough statement, but I have recently had to struggle myself with how I answer that question. In the text above, Jesus challenges his followers to examine their heart and see why it is that they were pursuing him so.
The first challenge in this text is Jesus’ admonition that people are only following him because when they are hungry he feeds them. In this way Jesus becomes a means to their own ends. If we hang around Jesus long enough surely he’ll have mercy on us, do another clever miracle and we all get a great meal. The same can be said for those who came to him to be healed. They were interested in what Jesus could do for them, what need he could meet or what malady he could cure. They came because of what Jesus did, not because of who he was.
Do we struggle with the same thing today? Do we follow Jesus because of what he is able to do for us? Do our prayers reflect our love for him or our thirst for what he can do for us?
There is a second challenge hidden in this tough text. At the end the disciples asked Jesus what they have to do in order to accomplish God’s work on earth. In their desire to “do the works of God” they asked Jesus for a checklist – a to-do list if you will – that they can tick off to satisfy themselves that they are doing God’s work. Here the focus shifts not for what Jesus can do for us, but what we can do for Jesus. His response should shock and challenge all of us who are locked in to a kind of Protestant work ethic that is driving us to work ourselves into a grave. He says simply, “believe in him who God has sent.” That’s it. The greatest work we will ever do for the sake of the kingdom of God is to believe, really believe with our whole heart in who Jesus Christ is.
If this is true we need to ask ourselves how much of our time to we spend focusing on those things that we can check off a list, and how much time do we spend growing more intimately in love with God and growing our faith in the one he sent?
Both lessons remind us that God is more concerned with who we are (and who we are becoming in him) then in what we do. He wants us to love him for who he is and respond with a deep, growing and abiding faith and trust in him. If those priorities do not make their way to the top of our personal goals and ambitions, we will miss the greatest gift ever given to humanity.
Take a look at your calendar for the past 30 days. If you keep careful to-do lists, pull them out and read them over. Sit down with a spouse or friend and talk about the way you have invested your time this past month. Then ask yourself honestly, are you investing in the disciplines and activities that grow your faith and deepen the intimacy you have with God or are you so busy doing the work of God that you have little time left for God to do his work in you? In the same way consider your prayer life over these last 30 days and ask yourself to what extent God has become the means to your own ends? Do you love him, serve him and follow him because of who he is, or has a self-serving spirit found its way into your prayer life? It doesn't mean we don’t place our needs before God in prayer, but it does take us back to consider the attitude and disposition of our heart. Do we love and follow Jesus because of all the mighty things he does or because of who he is?
Gracious Lord, this is a really challenging text. Forgive me for the self-serving attitude that seems to creep in to my prayer life from time to time. I get so focused on what I need that I loose track of the importance and the sheer joy of being in your presence and worshiping you for the incredible God you are. Where I have lost intimacy with you, restore my passion to be in your presence and to love you for who you are. Let my prayers reflect my passion to worship you and let my requests be laid at your feet in humility and gratitude. And Lord, keep me from becoming so driven by all the things I think you want me to accomplish, that I lose sight of this one powerful truth; you want me to believe and trust in you above all things. I do believe Lord, help my unbelief. In the name of Jesus Christ, whom I love and serve. Amen.