Following Jesus: Privilege or Burden?

As I was getting ready to leave our house a couple of weeks ago, I took a quick glance back at our television to see if anything interesting was happening. Of course, the television was on because the Olympics were taking place and our television ran non-stop from August 5-21! Don’t judge. We had to make sure and catch all the handball, water polo, shooting, and rowing competitions that you only see every four years! Well, as I was saying goodbye to April, I noticed an ad come on for an upcoming interview between Joe Buck and legendary golfer Nick Faldo on a show called Undeniable. As I listened to some of Nick Faldo’s excerpts about his early life and winning major golf tournaments, one statement caught my attention. “Everyone looks up to someone,” he said as he shared about some of the people who inspired him as a young golfer. Everyone looks up to someone. Think about that for a moment. It’s a true statement. We’ve all had people who inspired us and who we wanted to emulate. For me, the first person I remember wanting to emulate was a local high school basketball player at Akron Central-Hower High School who led his team to an undefeated season and the 1980 Ohio state basketball championship. I was definitely a follower. I collected all the articles on the team from the local newspaper and grabbed any souvenirs and pennants I could find. I literally had my own little shrine in my bedroom to their season. I watched this player closely and tried to play like him. I tried to do his moves. I tried to pass like him. I tried to lead like him.

Maybe for you it was a parent, teacher, sibling, or classmate that you tried to emulate. For Michael Phelps it was watching Tom Dolan in the 1996 Olympics that inspired him to want to be an Olympian. For Steven Spielberg it was seeing his first movie by Cecil B. Demille that originally caught his attention and moved him into film. For legendary dancer and choreographer Martha Graham it was seeing Ruth St. Denis perform at the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles, California, that inspired her to pursue dance. For Tyler Perry his inspiration was decorated playwright August Wilson. “Everyone looks up to someone!” The question is, “is the person’s life worth emulating and can they get you where you want to go?”

We follow people and emulate them because we see some outstanding quality in them and we believe they can get us to where we want to go. I am going to submit to you that there is no one greater we can follow and emulate than Jesus. In Jesus, we see someone who’s life, character, and mission is worth following and who has gone where we want to go. Look at what he said to his disciples in John 14:2-3, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” He can take us where we want to go!

At Renovate, we are currently in a series called Follow the Leader where we are taking a look at Jesus’ life and what it means to follow him. Twenty-three times in the New Testament Jesus made the statement, “Follow me.” Yet, if we aren’t careful, we can see this call as a burden, inconvenience, or what we have to “give up” as opposed to a privilege and opportunity. Hello. Think about this for a moment. If you are a businessman and Bill Gates was willing to spend time with you and share his wisdom would you listen? If you are a young basketball coach and San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich asked you to be on his staff would you go? People pay thousands and thousands of dollars and travel long distances to get an audience with people like this. Yet we see Jesus as an inconvenience.

Take for example the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 as an example where many of us can find ourselves. He saw following Jesus for what he was going to have to give up. He saw it as a loss. “Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life? ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’ he inquired. Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Man, missed opportunity.

His disciples were astonished with this exchange. Look at how the conversation continues in verses 23-27 as they contemplate their own decisions to follow Jesus.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’” Do you hear the underlying question? Is it really worthwhile to follow you Jesus?

Look at the amazing statement Jesus makes in the last three verses of the chapter that show the incredible opportunity we have when we follow him (Matthew 19: 28-30): “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Wow! So in answer to the question, “is following Jesus a privilege or a burden?” It’s definitely a privilege! Love you guys.