#Article (Archive)

Reasons for following Jesus (Part 2)

Mar 2, 2011, 1:23 PM | Article By: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye

A cursory look at the habits of church-goers will tell you what their reasons are for going to church – regularly, occasionally, seasonally or not at all. There ought to be some driving force to dictate the regularity of one’s presence in church. Those who come to church on New Year’s Eve have considered the encounter as an annual activity. Their objective is for the year to roll and find them in church. It is important that the changeover finds them in church. It serves as the kick-off for the year. Others go to church only on feast days because these are special occasions that bring them closer to their Maker. In between, they give the impression they can sail through the rough seas on their own.

Whilst these behaviours represent individual characteristics guiding the relationship of some Christians with God, they very well fit into the motives that equally drive crowds and govern their behaviour. Surprisingly, some of the people in Jesus’ day did so because Jesus catered for their immediate needs. Indeed, on one special occasion Jesus “saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5) With “five small barley loaves and two small fish,” he fed the crowd miraculously. There were even leftovers to fill twelve baskets.

The following day they searched for him everywhere and when they could not find neither he nor his disciples, they intensified their search. “Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.” (John 6:24) There is nothing unusual about this. No one will turn away a free meal. The problem arises when it is only on the basis of the free meal that the pursuit is based. 

When the crowd later found him and enquired when it was he had come over to the other side of the lake, he responded: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you.” (John 6:26-27)

You would not miss a wedding reception, a political rally or a banquet because of the food, would you? That crowd didn’t either. Their bellies were filled once and that feeling has not disappeared. They wanted more. Once again they were looking at their personal benefits and not what they could have gained from this encounter from a spiritual perspective. When our focus is misplaced, we miss our targets. We focus on the non-essentials. ‘Render your hearts and not your garments’ reminds us that the encounter with God is not to show off our apparels. These are worldly traits, but to build on a concrete relationship by focusing on the spiritual. The benefits to the body are temporary, whilst the food for the soul is eternal. “But food does not bring us near God; we are no worse if we do not, and no better if we do.” (1 Corinthians 8:8)

Our Lord Jesus made this declaration emphasising the need for spiritual food that would feed our souls and not our bodies. “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (John 6:48-51)

The crowd was thinking of the present, of the ‘now’ when they searched for the Lord for food to fill their mortal bodies. What matters is the life we live hereafter with the bread f life that Jesus gives. Would you seek life everlasting in the Bread of Life? The life we live on earth is temporary the bread of life, that is Jesus is the pathway to everlasting life. We ought to feed on it.  

This did not go down well with the disciples unfortunately. They thought it was hard for them to comprehend. It seemed like a lot of sacrifice to make to get the assurance of eternal life. They decided they would quit. Then the Lord assured them: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63)  So you intend to abandon ship, Jesus questioned? Peter, the spokesman, rejoined: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

I believe that settled it.

The disciples suddenly realised why they were following Jesus - not like the crowd which had superficial and earthly notions of the kingdom of God. Jesus offers life beyond the gates of death. We are in transit on earth; it is just our temporary abode. That we should seek to stay alive beyond this life into eternity, is what should grip our attention. This should be the sole reason why we should seek to follow Jesus. He is the way, and the truth and the life. (John 14:6) No one comes to the father but through Him, he affirmed. If these things were not so, he asserted, I would not have said so.

Jesus is for you and for me, not for Christians alone. His mission to the world was to save sinners. “Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1.15) revealed the Apostle Paul. He is still in that business. Our Lord Jesus came into the world for a specific purpose. “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) again Paul establishes.

The purpose he came should help determine our focus. We should have the desire to live for Christ and not for ourselves but better still to live with him. Paul declared: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

What is motivating you to follow Jesus? Let it be eternal!