“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-25).
For the first time since Jeremy Lin started playing for the Knicks last month the ratings dipped, slightly. Still there are three times as many Knicks admirers since before the 23-year-old Harvard graduate and confessing Christian was thrust into the lineup stirring up “Lin-sanity” around the country. Quarterback of the Denver Broncos and also confessing believer, Tim Tebow, brought home the highest-rated first-round NFL playoff game in 24 years. His admirers can be spotted “Tebowing” across the nation. But it’s notable that Christ’s life, from the beginning to the end, was to make admirers impossible. He was never satisfied with enthusiasts who admired his teaching and applauded his miracles. Christ never asked for fanatics. No, he calls for followers.
Think for a moment. What is there to admire about the life of Christ? His poverty…his misery…the contempt of the world? Jesus didn’t hang upon a cross for us to admire. He hung on a cross so we would become his disciples. Christ came into the world to be the pattern not the prospect. He came for the purpose of saving, not instructing and he left us footprints to follow, not a plan to fulfill.
What is the difference between a follower and an admirer? A follower strives to be what he or she admires. And an admirer keeps seated in the stands. They fail to see that what they admire lays a claim on their lives. They give lip service but spinelessly keep themselves at bay–onlookers at a safe distance. Once here, Easter becomes a production. Jesus is an actor on the stage of life and we applaud when appropriate. “It was fun while it lasted,” we say.
When there is no risk, no ridicule, a dead calm in our Christian life where everything is favorable, then we are admiring and not following. We are trying to play it safe with a God who is anything but safe. Judas was an admirer. So was the Rich Young Ruler. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the middle of the night because he admired his teachings on eternal life. He was well-intentioned but the darkness speaks to a compromise. What a terrifying nightmarish untruth to admire the Truth instead of following. Forget about the danger of accepting Christ and think about following him. Christ calls us to die to the world and deny self. Doesn’t this contain enough danger? We are called to reconstruct our lives to follow the pattern…the cruciform pattern…of Jesus. Are you an admirer or a follower? Are you in the stand or on the field of play? At the end of our days will we say “It was fun while it lasted” or will we hear “Well done, good a faithful servant”?
– Pastor Brett Hartman