(Ricky Kirk blogs at Panta ta Ethne and was one of the Final Four in our recent Blue Collar Blog Madness. Thank you, Ricky.)
So the University of Kentucky achieved another win to add to their already stellar basketball program and legacy. Give credit where credit is due, but some know, and everyone will now know, I am not a UK fan. Yes, I was born and raised (for the most part) in Kentucky. For some reason I just never jumped on the bandwagon and became a fan, much less a follower.
Speaking of bandwagons, what is it that makes a person decide to be a fan only when a team is winning? Or only when that team is having a winning streak? Or when that program has such a legacy/history?
I am a fan of The Ohio State University when it comes to college basketball and football. I am a fan of Atlanta Braves baseball. I am a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I am a fan of Brasil futbol. I do not jump on a different team’s bandwagon when my teams aren’t doing so hot. I guess Reds, Bengals, and Browns fans can relate a bit!
All this hype about basketball got me thinking about the Jesus bandwagon. You know, those who want to get on board the closer Easter approaches (or Christmas). Those fans who jump on the bandwagon and add a little Jesus to their life for a couple of hours a year. I wonder if many people know Jesus had a bandwagon during his earthly ministry. There were many fans but very few followers to begin with.
This being Holy Week I have been reading various passages in preparation for a Good Friday service I will be preaching. One of those passages is John 6:60-71. As Jesus’ ministry grew there were many disciples, or students, who were intrigued with his manner, his message and his miracles. The teaching of Jesus in the previous verses is essentially calling those who were fans to radically abandon themselves and follow Jesus. It is Jesus who is the bread of life and it is only in him that one finds eternal life. Jesus will subsequently make his way to Jerusalem and willingly offer himself as the once for all sacrifice for sin.
Life is not found in earthly, fleshly sustenance. It is found in Jesus! In John 6:60-71 Jesus further describes this radical abandoning of any human efforts to achieve eternal life. Jesus declares the flesh is no help at all (verse 63). It wasn’t enough to simply be a fan of Jesus, jumping on the bandwagon of the newest Jewish teacher. This call to radical discipleship was difficult to hear. It is in this passage I find one of the most heartbreaking verses (verse 66):
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
They not only decided to jump off the bandwagon, they were no longer fans. They were not willing to make the step and be a follower. It is easy to buy a new outfit, plan family dinners, color and hunt eggs with the children and add a little bit of Jesus to the mix to placate ourselves. However, Jesus doesn’t want you to jump on the Easter (or Christmas) bandwagon and be a fan for the day. He wants followers.
When many of these disciples turned back Jesus asked those known as the 12 disciples if they also wanted to turn back. Peter rightly acknowledges that it was Jesus who had the words of eternal life and by being with Jesus they knew and believed he was the Holy One of God.
What’s the difference between a fan and follower. A fan typically goes along with the crowd until things don’t go so well, you know, when the team loses a game or a season (or can only win one World Series although they can win 15 division titles!) A fan jumps on the bandwagon when it looks like everyone is also jumping on the bandwagon and they do not want to be left out.
However, a follower believes in and knows their team. They are there when things are going well (when the miracles are feeding the 5,000) and there when it seems all is lost (when Jesus is arrested, beaten, humiliated, tried, convicted, crucified, dead, and buried). A follower believes in and knows that it is not enough to be a fan of Jesus. They believe and know it is only in Jesus they have eternal life. It is only in Jesus they have assurance and peace. It is only in Jesus they have true joy and hope.
I am a huge fan of the Buckeyes, Braves, Buccaneers, and Brasil (hmmm anyone else see a pattern). Not only that these are my teams through winning and losing seasons. These are my teams even though I might get razed by my friends.
However, I am a follower of Jesus. Easter Sunday is a day noted on our calendars to reflect on the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, but every Sunday is the Lord’s day and a reminder of his resurrection. I pray you will move beyond being a fan and jumping on the Easter bandwagon and be a follower of Jesus! I pray you will look beyond the Easter bandwagon of candy, bunnies, and new clothes and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith!
Following Jesus is so much more than being a fan and jumping on a bandwagon…