Why follow Jesus? I think anyone who professes to be a Christian and takes their faith seriously, must confront this important question. If I am going to commit my life to Jesus and seek to live my life His way, then His way of life must address my deepest needs and struggles. It must address my present reality. If being a Christian doesn’t speak to the things that would keep me up at night, the things that weigh heavy on my mind, the human condition that encapsulates inevitable suffering, pain and death or what is happening in the world at large, then what’s the point?
First and foremost, who is Jesus? This is probably a more significant question to grapple with because it would be unwise to follow someone you do not know. I guess the writer of the letter to the Hebrews had a similar thought because one of my favourite descriptions of who Jesus is, appears in opening chapter: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” [Hebrews 1:1-3].
At this point, someone could say I don’t believe in your God, the triune God of Israel. A Russian astronaut once said he didn’t see God in space and C. S. Lewis responded that “this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle and looking for Shakespeare.” His point being that character in a play only gets to meet the playwright if the playwright chooses to reveal himself. The quest to know God is an important pursuit but there is evidence of God outside the Bible and we are all invited to investigate it and examine life and death of Jesus. For instance, the fact that the disciples of Jesus believed in His resurrection, suffered for their convictions and most of them died as martyrs as well as the fact that the number of Jesus’ disciples grew after the claimed resurrection are irrefutable facts to both Christian and non-Christians historians. So, something did happen. As Ron Hansen puts it “God gives us just enough to seek him, and never enough to fully find Him. To do more would inhibit our freedom, and our freedom is very dear to God”. For those who seek, God the Father through the Holy Spirit reveals His Son, Jesus, through the pages of scripture.
But how about our present reality? We see evil all around us, sometimes grotesque, unspeakable evil that can cause us to despair. There is so much suffering and pain in the world. Things that remind us that our present condition is not ok. I think of a father in any of the many war-torn nations of our world who lives in the constant fear of being blown up by a bomb, who has no idea where he will find food to feed his starving children. Children dying because of polluted water, abject poverty and curable diseases or children born with terminal genetic conditions. Those of us fortunate to live in a part of the world where the bare necessities of life are attainable also have our struggles. We struggle with depression, self-loathing, identity, anxiety, confidence and any number of insecurities. We struggle with our own vices like envy, jealousy, greed, lust, pride, rage, self-control to name but a few. We also struggle with relationships, bills, work and the daily grind of life. These struggles cut across gender, creed, status, age, class and any other differences we may have.
There is a bumper sticker that says “Jesus is the answer” and for me, faith in Him has to be on the basis that He indeed is the Answer to my reality. Following Jesus has to speak to my life, the struggles within and around me as well as the struggles evident in the world at large. For these reasons, the Incarnation – Jesus becoming man, what we celebrate as Christmas represents an amazing feat by God. He condescended from the highest heaven to live with us on this groaning planet. Being human is not a theoretical experience for God. He understands suffering, pain and death because He experienced it. He understands the temptations we face because he also faced temptations. Crucially though, He overcame everything we face including death and leaves for us who follow Him, the promise that we too can overcome these things. We are no longer defined by our circumstances, nor do our circumstances hold eternal power over us. Not even death marks the end for those who place their faith in Jesus. The challenge we have as His followers living in the world today is to believe that Jesus will not only redeem us and give us an eternal future without suffering, pain, death or any kind of evil, but He will also redeem this planet and make it new. This is the Christian hope. It sounds too good to be true but it all hinges on who Jesus is.
If Jesus is the Heir of all things, the Creator of the universe, the One who sustains all things by His powerful word, then He is able to keep His promises concerning us and the whole world. Then, if He tells us not to worry but cast the things that keep us up at night onto Him [Matthew 6:25, Matthew 11:28-29], then we can trust Him with our worries. When He says do not be afraid [Mark 4:39-40, John 16:33], it is because He has power over everything that would cause us to fear. If He offers us forgiveness, we know He has the power to forgive our sins [Matthew 9:6]. If He tells us that we are not only loved, but we are also children of God [Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:1] then we can hold onto that as our primary identity. If He tells us that nothing can separate us from His love [Romans 8:33-37] then we can anchor everything on Him no matter regardless of our present situation. If He promises that a time will come when God’s justice will reign and there shall be no more war [Isaiah 2:4] and He will make all things (including our world) new [Isaiah 65:17], then we can live in the present with that future hope.
So, what’s the point? It is a one-to-one relationship with a Person who is powerful enough to do something about our reality. A Person who is greater than our struggles and fears. A Person who is sovereign over all things. A relationship with Jesus is a relationship that validates us as beloved children of God, gives us confidence for the present and secures our future forever while meeting our deepest desires. What money, fame, people, status, prestige, power, absolutely nothing in this world can do for us, Jesus offers to us freely. It is ours if we trust in Him and believe His word. This is the good news, and as disciples of Jesus, we are commanded to share it.