Two thousand years ago, large crowds flocked to Jesus. They marveled at His deeds and words. People wanted to see Him. The more they heard about Him, the more they could talk about Him.
In this way they appeared to belong to Him, in the same way as soccer fans imagine that they belong to the team they idolize.
But Jesus was not looking for admirers. Again and again He invites people to be His disciples – His students who follow Him. His gospel is always simple and clear: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23. When someone wanted to follow Him, He would respond as though He were asking: Are you sure you know what you are talking about?
His disciples stayed with Him even when the crowds went home. They did not just admire Him like everyone else; they wanted to learn from Him and become like Him, and after they received the Holy Spirit, they were able to do that. For them, being able to talk about Him was not enough; they were learning to become like their Master.
Even though there have been great revivals, there have never been many disciples. For example, many have admired the prayer life of God-fearing people, but how many have followed it? How many people have given of themselves without expecting praise and compliments?
I spoke once with someone who had been actively involved in her church’s Sunday school for ten years. She was disappointed that she had not received so much as a flower when she left. Without much thought, I answered, “Neither did Jesus, at the end of His life.” Taken aback, she looked at me and replied, “True, if you look at it that way…”
What do we want? Do we want to be Christians in name only, so we can get approval from the people around us? Or do we want to follow Jesus and be rewarded by spending eternity with Him?