Are you a fan or a follower?
This sermon was delivered at Christ United Methodist Church on Sunday, January 8, 2012.
This morning’s Scripture lesson deserves a little context. Jesus’ fame has grown to its highest point in the Gospel of John. There is now a great multitude of so-called disciples, some 5000 people, following him, because “they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick.” So, Jesus tests the crowds commitment.
26 Jesus replied, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. 27 Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One[c] will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”
53…“I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Human One and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 Many of his disciples who heard this said, “This message is harsh. Who can hear it?”
61 Jesus knew that the disciples were grumbling about this and he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you were to see the Human One[b] going up where he was before? 63 The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 Yet some of you don’t believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning who wouldn’t believe and the one who would betray him. 65 He said, “For this reason I said to you that none can come to me unless the Father enables them to do so.” 66 At this, many of his disciples turned away and no longer accompanied him.
67 Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
John 6:26-27, 53-67, Common English Bible
Chandra and I had been seeing each other for several weeks. We had just finished watching a movie, I can’t recall the title, when I mustered enough courage to give her a kiss. And, then, in my usually suave manner, I had to ask, “UMMMMMM…does this mean we’re official?”
There comes a point in every relationship when we are forced to define the relationship. There comes a point when you have to figure out if it is “casual or committed. Have things moved past infatuation and admiration and towards deeper devotion and dedication?” There comes a point in each of our relationships when we are bound to evaluate the state of the relationship and our commitment to it.
In John, Chapter 6, Jesus is addressing a crowd that has likely grown to more than five thousand [people]. Jesus has never been more popular. Word has spread about his miraculous healings and his inspirational teaching. This crowd of thousands has come to cheer him on.
After a full day of teaching, Jesus knows the people are getting hungry, and so he turns ot his disciples and asks what all thse people will do for food. One of the disciples, Philip, tells Jesus that even with eight months’ wages, it wouldn’t be enough money to buy bread for everyone to have a bite. From Philip’s perspective, there really wasn’t anything that could be done. But another disciple, Andrew, has been scanning the crowd and he tells Jesus of a boy who has five loaves of bread and two small fish. Jesus takes the boy’s sack lunch and with it he feeds the entire crowd. In fact, the Bible tells us that even after everyone had their fill, there was still plenty of food left over.
After dinner the crowd decides to camp out for the night so they can be with Jesus the next day. These are some big-time fans of Jesus. The next morning when the crowd wakes up and they’re hungry again, they look around for Jesus, aka their meal ticket, but eh’s nowhere to be found. These fans are hoping for an encore performance. Eventually they realize that Jesus and his disciples have crossed over to the other side of the lake. By the time they catch up to Jesus they’re starving. They’ve missed their chance to order breakfast and they are ready to find out what’s on the lunch menu. But Jesus has decided to shut down the “all you can eat” buffet. He’s not handing out any more free samples. In John 6:26, Jesus says to the crowd: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
Jesus knows that these people are not going to all the trouble and sacrifice because they are following him, but because they want some free food. Was it Jesus they wanted, or were they only interested in what he could do for them? In John 6:35, Jesus offers himself, but the question is, Would that be enough?
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus says, I am the bread of life. Suddenly Jesus is the only thing on the menu. The crowd has to decide if he will satisfy or if they are hungry for something more. Jesus was asking them to define the relationship.
So where do you stand in your relationship with Jesus?
Is your relationship with Jesus exclusive? Is it just a casual weekend thing or has it moved past that? How would your relationship with him be defined? What exactly is your level of commitment?
Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus?
Dictionary.com defines a fan as an “enthusiastic devotee or admirer.” It’s Jimmy. Jimmy was the outspoken fan who always stood in front of the crowd when I was in high school to bolster morale at every home football and basketball game. He was an enthusiastic devotee to the team—he’d cheer whether we were up 100 or down by 1—but, he never had to take a hit in open field or take an offensive charge from an 300 pound center. He knew all the players and could rattle off stats quicker than the radio commentator, but he didn’t really know the players. He yelled and cheered, and the athletes greatly appreciated his enthusiasm, but nothing was really required of him. He didn’t have to make any real sacrifice. He could simply cheer on the sidelines.
Are you a fan of Jesus or are you a follower?
A follower is someone who completely commits—with all that they are and all that they have—to the way of Christ. A follower holds nothing back. When Jesus says follow me, they don’t ask questions, they simply drop everything and follow him (c.f Mark 1:16-20). Followers place Jesus at the center of their life, letting nothing get in their way of following him. Jesus is at the center of all that a follower does. Everything a follower does—waking or sleeping—is done for the cause of Christ.
Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus? I know this is a tough place to end, but you really need to answer this question for yourself. And, if you’re having a hard time figuring out or discerning how faithful you’re being, I’d invite you on a journey with me as we figure out what we believe and how faithful we are to those beliefs.
This morning’s message is based on the writings of Kyle Idleman in the book Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. We’ll be studying this book in detail during a seven week study starting this Tuesday at 6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall. If you are ready to define, or redefine, your relationship with Christ—whether you’re new to the church or not so new to the church—I’d encourage you to join me Tuesday night. Here’s a sneak peak:
Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you an enthusiastic admirer or a completely committed follower? How will you answer when Christ calls your name? May we search ourselves and answer this question faithfully. Amen.
 This entire section is quoted, nearly verbatim, from Kyle Idleman’s book Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2011), 11-13.
 Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2011), 23.