Through the Internet, we are able to stay connected in ways that were previously not possible. We are not only able to stay connected with friends and relatives but with the rich and famous as well. Through celebrity news sites such as TMZ we can know where our favorite stars ate last night, did after eating and plan to have for breakfast this morning. There is very little these celebrity stalkers do not know about our favorite celebrities and nothing that they know is withheld.
Besides the celebrity stalkers, we are also able to stay connected to our favorite celebrities by following them on Twitter or becoming “fans” on Facebook. This allows us to connect, at least nominally, with the celebrities themselves. We can read their thoughts, see the pictures they put out and just generally know whatever is on their minds.
Facebook allows just about anyone to create a fan page for just about anyone or anything else. There are fan pages for politicians. There are fan pages for long dead celebrities. There are fan pages for authors. There are fan pages for books, magazines, television shows and movies. Through Facebook, you can even become a fan of Jesus.
From what I can tell there are multiple fan pages for Jesus and millions of fans for each one. As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these fans were actually followers of Jesus? It may not always seem like it, but there is a huge difference between a fan and a follower. The main difference comes in the area of daily devotion of life.
A fan may think Jesus is great, but he or she doesn’t feel any sort of obligation to do what Jesus says. Fans like the whole not judging thing, especially as it relates to them. Fans like that Jesus has promised to hear their prayers and be with them in life. Fans however, aren’t quite as fond of Jesus’ teaching on holiness and sacrifice. As far as taking up their crosses to follow Jesus…well they “liked” Him on Facebook and that’s basically the same thing, right?
Being a follower of Jesus is very different from being a fan of Jesus. Followers are committed to doing Jesus’ will, regardless of what that will may be. Followers understand that taking up their cross and following Jesus is a huge part of what it means to follow Jesus and so they do it.
People being fans of Jesus and not followers of Jesus are not new. In the Gospels, there were people that physically followed Christ but were more like fans than followers. There were always those that followed Jesus because they were anticipating the day the Messiah would enter Jerusalem, throw off the Roman oppressors and set up an earthly kingdom. Most likely, there were many in the crowd that led the choruses of praise when Jesus came into Jerusalem during the Passion Week that fell into this category.
In They cried out “Hosanna” as Jesus rode into town (John 12:12-13). Hosanna basically means “save now.” They thought Jesus was entering Jerusalem to save the Jews from Roman oppression and set up His kingdom. Suffering and sacrifice were not in their plans. In fact, they wanted nothing to do with it. So they waived their palm branches and cried out “Hosanna!” as they paved the road with their coats and with those branches. They wanted victory and freedom without suffering or sacrifice. They were fans of Jesus but they weren’t followers of Jesus.
There were always those that followed Jesus for what they could get from Him. Jesus had told a group of followers earlier, “…Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” John 6:26 (NKJV) They didn’t recognize Jesus’ miracles as signs of the Messiah. Instead, they saw Jesus as someone who could meet their needs and wants. In other words, they were following Jesus because of what He could do for them, not because of who He was. Suffering and sacrifice were not in their plans. They also wanted nothing to do with it. They wanted blessing upon blessing with no cost for themselves. They were fans of Jesus but they weren’t followers of Jesus.
Then there were always a few that followed Jesus because they were convinced that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. These followers were committed to following Jesus no matter where this led or what it cost them personally. If suffering and sacrifice where a part of what it meant to follow Christ, then so be it. He was the Christ, the Son of the Loving God and He was worth it. They were going to follow Jesus no matter what. These people were followers Christ and not fans.
What we learn from this, is that most of the people had their own ideas of what it meant to follow Jesus. Many had their own agendas about how far and how long they would serve Jesus. It is likely that what was true of the crowds then, might also be true of the crowds today. What does it mean for us to follow Jesus instead of being fans of Jesus?
Do we follow Him with the hope of receiving victory and freedom without having to do anything ourselves?
Do we follow Him only because of what we hope or think He might do for us?
Does our commitment to Jesus weaken when it leads us out of our comfort zone, infringes upon our wants and desires, or leads to sacrifice and change?
Are we striving to follow Jesus no matter where it leads or what it costs?
These can be tough questions to think through. This week I’m going to focus on what it means to be a follower of Jesus instead of a fan.