“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. John 12:27 (NKJV)
Jesus knew that this total surrender and sacrifice of His life would not be easy. He was troubled because He knew was coming. It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be fun. He had a long hard road ahead of Him. In fact, later He would twice pray, “…O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39 (NKJV) Jesus was troubled about the road ahead but He knew that this was the road that He came into the world to travel.
The road that Jesus traveled was not an easy one, and He made it clear that following Him would lead down the same often-hard road. Jesus was brutally honest about the fact that following Him would often be hard. A few chapters later Jesus will tell us that in this world we will have tribulation (Jn 16:33). He didn’t say we might have trials and sorrows. He said we definitely would have trials and sorrows. Many times these trials and sorrows would specifically be because we follow Jesus.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!” Matthew 10:24-25 (NKJV)
Jesus said that if world treated Him badly, they will treat those who follow Him even worse. Never does the Bible promise that living a life following Jesus will be an easy one. The life that Jesus lived wasn’t easy and as His followers, we shouldn’t be surprised that often our lives aren’t easy.
Now you may be thinking that all of this sounds pretty bad. You may also wonder why in the world Jesus is so blunt and straightforward about the hardships that will often come into our lives. I mean, if He wants us to follow Him why not omit teaching things like this?
It is because Jesus is not a traveling snake oil salesman trying to hawk a religion. Does He want you us to follow Him, absolutely. However, He wants us to know ahead of time what we are getting into. He wants us to make an informed, thoughtful decision to follow Him. He doesn’t want these things to catch us off guard, so He seeks to prepare us in advance for what is sure to happen as we follow Him. He knows that if we do not understand the fact that life will often be hard, and if we are not ready for the fact that often life will be hard, that when things get hard we will fall by the wayside.
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark 4:3-9 (NKJV)
Jesus told this story about different people respond to the Gospel message. He mentioned seed that fell in the shallow soil. At first the seed sprung up, but because it wasn’t very deep in the soil the blazing heat from the sun dried up the roots and it died. Jesus gives us the interpretation of this story a bit later in the passage.
These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Mark 4:16-17 (NKJV)
These people believe for a while, but Jesus explains that their roots don’t go very deep, so when difficulty comes, they fall away. In other words, they aren’t prepared for the fact that a life spent following Jesus will often be hard. They are willing and able to follow Jesus when life is easy. Then as soon as it becomes hard to follow Jesus, they quit.
If we are going be followers of Jesus and not just fans, then we will have to understand and accept that life will not always be easy. We will also have to be as faithful in following Jesus in the hard times as we are the easy times. Following Jesus through the green meadows and peaceful streams is easy. Following Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death isn’t. Fans quit following Jesus when things get hard. Followers are willing to suffer for Jesus.