Jesus is worried that the listeners have not seriously considered what faithfulness looks like. His words seem incredibly harsh, but they are deeply wise.

Introduction

Read the passage here.

P. T. Barnum, the great circus entertainer, is credited with the phrase, “Get on the bandwagon.” 

His circus would set up their tent and in order to get more people to come to the circus he would send into town clowns, the circus’ music band, and they would literally “drum up business.”

They would process through the town like a parade and grab everyone’s attention with their wildly decorated vehicles filled with funny and unusual characters. People could easily get caught up in the excitement and some would jump on the wagon and join the festivities all the way to the circus tent.

Over time, politicians used this phrase. Teddy Roosevelt used it to describe how people “jump on the bandwagon,” when they think something is going to be a success. They let other people do the hard work and when it seems like a success, they join in as if they have always thought that way.

Get on the bandwagon.

Our passage starts with a large crowd following Jesus. At first, his words seem harsh and counterintuitive. Why would he say such things to chase people away? Isn’t this what we want–more and more people? As we understand his concern, we see his words are helpful and filled with wisdom.

The Movement of Jesus Picks Up Steam and People

When Jesus and the disciples would go into a town, he would often preach a message that astounded them. He would work a miracle, which signaled to people that Jesus is not just another person, but that God’s power and presence were real in him. 

It’s one thing to follow with your feet. It’s another to follow Christ with your heart. What kind of follower are you?

This would get the attention of people and you have these mass movements of people who flock to Jesus for healing – for themselves or a loved one. How large are these crowds? Sometimes hundreds or even thousands would gather around him. On one occasion near Bethsaida, he feed over 5,000. Another time near the Decapolis he fed 4,000!

What was drawing people to him? Was it earnest belief for what Jesus could do for them? It seems a concern of Jesus that people focus entirely on the healing and not on his message (see John 6). 

They are following him (literally speaking), but are they followers? Do they follow with their feet or with their heart? Are they on the bandwagon?

Why Does Jesus Use the Word “Hate”?

Jesus knows what’s ahead. He is going to Jerusalem and will be betrayed, arrested, and killed. He is warning them, “If you are on the bandwagon, you need to know that this is not going to look very successful very soon.” That is what I believe is the broader context for this passage.

However, we can’t escape the fact that Jesus uses the word “hate.” That makes us wonder a bit, doesn’t it? Hate my parents?

Let me ask you a question, did Jesus hate his mother? No. Even at the cross, he made plans for her to be taken care of by his friend, John. However, there are a few stories in the gospels where Jesus tells his mother “no” because he has other priorities.

Jesus embodies in those places what he means here. Even he had to think about what had the first and final pull on his heart. For him and for him it was the call to live, teach, and give his life with full faithfulness–even to the death on the cross.

Christ models deliberate faithfulness for us.

Why does he use the word “hate”?

He uses the word “hate” becaue he is using a rabbinical style of teaching in which he gives a binary choice: this or that. One thing or the other. Will you be pulled by your own sense of calling or will your calling be overshadowed by other loyalties?

This teaching method is effective because it cuts through the fog of being in between. Are you going to finish what you started or are you going to go with me only to abandon me and your faith when things get hard?

Jesus is not calling his disciples to be hatemongers. That’s the opposite of what he wants. He is calling them to assess what has the first and final say in their heart and then to be true to that.

The Hard Words of Good Love

Undoubtedly, these are hard words, but it is born out of Divine love. We need to think about our relationship with God often. One does not simply stumble onto a flourishing life with God. It takes forethought and intentionality. A wise person doesn’t just run out and start laying the foundation of a building. There is so much more to a building than a foundation! There is so much more to faith than baptism! It’s only the beginning.

The reason Christ was faithful on earth is becaue he became determined in heaven.

Jesus knows that for many in the crowd, what got them there is not what’s going to keep them there. What’s going to keep them there is not the new bam-wow or another cool thing. What’s going to keep them there is not another novelty but Spirit-fueled discipline over a long period of time.

Jesus knows what happens with people on the bandwagon. If things go well, they are happy and committed. When things start to change in a way they don’t like, they leave. “See, I told you it was too good to be true.”

Ultimately, we learn from Christ’s words and his actions. Let’s consider how he lived this so we will know what God is capable of working in our life.

Jesus is Faithful, Beginning, Middle, and End

Jesus lived through the bandwagon cycle. He had 5,000 people and he fed them. Shortly after that, he had only 500. At the Last Supper he had 12 and within an hour or so he had 11. At his trial, he had no one. At the cross, he had John, his mother, and other women. From 5000 to a few.

Yet, he never faltered. The reason he was faithful on earth is that he became determined in heaven.

Paul wrote about this in Philippians, chapter 2, saying, “Jesus was the very nature of God and did not consider equality with God as something to be used to his own advantage. Instead of that, he determined to become a servant to God and humanity. He humbled himself.” Notice, the verb tense. It’s active. It was a choice. It was deliberate. Jesus said, “I deliberately choose to humble myself and to be faithful.” Paul continues, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.”

He, knowing from the outset the outcome, was faithful. He was willing to do the hard work of not letting anything or anyone hold sway over him. He knew that to build the kingdom of God on earth meant that he had to give his all, and he did. He is the one who gave up all possessions so he could follow God and live into his calling.

He is the one who models for us deliberate faithfulness. 

Our Following Him

We can learn from Christ. Is there something God has called you to do? A task, a way of living, a project, a ministry? Give prayer to it and talk with others who can help you discern.

Allow yourself to feel the tug of God on your life. Notice your fears, hesitations, or other barriers. Most of all, draw closer to Christ, for his teachings open our minds to what is possible with God.

Sometimes we need to step into our passion and faithfully pursue what Christ is calling us to do next. Don’t worry about the whole road, only trust and move forward with this next step.

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