Desperate for Jesus

With one skim through the gospels, we see, over and over again, giant crowds of people following Jesus everywhere he went, swarming him, and clinging to him, almost desperately. They couldn’t get enough of him!

That alone should tell us something about Jesus.

He was a guy who clearly had something about him that the people needed. And they knew they needed it.

Of course, we know that Jesus is the Son of God, God Himself, the Bread of Life. These truths about Jesus should cause us to cling to Jesus just as desperately as those crowds did in the gospels. But for some reason, many of us don’t seem to always grasp just how desperately we need Jesus.

We have a tendency to go to church, read the Bible, and pray more out of a sense of obligation than an actual desire and need to do so.

But if we’re doing all of those things–things to further our relationship with Christ–out of obligation, we’re missing something huge.

In Mark 6:33, Jesus was trying to get away from the crowds, just for a chance to eat with his disciples, but the people still followed him. Jesus describes them as “sheep without a shepherd.”

We all are (or have been, at one point) sheep without a shepherd.

This sentiment points back to our very creation. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We were created in the image of God. However, when we sinned, we were separated from God. We were separated from our Creator because of our sin.

But that separation doesn’t change a thing about who we were created to be. We were still created in God’s likeness and for God. We were created to be in communion with God. We were created to have a relationship with our Creator.

Which means that until we are able to have that relationship, we are sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus came to earth, died on the cross, and rose again on the third day so that we could have that relationship with God through Him. All we have to do is place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

It’s so easy for me to just be focused on going through the motions and never stopping to think about why I’m doing what I’m doing, who it is that I’m worshiping, or what it is God is trying to show me. I’ll go to church–and admittedly sometimes zone out through much of the service; and I’ll read my Bible–and quickly skim through a passage so I can check it off my list and go about my life.

And there are seasons in life. I do think it’s better to keep opening the Bible even when we aren’t feeling it and to keep going to church even when we’d much rather just sleep in, because it is through that consistent time with Him that God reveals to us bits of His nature and molds us more into the creation He planned for us to be.

But at some point, we should grasp just how desperately and completely we need Jesus. 

We’re missing out on something vital if all we’re ever doing is going through the motions. At that point, we need to ask ourselves if our heart is really in it, or if we’re just doing these things for show, like the Pharisees did.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

We were made for another world. We were made to serve the King of the Universe. Without Him, we are empty. We need Him, desperately. The question is: Are we too busy trying to rely on ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge that?

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Jesus in the Day-to-Day

In the beginning verses of Mark 8, Jesus, for the second time, provides food for a huge crowd of people with very meager means.

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some have come a long distance.”

Mark 8:1-3 (NLT)

After Jesus tells his disciples that, his disciples tell him they only have seven loaves of bread. Just to put that into perspective, there were about four thousand people there.

But Jesus isn’t intimidated by those numbers. He doesn’t despair at their lack of means.

Rather, Jesus simply takes the bread, thanks God for it, and distributes it amongst the people. Scripture says, “They ate as much as they wanted,” with leftovers.

A few things hit me while I was reading that passage:

  1. God knows what our needs are.
  2. God cares about our needs.
  3. God will provide for our needs, no matter the circumstance.

As I was reflecting on this passage, I thought of Matthew 6:24-24. Specifically I thought of verse 25, where Jesus talks about not worrying about everyday life, like food, drink, and clothing. But let me back up a bit and start with verse 24.

It says: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

It’s pretty clear, I’d say. We’re either serving God, or we’re serving money (material things of this world). We can’t have it both ways.

After this, Jesus continues to say, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Emphasis added).

See, many of us would probably nod and agree wholeheartedly with verse 24, or at least I would. Of course we aren’t supposed to be serving money. That’s a pretty common theme throughout scripture.

But verse 25 puts that into perspective for us. Jesus isn’t just talking about wealth and excess. He’s talking about our basic necessities. Woah.

So, Jesus, you’re telling me that my basic necessities, like food and water, can become an idol in my life?

That’s pretty eye-opening.

Then, Jesus gives examples using the birds and the flowers to illustrate how much God cares for us. He says, now in verse 30, “And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”

Why do you have so little faith?

It strikes a chord in me every time Jesus uses a phrase or question like that in the gospels. You of little faith. Have faith. Why do you have so little faith?

Jesus is just sitting there, giving a group of hard-headed people lessons about God, and while we are trying to grasp it and believe it, Jesus is just stating it matter-of-factly. Why do you have so little faith, Jesus asks, when all I’m doing is giving you the facts about God?

Fact: God cares deeply and immeasurably about us. He sees our needs, and He cares about them. He has the ability to provide for us, and He will provide us. We need only to trust in Him.

After the illustrations with the birds and the flowers, Jesus continues, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

This command reminds me of the way the disciples reacted when Jesus sent them out to preach repentance. They left with nothing but a walking stick: no money, no food, and no change of clothes. And they didn’t question Jesus, or say he was crazy for expecting them to leave with no food and no money.

They simply went. Fully trusting Jesus with all of their most basic needs.

Just like the disciples, we, too, need to trust Jesus with our most basic needs. He will provide, just like he did with the disciples. Just like he did with the crowd of four thousand.

 

Following Jesus Like The Twelve

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19 (NLT)

It’s the great commission. Almost all Christians know about it; most can probably quote (or at least paraphrase) that verse.

But what does it mean?

When Jesus said that, he was talking to his disciples, you know, the twelve disciples. He was telling those guys to go and make disciples of all the nations.

So, really, you could say that we are the disciples Jesus was talking about when he said that.

But are we the same “breed” of disciple the twelve were, or are we a watered-down version of it?

In order to explore that question, I want to explore what the Bible says about these disciples, from the way reacted when they were first called, to the way they followed Jesus through it all.

The Call

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Mark 1:17-18 (NLT)

A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he call them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

Matthew 4:21-22 (NLT)

The first quote is the calling of Simon (Peter) and Andrew. The second is the calling of James and John. The similarities that stood out to me the most as I read those passages were the immediacy and finality with which all four men followed Jesus.

Jesus called out to them, told them to follow him, and they didn’t look at him, asking why or saying “But I have to maintain my reputation/get that promotion/save this money for this new car.” No, they dropped everything they were doing and followed Jesus immediately and at once.

The Holy Spirit clearly was doing some talking here, and these four guys weren’t going to ignore it. The question is: Are we receptive when the Holy Spirit calls us to follow Jesus?

Another thing that stood out to me, specifically in the second verse, was the last phrase: “leaving the boat and their father behind.” James and John just up and left their possessions (the boat) and their father.

Now it’s one thing for me to say, “Give up my possessions? No problem. I never needed any of this stuff anyway.” But it’s an entirely different thing for me to even say that I’ll just leave my family.

Look, y’all. I literally refused to even consider going to a college that was more than a 2-3 hour drive from home because I wanted to be able to make it back home quickly should anything happen.

I can’t even imagine what I would do if I was in a position where my family was at odds with my faith and I actually had to choose one over the other.

I’m struggling even with the idea that maybe, just maybe God might be calling me to go across the country when I graduate. It’s pretty safe to say that putting God first (even over my relationships with those I love) is something I need to work on.

Later in Luke, Jesus was talking to other men about following him. One of their replies is below:

Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:60-61 (NLT)

It’s clear that when we follow after God, we are to put God first, no questions asked. The Bible talks a lot about idols and instructs us in several places to not let anything take the place of God. But, we also must be careful to not let anyone take God’s place as Number One in our lives.

The Follow-Through

So we’ve received God’s call, and we’ve dropped everything at once to follow Him. Fantastic.

What happens next?

And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick – no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

“Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

Mark 6:7-13 (NLT)

That’s a big chunk of scripture. I’ve broken it down into four main parts that stood out to me.

1. They were equipped by God. 

It says that Jesus gave them authority to cast out evil spirits. They didn’t have it of their own accord; God gave it to them. In the same way, we need to be careful to not boast about our own gifts, because they are just that – gifts from God.

And God does gift us with whatever tools we may need to further His kingdom. We need not fear that we aren’t “strong enough” or “smart enough” or “good enough.” God will provide.

2. They relied solely on God, not on material objects. 

Jesus told them to take nothing with them – not even a change of clothes, food, or money. Say what? If someone asked us to do that today, we’d probably look at them like they were crazy, right?

But here’s what’s so awesome about this command (and the fact that the disciples followed it): This shows that the disciples relied solely on God, not on material objects, not even on the basic material necessities of life (food, money, clothes).

Because here’s the deal – things aren’t going to get us anywhere. They won’t satisfy us, they won’t bring us joy. And we don’t need them when we have Jesus. He is the Bread of Life. He will provide.

The disciples entrusted Him with this, even down to the necessities most of us hold tight to with an iron grip. Jesus provides, so much more abundantly than the things of this world can. We just have to trust him.

3. They followed God’s instruction to go out, and their mission was focused on doing God’s will. 

“So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God.”

It was all about God. They did what Jesus told them to do, even if they would maybe have much rather stayed in the comfort of their own homes, and they performed God’s will on their journey. It wasn’t about them and what they could do, but about God and what God could do.

4. They reaped fruit.

“And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.”

If we rely on God and God alone, and if we put Him first, focused on doing His will and not our own, then we will produce fruits.

Here’s the deal, guys: God wants to use us. He’s completely ready to. We just have to give him the reins.