34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34–35, NKJV)
Multitudes crowded around Jesus to be healed and to hear Him teach (Matt. 12:15; Mark 2:13; 3:7-9; 5:24). Undoubtedly many were caught up in the excitement of the moment. With compassion, Jesus taught, healed, and blessed the crowds (Mark 6:33-34; 8:1-9). Today’s passage teaches us what the Lord requires when we want to come to Him (Matt. 11:28). (1) Self-denial. We must tell ourselves “no” when we desire to go to Jesus. To follow Jesus, we must put away sin, not continue to live in it (Rom. 6:1-2; Gal. 2:20). We must love Jesus more than everyone else, including ourselves (Luke 14:26). (2) Take up our cross. The cross is a symbol of pain, shame, and suffering. To follow Jesus, we must accept the suffering that comes with being His disciple (John 15:18; 1 Pet. 4:12-13). (3) Follow Jesus. We do this by following His teachings. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). Following Jesus is a lifelong commitment, not a momentary exuberance that fades as emotions subside. Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Let us count the cost and pay the price of coming to Jesus and being His disciples (Luke 14:28-32). “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).
29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation (Luke 11:29–30, NKJV).
The society in which Jesus lived and worked was evil. Oh, there were exceptions, to be sure. But, many people crowded around Jesus to see wonders but not to be convinced to believe and follow Him. Some followed Him around looking for personal advantages (John 6:26). Their constant clamoring for signs from Jesus showed their unwillingness to believe and follow Him (John 10:24-26). But, God attested His approval of Jesus “by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him” (Acts 2:22; John 5:36). The “sign of Jonah” was yet to occur. His resurrection from the dead would declare His Sonship to the world (Rom. 1:4). Jonah’s three days and night in the great fish illustrated what would happen to Jesus. He would die, be buried, and arise from the dead on the third day (Matt. 12:40). The sign of Jonah’s “resurrection” convinced the Ninevites his message was from God, they repented, and God spared the city from destruction (Jonah 3:1-10). The resurrection of Jesus convinced many to repent toward God, turn from evil, and follow Him (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 10:40-43). It still does. We have a competent, inspired record of His signs and resurrection to convince us to hear, believe, and follow Jesus (John 20:30-31). Don’t seek new miracles to convince you to follow Jesus. His signs have happened. They are recorded in the Scriptures for the world to know, believe, and follow Jesus, the Son of God.
Jesus answered them and said, “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).
People follow Jesus for many reasons. Jesus addressed people in today’s passage who followed Him for the wrong reason. The day before, Jesus had miraculously fed thousands (John 6:1-13). Some saw this sign and said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). However, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him king. Jesus withdrew from them because that was not His will (John 6:15). They had a distorted view of the kingdom. Their reason for following Jesus was incorrect. The next day others followed Jesus because of the food they had eaten. God does not accept selfish reasons for following His Son. Jesus said we must “deny ourselves” to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Why are you following Jesus? Are you trying to follow Christ half-heartedly or to please someone else instead of God? Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus is the bread of God who gives eternal life to the world (John 6:33, 35). But we must yield ourselves to Christ’s will and, in faith, follow His word to have that life (John 6:44-45, 51, 63, 68).
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one. (John 10:27–30, NKJV)
This passage is easily understood and gives great assurance to the followers of Jesus. People have distorted this teaching of Christ to assure souls that they can never so sin as to be lost once saved from sin. This passage does not teach this error. A brief review of the text shows Jesus comforts the faithful but does not secure sinners. First, see what Christ’s sheep do: They hear His voice and follow Him. Next, see what Jesus does: He knows them and gives them eternal life. Now, who “shall never perish” and not be snatched from Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand? It is the sheep who hear and follow Jesus (v. 27). What if the sheep stops following the shepherd? Christ sheep are exposed to life-threatening dangers when they leave the sheepfold of safety, wander on the hillside of sin, and forage in the thicket of evil. When Christians stop listening to Jesus and refuse to follow Him, their souls are in jeopardy! Christians who return to sin bring on their eternal demise, not an eternal reward (2 Pet. 2:20-22). This truth does not diminish the power of the Father and Son to save. It acknowledges what Scripture confirms: Christians can fall away (Gal. 5:4; Lk. 8:13). God protects sheep who hear Him and follow Him. So, hear the word of Jesus and follow Him every day.
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NKJV)
Jesus is the good shepherd who gave His life for His sheep (Jno. 10:11). He knows His sheep and is known by them (Jno. 10:14). Jesus uses the language of God’s prophet Ezekiel as He explained His relationship with His followers: “‘You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,’ says the Lord God” (Ezek. 34:31). Today’s passage addresses the security of believers. The Shepherd has the power to protect His sheep; that is beyond question: 1) Jesus speaks to His sheep, 10:27; 2) Jesus knows His sheep, 10:27; 3) Jesus gives them eternal life, 10:28; 4) His sheep are secure in His hand and in the Father’s hand, 10:28, 29. At the same time, His sheep make choices that contribute to their security in Christ: 1) His sheep hear His voice, 10:27; 2) His sheep follow Him, 10:27. Sheep are exposed to danger when they wander from their shepherd’s care. The same is true of Christians who stray from hearing and following the word of Christ (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Yes, Christians can fall away from Christ and be lost (Gal. 5:4; 1 Cor. 10:12). Falling away from Christ does not happen because Christ cannot save His sheep. It occurs when the sheep refuse to hear and follow the Shepherd (1 Cor. 5:1-5). Be a believer who hears and follows the voice of Jesus and be secure in Him. He will never lead you astray.
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22, NKJV)
What price do you pay for following Jesus? When Jesus gave a command to His followers that He would leave Capernaum to cross the sea of Galilee, the scribe said he would follow Jesus “wherever You go.” We hope that he did. Jesus told him clearly that following Him would require sacrifice. It is easy to follow Jesus when no sacrifice is needed. But, when push comes to shove, and sacrifice becomes necessary, do you follow Him then? What about when there is a pressing need in your life? What priority informs and persuades your decision then? Jesus emphasized the proper priority when He said, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus must have first place in our decision-making process. We cannot say we will follow Jesus but then refuse to sacrifice to do so. We cannot say we will follow Jesus but then refuse to make following Him our top priority. Our everyday choices reveal both our sacrifice and our priority when it comes to following Jesus.
25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “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. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:25–27, NKJV)
These people had seen Jesus miraculously feed five thousand souls the day before, from only five barley loaves and two fish (John 6:1-14). The next day they had traveled around the Sea of Galilee to find Him. They had not followed Jesus out of faith in Him as the Messiah. They were driven by their bellies to seek another meal. Why are you following Jesus? Is it out of faith or convenience? Jesus can give you spiritual food that produces everlasting life, but you must have faith in Him to follow Him according to His will. The Father endorsed Jesus by the miracles He worked. Be sure you are following Jesus for the right reason – for everlasting life – and not to fill a self-serving interest.
“After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.” (Luke 5:27–28, NKJV)
Just like He saw Levi (Matthew), Jesus observes us going about our daily business. He sees and knows where we are putting our attention, our energy, and our goals each day. Like us, Levi was doing his job (which happened to be collecting taxes). Jesus fixed His gaze on this tax collector and said, “be following me” (Lenski, 307). Whatever job you are doing, Jesus calls you to be following Him. He must be your priority above all else. Levi undoubtedly experienced financial loss when he followed Jesus – which he did without hesitation. Do you have that resolve? Are you prepared to follow Jesus, whatever it costs you? Faith compels us to do what Jesus says. We cannot legitimately claim to have sufficient faith in Jesus without readily doing what He says. Jesus acknowledged this when He asked, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)? Resolve to be like Levi. Jesus is calling you. Be following Him.
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38–39, NKJV)
Jesus had just explained that following Him will bring conflict into your life (Matthew 10:34-36). Even family members will oppose you when you follow Jesus. Yet, we must still love Jesus more than family. This is a cross we must bear to be worthy of Christ. Compromising His truth for the sake of peace with family makes one unworthy of being His disciple (Matthew 10:37). Indeed, whenever we put our own life (our interests, desires and pleasure) before doing the will of Christ, we will lose it. Only when we surrender all for the sake of Christ will we have life. Following Jesus first and always brings eternal life; following ourselves always bring eternal death (Proverbs 14:12). Living by faith requires that we bear whatever burden must be borne to be true to Christ. When compared to the burden of sin, this burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:66–68, NKJV)
It is estimated the average person hears about 30,000 words a day, or almost 11 million words a year. That’s a lot of words! Of those words, how many contain the information, insight and instruction needed to obtain eternal life? Unless one is listening to the words of Jesus Christ (His New Testament), then the answer is “zero.” When all is said and done, only the word of God can feed our souls and give us eternal life. Are you listening? Or, have you stopped listening to the words of Christ, and walked away from Jesus? If so, you are on the path that leads to death. The only one we can turn to for words of eternal life is Jesus. Do not leave Him. Draw ever closer to Him and take receive from Him the words of eternal life.