Who is Jesus to you? What does it mean to call yourself a Christ-follower?
Did you know that many religions revere and respect Jesus at a certain level? The Muslim faith accepts Him as a prophet to be revered and respected. Jews acknowledge He had supernatural powers and performed miracles. Hinduism calls Jesus one “god” of many gods, a perfect example of the highest form of “self-realization” for His tolerance, love, and self-sacrifice. To the Buddhists, Jesus was an enlightened man who had compassion for those in spiritual need, a wise teacher who taught us to love our neighbor.
As He lived among men, Jesus exhibited a lot of qualities people find worth imitating. No one is offended by the idea that Jesus was a wise and loving Jewish rabbi who went around healing diseases, raising the dead, and teaching us to be kind and compassionate to others. Unfortunately, that’s not the complete picture. Any religion that denies the deity of Jesus as the Son of God and dismisses the idea that He died willingly for the sins of the world and was raised up from the grave misses the point.
I doubt any Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist, Jew would be willing to die for the sake of the name of Jesus, but in Acts 21, Paul shows us that is the true test of a Christ-follower.
The Holy Spirit has instructed Paul to go to Jerusalem, where bonds and afflictions await him, and he is days away from the city, having taken a “goodbye” tour through the churches he has established. He has arrived to stay with Philip in Caesarea, about 75 miles from his final destination. During their visit, a prophet named Agabus visits from Judea and gives a prophetic word to Paul. Taking Paul’s belt and wrapping it around his own hands and feet, he confirms the Holy Spirit has said the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns the belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
If someone told you this, wouldn’t you think common sense would dictate you go the opposite direction? Paul could have reasoned that this was a warning, not God’s will, and gotten as far away from Jerusalem as possible. His companions and the local residents thought so and begged him not to go. Paul’s response is convicting to all who call themselves followers of Jesus.
Acts 21:13 – Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? It should. Jesus had set the example for Paul just a few years earlier.
Mark 9:31 – For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”
Luke 13:31-33 – Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’ Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.”
John 12:23-28 – And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Jesus was resolute in His journey toward Jerusalem, knowing what awaited Him. He went willingly towards His death in obedience to the Father’s great plan of salvation for all of humanity. He set the example for all who desire to follow Him.
Those who truly believe in Jesus don’t just imitate His qualities of kindness and compassion. They understand that real faith requires giving up our lives for Him, just as He gave His life for us. On both the spiritual and practical level, He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). He may call us to give up our lives literally, to walk forward in obedience into the mouth of the lion, for the sake of His name.
Are you a Christ-follower, or just a Christ-admirer? May God give us all the courage, strength, and grace to be like Paul, ready not only to be bound but even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.