Are You a Fan or a Follower?

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38

This week’s Super Bowl has left the country shaking its head. No one expected the game to play out the way it did. I have to say. I watched it. And I still have trouble believing it.

But I’ll confess. I sure was happy about it.

Yep. Born and raised in New England, I’m a Patriots fan. I hesitate to even share this publicly, knowing the—how should I put it—“strong feelings” most of the country has toward my home team. But I’m not here to argue football with you. I’d rather point your attention toward another unbelievable comeback with much greater implications than a Super Bowl ring.

My cousin Ben posted this message to Facebook after Sunday’s game.

So insanely happy about the Super Bowl win for the Patriots, but driving home I was convicted when I had the thought, “When was the last time I was this excited for Jesus Christ and how he died to save the entire world from sin?” After all, the greatest comeback of all time was not Super Bowl 51, but Jesus Christ coming back from the dead after 3 days.

He has a point. I really can’t think of anything more impressive than conquering death itself. Let’s take a moment to revisit the scene of Jesus’ final breath.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:50-54, emphasis mine

Unbelievable … yet just as real as the Patriots’ staggering comeback from a 25 point deficit. Death could not defeat the King of Kings.

But Jesus wasn’t the only person to come back from the dead. His resurrection also revealed a foretaste of what’s to come. Saints rose from their tombs and walked into Jerusalem! That’s the amazing story of the cross, beloved. This is the Jesus we profess to follow. He conquers death—and raises what death has taken back to life.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Somehow fireworks and confetti seem much too small to honor it, but even that’s far more attention than we usually give it. So I’ll ask you the question the Spirit stirred in my cousin’s heart after the big game. When was the last time you were this excited for Jesus Christ and how he died to save the entire world from sin?

Are we as passionate about Jesus as we are about our football teams? Do we get as angry over someone disparaging Jesus’ name as we do if they disrespect our quarterback? Do we want to see Christ’s church prevail as much as we care if our team wins?

Sadly, most of the time the honest answer is no. We get pretty fired up about Jesus when we attend a worship event. We may even raise our hands to cheer Him within the safe embrace of other believers. But our passion fades when we return to normal life. And when confronted by people who aren’t fans, we often hide our allegiance.

Even worse, when we believe Jesus has let us down, we become the very voices in the crowd who disparage Him.

Jesus didn’t die to make us fair weather fans, beloved. He died for followers, for those who would risk everything to stand with Him. He even made this astounding statement in Mark 8:38.

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Are you ashamed of your allegiance to Jesus, beloved? Or do those who meet you know you’re on His team?

Real faith doesn’t fade when circumstances shout defeat or when others don’t believe. Instead, it swells in the moments that seem darkest. It whispers strength into the heart of true followers and empowers them to stand.

Jesus still reigns as the ultimate comeback champion. And when we choose to stand in faith while the world anticipates our defeat, He shows up to stand with us.

Let’s hold tight to the promise of Isaiah 30:20.

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

 When we really believe that’s true, we’ll follow.

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