Herein we see a very important challenge to our own faith, as through this question which our Beloved Lord poses to the disciples. The disciples, having at his behest departed from John, turn instead to follow Christ. And, the apostle tells us, whence Jesus sees this, He asks them a simple question. “What do you seek?” Wherefore is it that He who knows the very depths of our souls and hearts, He Who was from the beginning and shall always be, He who weaved together all things, would ask this of them? Would He not already know the answer. Of course He would, thus we must understand that it was not for His own sake that He poses this question to the disciples, but rather, for theirs. And, ultimately, for ours. See, Jesus didn’t ask this question to fill His own ignorance, for He has none, but rather so that the disciples could truly search the depths of their own souls to determine what they truly were seeking after. And, so often, we must do the same. We must ask ourselves this question so that we can truly become familiar with the answer.
See, there is this recurring theme all throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the Gospel of St Luke, we read the words of Jesus, “If anyone comes after Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27). In St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? Whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My mother and brother and sister.” (Matthew 12:48,50). It’s not that we are to hate anyone, but rather that we must be willing to sacrifice whatever it costs to be His disciple, and in order to truly do that, we must understand what we are actually seeking after first. All throughout His ministry, He beckons us to “count the cost” of being His disciple. He compares it to building a tower. And, He teaches us, that no one would begin to build a tower unless they had first counted the cost of doing so, otherwise it might go unfinished and they would thus be mocked. Or of a king, going to war, who would first sit down and take counsel before he goes to war. In both of these situations, the first step of determining the cost of something is figuring out the goal. The king going to war would determine what he was seeking after before he decided to go to war, and then weigh the cost of doing so with the potential gain. Thus, for us to be able to determine if it is truly worth it for us to become His disciple, we must determine what we are seeking.
In the West, our modern theology has taught us that mere intellectual assent is all that is necessary to find salvation in the Lord. It has become so popular for the very reason that it is so easy. And, regretfully, this theology has gained so much popularity that it has crept into even the most conservative of our churches. And yet, when we look into Scripture, what do we truly see? James tells us that even the very demons believe, and tremble (James 2:19). We’ve been taught that if you merely proclaim that Jesus is Lord, then you will be saved. And yet, Paul, quoting from Isaiah, tells us that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.” (Romans 14:11, quoting Isaiah 45:23). Meditate on this for a moment; Jesus warns us that “small and narrow is the way which will lead to life” (Matthew 7:14). We need to consider whether our faith is on that small and narrow way, or if it’s on the easy and broad path; remembering that even demons believe and every knee will bow.
Which brings us to this. If even the demons believe and tremble at the name of Jesus, then merely believing in Jesus can not be enough. If every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, then merely proclaiming Jesus as Lord is not enough. Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith for good works, and James tells us that faith without works is dead. Jesus Himself tells us that “His mother and brother and sister are those who hear the word of God and does it.” He tells us “if you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15). In fact, in chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us three times that to love Him is to obey Him.
So, in doing so, we must look at something. Jesus tells us that the two most important commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might,” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30) and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31). So, looking back at what we have already noted, when we place family, security, money, vanity, etc. before the Lord, we are not abiding in those commandments, which He has warned us we will obey if we love Him. There is an easy path, the path of demons, who believe that Jesus is God, but there is the narrow path as well. There is this path guided by the Lord who proclaims, “You shall be holy, for the Lord your God is holy.” (Leviticus 19:2, 20:26; 1 Peter 1:16). And this holiness is possible, however it requires much willingness on our part. As Peter tells us, “whoever suffers in the flesh has ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 4:1). We must be willing to accept that there are many sacrifices that we can and must make, there are many things that we must be willing to do, to strive for this holiness that we are called to.
To be a Christian is to stand apart, to be mocked and shunned. It is to not be accepted by the world, as Jesus warns us, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:19-20). No, to be a Christian means to have the world turn against you, to stand against all that they represent, not with signs or protests, but with your very life. It requires selflessness, it requires helping others and loving everyone, even those whom you disagree with. It requires to be willing to accept that those we love may very well turn away from us, hurt us. It requires that we be willing to sacrifice jobs and cars, families and homes, hobbies and habits; anything that stands between us and the Lord.
And the question that we must truly ask ourselves is this, what are we seeking? If it’s comfort, if it’s a nice group of friends, if it’s riches and vainglory; then when the persecution comes, it will all crash. If you are seeking a relationship with another and found your faith on that, what happens if that relationship ends? If you are seeking riches, and you come to faith and get a new job, what happens when you get fired from that job? No, we must not seek those things, but recognize that to come after Jesus, to be His disciple, means that we are truly seeking One thing, Jesus. The comforts of the world will come and go; friends and family will come and go; but the love of Jesus will never cease. The more we seek Him, the more we find that when we have Him, and the more we find that we have Him, the more we learn that we have everything that we need.
What is it that we are truly seeking?
May the peace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family.