“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
If you’ve ever tuned in to the History channel and wondered where the history is you’re not alone. It’s hard to see how programs dealing with pawn shops and junk pickers qualify as programming dealing with history. But these “history” programs are wildly popular. So, the producers have put their own spin on things and adopted the rather creative slogan, ‘History Made Every Day.’
Popularization is a highly subjective thing. And what is accepted as popular requires nothing more than widespread approval. This means that popularization is attached to those things that are emotionally favorable to the majority. The popular is what makes us feel good.
We live in an age which demands the popularization of practically everything and which values only that which is popular. This can also extend into the Church and its expressions. And this, in turn, can lead to a serious dumbing down, even dodging of the substantive issues of faith. Dwindling congregations and shrinking budgets can lead church leaders to sell the birthright of faithfulness for those things that simply make us feel good.
As the Lord Jesus approached the end of His earthly ministry the crowds began to thin out. Why? His message began to sink in. He was not going to be the popular prosperity preacher they were hoping for. Instead He was intent on embracing death and the Cross. What a downer. How negative. He was no longer “emotionally favorable to the majority.”
But anyone who lives in the real world, with their eyes open, knows that popularized religion is inadequate in dealing with the struggles, crosses and losses of our lives. At the same time to begin at the Cross is not to advocate a religion whose goal is to simply make us feel bad. That is no better than its opposite. Rather, we root our proclamation and life in the realism of the Cross because there we are brought up against our actual limits and the goal of our lives in this world.
In His determination to go to the Cross Jesus was not endeavoring to be popular. In a world like this He knew there could be no other fate. The Truth of God is not welcome here. So, as the crowd moved on in its endless search for the next big thing, our dear Lord Jesus went alone, to His death. We will too, one day. We preach the cross so that all may know that they do not walk in the real world alone. The Living God is as near as the very real hurts, longings and disappointments we feel.
Therefore, I do not want a church or a preacher who panders to the popular, who simply gives me back to myself. I want a church and a preacher who tells me that because Jesus went to the Cross and was raised for me, to think and pray and feel and hope my way through the dark, hard and cold places in life is as easy as breathing – and dying.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”