John 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Famous Canadian Ice Hockey player Sydney Crosby starred in a number of Reebok commercials, but one remains engrained in my mind, “RBK Crosby’s Childhood Commercial: I am what I am”. In this commercial Crosby recounts numerous childhood memories that many youths could relate to. “This was my prom, my spring break, road trip with friends, summer camp, semester abroad, thanksgiving”. But with each memory, the only pictures you see are different hockey arenas or outdoor street hockey rinks. The obvious picture being painted is that of the incredible sacrifice paid by elite athletes. There would be hundreds of thousands of similar stories from elite athletes around the world describing the things in their childhood and youth that they had to forego to pursue their passion. The reality, that the majority of people do not understand when they see a famous athlete performing either professionally or perhaps at the Olympics, is that there was an extremely high cost paid by that athlete to be there. It involved pain and it involved substantial sacrifice.
This scripture from John 6 is an interesting one. Jesus had just finished teaching on eating of the bread of life. “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (vs 53). It says that the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves as they contemplated what he meant, but it also says that “on hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” (vs 60).
We understand today that Jesus’ words were precursors to his death, where he would be the sacrificial lamb prophesied of in Isaiah and that our sins would be washed as clean as snow through his purifying blood. The communion meal of bread and wine would represent his sacrifice of body and blood for us. And we are all called to sacrifice as well, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus; die daily to ourselves and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26). For “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ rather than simply a nominal believer.
Crosby’s commercial finishes with this question and this answer. “What do you call a life dedicated to hockey?……I call it time well spent.” As believers, how much more is that the answer we have to the question “What do you call a life dedicated to Jesus?”
I understand why so many disciples walked away from Jesus that day. It was a hard teaching and being a sold-out follower of Jesus is difficult. It requires dying to yourself, dying to your own desires, and instead living a life that God has designed for you, a life lived for Him.
But whatever pain we endure on this earth, whatever suffering we persevere through, whatever sacrifices we make, that will all pale in comparison to the rewards we will one day receive when we are in heaven with Jesus. Our life on earth is not the final fulfillment of God’s plans for us; it is the opportunity God gives us to live a life for him, a life we will not fully understand until we are before him in heaven. We get to experience a measure of heaven on earth as Christ lives in us, as the Holy Spirit resides in us, but as 1 Corinthians 13: 9-10 says we only “know in part…but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears”. If we choose to persevere as a disciple, one day we will know in full, and to the question “what do you call a life dedicated to Christ?”, our answer will be: “I call it time well spent”.