Following Jesus is all about finishing well. But before you start to think this is some inspirational encouragement, we must remember how we finish well, and why we finish well.
In Mark 8:1, a “great crowd had gathered” to this miracle worker, Jesus. He had thousands of followers. Then, near the end of his ministry, just a week before his crucifixion, Luke 19:36 says, that a “multitude” praised him. Still, Jesus had thousands of followers. But one week later, when the Messiah was sentenced to death, even one of his closest friends, Peter, denied knowing him.
According to John 19:25, only Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John were left to watch him give up his body for the sins of his people.
The thousands who followed him and praised him just a week earlier may have thought that they at least gave it all they had. They hung in there with Jesus the whole ride, almost all the way to the end. But in the end, even though they were close, they were nowhere to be found when following Jesus meant giving over yourself.
This encouragement is not just to say, “Hey, hang in there when the going gets tough! Finish well!” This is an encouragement as well as a reminder that if you are truly a follower of Christ, you WILL hang in there until the end, you will finish well. In Paul’s words to Timothy, you will finished the race and kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7).
So why did all those followers bail on Christ?
Peter tells us “they stumble because they disobey the word as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8). They were not elect, they rejected Christ, they may have followed for a little while, but the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life had choked them out, and they abandoned ship because they hadn’t put any chips in the pot. Though they hung around for a little while, they did not finish well because they rejected Christ as they were destined to do.
So how is this encouraging to me?
True followers of Christ have this confidence from Paul in Ephesians 1:13-14, that we will acquire possession of our inheritance in God because we have been sealed and secured by the Holy Spirit through redemption in Jesus. Believers, you WILL finish well. God has secured it, and it will be so.
For those who do not, there was no seal, there was no security, there was only half-hearted faking it until their faith was tested by fire and burned up. So be sure of this, your faith will also be tested by fire, but as James says, take joy in this, for it will reveal the true nature of Christ in you, and you will persevere!