At the height of her popularity, you could hire Paris Hilton to hang out at your nightclub for $110,000 USD. Kim Kardashian may be a less expensive celebrity, as she only charged $75,000 for the same service in 2010. Billionaire mogul Richard Branson is in the top tier of speakers worldwide, charging a whopping $100,000 minimum for appearances. It will cost you as much as $2,700 USD to see and hear Tony Robbins speak in Dallas, TX, in October about the same time. Of course, if you want Donald Trump to talk about real estate at your event, in 2006 and 2007 he made $1.5 million per speech at real-estate investing seminars —we can only imagine how much his fees will go up following his attempt to become President of the United States! You can even join Deepak Chopra for a week-long retreat for just $3,500.
If someone is popular or smart or famous, then we naturally want to be near them. We hope that will gain something from their celebrity, wisdom, or technique; and, so, we will pay big bucks to be in the same room as a famous person.
By way of comparison to those mentioned, Jesus’ public ministry lasted approximately three years. During that time, he gained many admirers and followers. Yet, as the following passage indicates, Jesus also lost many followers.
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Why did some of his followers abandon Jesus? In the case of this passage, the reason is that Jesus’ teaching proved too difficult for “many”. Was it too difficult because his language was hard to understand? Certainly, telling people to eat his body and drink his blood (Jn 6:53-56) would be hard language to grasp the meaning of. Was it too difficult because his teaching was too demanding? Telling his disciples to hate their fathers and mothers was unquestioningly asking a lot of them (Lk 14:26). Was it too difficult because Jesus was offensive? He did challenge them with the accusation that some of them did not believe (Jn 6:64a).
Was Jesus’ teaching really so difficult that they had to turn away from him? Of course, that was their prerogative. Jesus did not force any of them to be his disciples. They could come or go as they wished. So, for whatever reason, if those who were initially attracted decided to no longer be his disciples, then that was up to them. But was his teaching so difficult as to warrant betraying him? (in the case of Judas, Jn 18:2–5).
Despite all of this, some of Jesus’ disciples hung on his every word. They watched his every move. They took every opportunity to ask him questions and to learn from him. Such as these truly believed that Jesus had the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68-69). There was no turning back for them. Their devotion to Jesus was such that they could not possibly go any where or listen to anyone else. These were the ones who did, in fact, see Jesus “ascend to where he was before” (Jn 6:62).
In a podcast I was recently listening to, on the topic of public speaking, the host, Ken Davis, was encouraging his listeners —in other words, me— to tell the story of whatever transformation we had gone through. His point was that people are naturally interested in the stories of other people’s lives, especially when they’ve overcome some sort of trial or suffering. This is because we naturally want to gain knowledge and insights helpful to our own trials and suffering.
This desire for gaining wisdom from others is not a bad thing. The question is: How much is this wisdom worth to us?
Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian will help make your nightclub a popular place to be. Richard Branson and Tony Robbins will encourage you and teach you insights for leadership. Donald Trump will teach you about real estate and Deepak Chopra will teach you about mindfulness. They have a set fee for sharing their knowledge, insights and wisdom with you.
Jesus modelled and promised to his followers a free, full, and forever kind of life. How much would that be worth to you? What would you pay or even give up in order to possess such life? (cf. Mt 13:45-46).