Following Jesus Today: Purpose Over Popularity

By Mark D. Roberts

June 29, 2020

Following Jesus Today

Scripture – Luke 4:42-44 (NRSV)

At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.


Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Early in his ministry, Jesus was extremely popular with the crowds. They marveled at his teachings and were astounded by his healings. They wanted Jesus to stay with them. Yet Jesus was not governed by the feelings of others. He chose purpose over popularity. His example challenges us to live our lives in fulfillment of our calling, not in order to get the most “likes” or win the most “friends.” When we are clear about our purpose, then we can devote our lives to what really matters.


Healing was a centerpiece of Jesus’s ministry. In a time when medical science was in its infancy, people flocked to Jesus in the hope that he would heal them and/or their loved ones. As he did this, his popularity grew exponentially. He was in demand as a preacher of the kingdom of God and especially as a divinely-empowered healer.

Yet Jesus did not let his fame distract him from his purpose. In Luke 4:42-44 we see Jesus leave the crowds for “a deserted place.” (In tomorrow’s devotion I’ll say more about what he was doing there.) Yet the crowds searched for Jesus. When they found him, they tried “to prevent him from leaving them” (Luke 4:42). It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how they felt. But Jesus declined their demand that he stick around. He said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). So he pressed on, proclaiming the kingdom “in the synagogues of Judea” (Luke 4:44).

As I reflect on this passage, I’m struck by Jesus’s ability to choose purpose over popularity. He said “No” to that which can easily blow us off course. When people like us, when they want to be with us, our ego needs often overwhelm our better judgment. When thinking of the troubles young adults can get into, we sometimes talk about their “bowing to peer pressure.” But, the fact is that more mature adults often do the very same thing.

Jesus, however, was clear about his purpose, and this protected him from the lure of popularity. Though the people around him had an agenda for his life, Jesus had his own agenda, an agenda he had received from his Heavenly Father. He knew that his primary purpose at this stage of his ministry was to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also” (Luke 4:43).

In future devotions I’ll talk about the kingdom of God and what helped Jesus to stay on task in light of his purpose. Today, I want to leave you with a few questions for reflection.


Have you ever found yourself in a position like that of Jesus in Luke 4, with people eager for you to fulfill their agenda for your life? If so, what was this like? How did you respond?

What do you think enabled Jesus to be clear about his purpose?

Are you clear about your purpose in life?

How does your sense of your purpose guide the choices you make?


With your small group or a wise friend, talk about your sense of purpose in life and how this guides you (or not). Listen to their experiences and see what you can learn from them.


Lord Jesus, today I am struck by your response to the people who want you to stay with them. You declined their invitation because you knew your purpose. That purpose – preaching the kingdom of God – guided your life and helped you not to be governed by popularity.

Lord, I confess that I can be swayed by people’s feelings about me. I want to be liked. I want to be wanted. These desires can make it hard for me to live fully for my purpose. Forgive me when I get off course because of my need for human affirmation.

Keep me from being drawn by the pressures of the crowd. Help me, I pray, to know my purposes and let this purpose guide my life. Amen.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Follow Me!

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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