How do you raise a crowd?
Go to a synagogue. See a demon-possessed man. Cast the demon out. (Mark 1)
Soon a crowd shows up. Not even at Jesus’ house, he had gone to Peter’s house.
News had spread like wildfire and pretty soon everyone knew where Jesus was. And the entire city came to the doorstep.
Who was in the crowd? Some thoughts:
The newly-free man. Other men from the synagogue. Their wives. Their neighbors. Their relatives. Travelers who were just passing through. Curiosity seekers. And religious leaders.
Sick people. Demon-possessed people. If he did it for one poor man, maybe he’ll do it for me. My child. My friend. And he did. The crowd grew.
Questions: Why was the demon-possessed man in the synagogue? Why hadn’t the religious leaders recognized the demon? Why hadn’t they cast it out of him?
More thoughts about crowds:
Crowds change. Evolve.
Some in the crowd showed up when it was convenient. When Jesus was nearby, or speaking when they were off work. Had nothing better to do. Curiosity-seekers.
If he came back to the area, maybe they’d come hear him again. But they wouldn’t go out of their way.
After all, such teachers had come and gone over the years. Some attracted disciples and eventually tried to do something – like overthrow Roman rule – and failed. Maybe this one would succeed, who knows.
Other people went from crowd to fan. They kept up with his schedule. The grapevine kept them informed. Every time he was nearby, they would go.
Fascinated with his words and his actions, they began to hope he was the real thing. Began to believe he was the real thing.
But they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take off from work. Couldn’t (or wouldn’t) follow Jesus from Galilee to Judea. They were fans — but not die-hard fans.
Some were, though. Some did become die-hard fans. Some of the crowd went from curiosity-seekers, to fans, to followers.
They didn’t just change their schedules, they changed their whole lives. They gave up their jobs. Used their life savings if necessary. Did odd jobs if necessary.
From Galilee to Judea, Lebanon to Syria and back, wherever he went, they went. Whenever he was preaching, they were listening. They saw him heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.
They heard him teach that the kingdom of heaven was near. Yes! We’ve waited so long for that!
They heard him describe the kingdom of heaven. Hmm. Not what we have been taught — but he can raise the dead. I’ll go with Jesus.
And they went from followers to disciples. From listener to learner.
They were still a crowd. A large crowd, they followed Jesus everywhere he went. He called twelve out of the crowd, hand-picked not just to be disciples but apostles.
Twelve men who had on-the-job training, who he could send out to do the same things he was doing. Heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.
Men he could use to help multiply food for the crowd of men, women and children. Imagine. Whole families were in that crowd, on that hillside.
After a while he appointed seventy other disciples to do what he was doing. They were so excited. So happy. So joyful. And the crowd continued to follow and to learn. Until…
The day he told the crowd, If you want eternal life, you have to eat my body and drink my blood. (John 6:53)
Many disciples in the crowd had enough. That was too hard. Too hard to understand. Too hard to “swallow.” They went home. The crowd shrunk for the first time. (Sort of reminds me of Gideon’s army, actually.)
Jesus asked the twelve You want to leave too? They decided to stick with him.
But the Pharisees and teachers of the law had enough of Jesus, too. They quit playing around the edges and openly opposed him. They tried to kill him, but he wouldn’t let them. Yet. It wasn’t time…
And even as many abandoned the journey, others joined in. The crowds grew again for a time, though at the cross that crowd had shrunk again, to almost nothing.
(They were still enough to turn the world upside down… but that’s a story for another time.)
You can probably guess my next question: What kind of crowd are you in?