Crowds

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?

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The cloak of God

I’ve had to think about this – and pray about it – for a while before I posted it.

June 24, 2013

A song about the train of his robe filling the temple was running through my mind as I prayed last night.

Suddenly I saw the Lord Jesus standing at the Father’s throne in heaven, wearing and flipping back the edges of a long, wide black cloak. He smiled as I took note of that cloak.

What on earth!? I said. I knew it was Jesus, but he certainly wasn’t dressed in the kind of robes I would associate with him in heaven.

What do you know about cloaks, he asked?

Cloaks. Hmmm. I started to think about that. Before I could answer, He went on to explain cloaks.

Cloaks have many uses. Of course they can be used as coats, that’s how many people use them.

Some people wear a cloak as a symbol of power, authority, political standing or social standing. They can strike terror in people’s hearts, or awe, reverence and respect.

They can be quite plain such as this one, he said, flicking up the hem of the cloak. They can be elaborately decorated, like potentates such as Queen Elizabeth of England wears.

They have practical uses. They can be used as saddles if you need to ride a horse or donkey, or camel. It’s not comfortable to ride a horse without some covering.

They can serve as a container for goods and belongings, like a suitcase.

Cloaks offer protection from the elements, such as rain or cold. They can be used as blankets for sleep. As tents to provide warmth in the night. Shelters to provide shade in the desert. Roofs for foxholes. They can keep you clean from dirt and grime, from the ground or the air.

Cloaks can conceal you, hide what you have, or what you have on underneath. They can hide filth. Weapons.

Cloaks can be disguises. Make you look like one thing when you’re really something else. Joshua (9:4-5) discovered that when Gibeonites showed up wearing old, worn-out clothes of pretense to deceive Israel.

Cloaks can serve as camouflage and hide you, so that you blend into your environment. That can be good or bad. Con men wear cloaks. So do warriors. So does Satan. So do demons.

Some cloaks are physical. Some are spiritual.

My cloak contains life. My presence. My Word. Tools. Equipment. Weapons. Provisions. Guidance. Instruction. Comfort. Companionship. Everything you will ever need!

My cloak is like the cloud that Israel followed. It was black on one side, white on the other. The enemy saw dark, but Israel saw light. (Exodus 14) They were led by the cloud. They were protected from the elements and from their enemies by the cloud.

Sadly, some in Israel were born with the cloud and had never known anything else. They got used to it. It was so familiar, they took it for granted. They grew up expecting the cloud they could see to always be there.

Some people are like that today, they have become so complacent, they take my cloak for granted but they never give it to others. They never share it.

So, share it.

This morning I thought about every second of that encounter. While the outside of that cloak was black, I realized that inside the cloak Jesus himself was blazingly brilliant, clothed in glory, in life. Like the cloud. Like the fire.

He had showed me that sometimes he opens that cloak a little when he wants his people to feel his presence. To know, to KNOW, that he is present.

He can’t reveal himself fully, his presence would destroy us. But he will reveal more and more of his manifest presence, as we truly seek him. As we truly desire his presence.

Jesus wasn’t pushy, or loud when he spoke, just matter of fact. But me! I was so touched by his presence!

And changed.

Another wave is coming

July 9, 2013

The other day the Lord told me something I have had to think about a bit more.

Another wave is coming, He said.

A wave of what? I asked. A wave of disaster, He said. In the United States. In the world.

I thought about all the disasters that have been happening in the last couple of years, fires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, strange storms. Like the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Like Superstorm Sandy that hit the northeastern United States causing so much destruction. More fires and floods are still happening in America, even right now today.

More disaster?! Why? I couldn’t NOT ask. Was God himself sending these disasters?

People and nations reap what they sow, He said. Sin has a dreadful harvest.

People are earning — and receiving — wages of death. Voluntarily earning.

I have called, and called, and called, and warned, and warned, and warned, He said.

And disasters can be beacons of warning, like foghorns to prevent shipwrecks.

Some hear and heed the warnings and souls are preserved.

For those who are listening, revival is happening. They are being saved, delivered, rescued, healed! Souls, lives are being preserved.

But too many haven’t listened. They are still not listening, and another wave is coming.

How many warnings will it take? Until the people stop sowing seeds of destruction, stop earning wages of death?

Until they return to the only One who can rescue them?

Kingdom, more thoughts

Considering what the Jewish people expected the coming Kingdom of God to be, I just re-read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7).

Wow.

The people expected the Kingdom to make life easier. You know, throw off Roman rule. Live in a victorious, powerful, prosperous nation. No more taxes!

But here Jesus was telling them stuff that was harder than the rules and regulations they already had. Not only keep the law physically, now we have to keep it mentally?

If a Roman soldier tells us to go a mile, we have to go two?! If someone wants our coat, we have to give him our cloak too? And the law! No adultery, okay, that’s understandable. But now even looking was bad?

What struck me was how different Jesus’ description of Kingdom living was from theirs. Not easier, harder. Much harder.

So, what kept them from walking away then and there? Because they didn’t. They kept right on following Jesus. Hmmm.

Then I arrived at the account of the leper. And Peter’s mother-in-law. And all the “ALL’s and EVERY’s.” Read Matthew for yourself, and I think you’ll notice the same thing I did.