July 2017


By Randy Limbird

When you read through the gospels, it seems that Jesus had a love/hate relationship with the crowds. He attracted plenty of them, but the gospels also point out how he sent the crowds away and sought private time to pray. Jesus also instructed his disciples not to stir up crowds with talk about him being the Messiah, and he also asked many who were healed to keep quiet.
My impression is that the crowds were never Jesus’ main mission, but just a means of accomplishing that mission. Jesus’ top priority during the years of public ministry was training his disciples. The crowds that followed Jesus gave the disciples the opportunity to learn what and how Jesus taught, and how he managed the chaos that big crowds often bring.
Jesus never measured his success by crowds. He knew that they were attracted by appearances, not substance. They came see Jesus because he was the next new thing. The same folks that hung around John the Baptist went out looking for Jesus after John got thrown in jail. The crowds grew and grew after each report of Jesus’ miracles. Jesus became a celebrity, but he knew full well that such popularity was fleeting. The people who yelled “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday might be yelling “Crucify Him” on Good Friday.
In his book “Not a Fan,” Kyle Idleman makes the distinction between “fans” and “followers.” A lot of people who call themselves Christians are more like the former than the latter. Idleman compares them to the typical sports fan: “He knows all about the players and can rattle off their latest stats, but he doesn’t know the players. He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. There is no sacrifice he has to make.”
Idleman is a pastor at one of the largest churches in our country. Even he admits that “many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him.”
Occasionally some members of the crowds would stick around afterward and indicate they wanted to be part of Jesus’ entourage. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” he told one would-be disciple. Others said they wanted to follow Jesus — but only after they had taken care of all their responsibilities at home first. Jesus told them they couldn’t have it both ways: You can’t follow Jesus and keep your old priorities.
If you want to follow me, Jesus said, deny yourself. Carry your cross daily.
That’s not a slogan you’d be likely to find on a souvenir T-shirt. It’s not the stuff that fans are made of. But Jesus wasn’t interested in fans. He wanted followers.

Randy Limbird is editor of
El Paso Scene. Comments?
Send to randy@epscene.com

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