Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Matthew 4: 25 – 5: 2
It is interesting how word usage changes over time. For instance if you say to someone today that you are following them they might assume you are linking into their Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts. On YouTube influencers generate money depending on the number of followers they have, more followers = more money.
Back in Jesus day to follow someone meant to literally follow them around. If you took your following a step further you became a disciple of that particular Rabbi which kind of made you a professional follower. Seeing Jesus and his close followers (disciples) siting together as he taught them would not then have looked strange. Rabbis teaching disciples gathered round them was a common sight.
A significant difference between the large crowds and the disciples was how they reflected the beliefs and teachings of the person they followed. The crowds did learn things, they were impressed by who Jesus was, he did make a difference to them. However, at the end of the day they went back home and their lives didn’t really change.
For the disciples it was a different experience that changed their daily rhythms of life. You see disciples were expected to embody the teaching of their Rabbi. Everything they did was supposed to be built on the Rabbis teaching. For our disciples that means their lives had to emulate the kind of person Jesus was. No tall order!
A question for us is, are we a follower or are we a disciple? Do we dip in and out of faith, enjoying Jesus teaching, enjoying his miracles, and at the end of the day go back home to the comfort of familiar surrounds and routines? Or do we try and emulate Jesus in everything we do?
Prayer: Dear God, help my faith to go beyond the surface to the core of who I am. Help me to cultivate a relationship with you in the deep places of my life. Help me to be a disciples.
Action: Explore with yourself the limits to faith? Where do you draw the line?