Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
I watched the movie Gandhi a few years ago (you must see if if you haven’t), and one of the scenes that stuck in my memory was the Salt March, better known as the Dandi March. The British had levied a tax on salt, and Gandhi used it to launch a civil disobedience movement that would eventually secure India its freedom. In the course of this march, Gandhi walked ten miles a day for 24 days from Sabarmati Ashram, where he lived, to Dandi, in Gujarat, to collect salt.
Now, on the way, people from towns and villages that Gandhi passed, began to join them, until the numbers swelled into the tens of thousands. It was fascinating to watch, and even funny because I realized that most of them had no clue what was going on. They just saw people marching, figured something big was happening and decided to pile on.
I was reminded of this when I read today’s passage about "a great multitude from Galilee following Jesus”, and as they marched, people from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and elsewhere started joining him. Did they have any idea why they were following Jesus? And, then I got to thinking about the huge number of Christians in the world, and couldn’t help wondering how many of them were part of the multitude, and how many were real disciples, or followers. It’s a question worth asking ourselves today, isn’t it? So what’s the difference?
Let us look at the first disciples — Peter and James and John and Andrew. They answered Jesus’ call to follow him and spent the next few years of their lives hanging out with him, listening to him, learning from him, and finally serving him. He sent them out to make disciples and they went out and made them. In the process, they developed a Christ-like character, so that after Jesus ascended into heaven, they were able to effectively continue his mission of proclaiming the good news to all mankind.
The multitude, on the other hand, were just there for the ride. They were there for what they could get out of Jesus, whether it was free food or free healing, and if the price was to listen to him ramble on for a few hours, so be it. It was saving them money! They had no interest in obeying him, and the moment he laid down the terms for following him, they vanished like a fleeting dream. If you happen to be counted among this number, may I suggest you switch status. Being a true follower of Jesus has compensations you won’t believe.
As for the rest of you, how is 2020 shaping? I told you it was gonna be good!