Leaving the Crowd to Follow Jesus

“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.” Matthew 8:18

One of the recurring themes in the Gospel of Matthew is the distinction between the disciples and the crowd. The Sermon on the Mount occurs when Jesus sees the crowd, retreats from them to the hillside, and teaches His disciples there (Matthew 5:1-2). It is not that Jesus does not like the crowd. The crowd is important to Jesus. They are those who gather around for healing or to watch what Jesus is doing or to consider His teaching. But Jesus always invites people to move from the crowd to become disciples.

Disciples are those who have chosen to follow Jesus. They want to enter into the good life of God’s kingdom under the leadership and teaching of Jesus as their rabbi and teacher. Disciples are those who draw away from the crowd. They do not settle for simply going with the flow of those around them or for being a fan of Jesus.

Discipleship demands a decision to leave the crowd and draw close to Jesus. Disciples must make a choice to follow Jesus, not just watch from a distance. Disciples order their lives around Jesus and prioritize listening to and learning from Him.

Sometimes when we talk about following Jesus, we become confused by language that is used within social media. If you’re on Twitter or Snapchat or Tik Tok or Instagram or Facebook or any other social media you may have “followers” or something like that. Followers in the social media setting refers to people who want to read or see what you’re talking about or perhaps just want to add you to their follower list so that you will follow them back. While they may pay attention to what you say on your feed or story, most of the time the threshold to become a follower is pretty low. Click a button and become a follower.

But when Jesus talks about people following Him, He isn’t looking for more followers that are merely fans. Instead, Jesus invites us to draw away from the crowd in order to draw near to Him. The threshold is low for becoming a fan, but the threshold is high for becoming Jesus’ follower. Jesus wants us to forsake everything for Him. He wants us to learn what it means to be truly human by reordering our entire existence around Him and His teaching.