Of course, we know why a lot of them followed Jesus. He was healing the sick, and at the beginning of his mission/ministry, he was healing them all. He was a sensation! Who wouldn’t follow? Don’t we do the same today? Don’t we follow the wondrous . . . the unbelievable . . . the news worthy . . . the tragedies . . . and the inexplicable?
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
If Jesus was doing the same thing today that he was doing back then, he wouldn’t just have a few hundred or thousand following, he would have millions through the Internet and media. It would be a real circus.
He had only just started his ministry according to Matthew. He was making the circuit around Galilee, stopping into various synagogues along the way and teaching about the kingdom of God being near and close at hand. (It was thirty square miles.) He had headed back home to Nazareth first, got shut out of his home church and then headed to Capernaum (via Cana) where his reputation both followed and preceded him. His notoriety started heating up pretty fast.
Currently, we’re in Olympics fever from London, and I marvel as I watch the various athletes exhibit their best efforts while being followed by a slew of reporters and cameramen. There are remote cameras following them above the water as well as along the track. There are satellite cameras and there are long lenses poking out from every corner. Every movement, every tear, every laugh or smile, is caught on camera. Every win, whether by a long shot or a hair’s breadth, is captured.
Can you imagine the cameras capturing the healings of the Christ? Who would interpret? Who would be the pundits? Who would get the first interview? What would the witnesses say? How long would the healed person be followed around by reporters, perhaps looking for a fake? Where would Jesus go to avoid the constant barrage of both the needy people as well as the rubber-neckers? Where would Jesus go to bypass the media? And who would know the truth? Would we believe what we saw on camera? Would we follow Him on Fox News or NPR? Would we snatch up People magazine to see the pictures of someone rising from the dead? Or would we pick up the Inquirer in the grocery line that exposes Jesus as a fraud?
What keeps me following Him today? Is it the scripture stories? Is it the fellow believers? Is it my circumstances, once dire, and now more stable? Is it the miraculous or the mundane? Is it the charismatic pastor or the throbbing music beat at church?
There were times in my journey when I longed to see and experience more of this Jesus/Holy Spirit, not unlike the fantastic descriptions in scripture, written and retold, and then sustained by faith and repetition through the centuries. I wanted a miracle! Each decade in the 20th century has brought various phenomena, from speaking in tongues, to falling in the spirit, to laughing in the spirit, to prophetic utterances, to spontaneous healings, to golden dust falling on the faithful. Each manifestation brought thousands into a place and time, who like the followers of Jesus, wanted to see, hear, and feel, a tangible presence of God. And although it was often fleeting, many were not disappointed. At least, not at first. But then the phenomena passed, the touched people moved on, the crowds thinned, and we looked for the next manifestation.
But who/what did we follow? The miracles or the person? Who did they follow? The miracles or the person?
And all the while. The kingdom was near and still is. The kingdom is within us; in our midst. [Luke 17:21] Here. Everything needed is right here. Right now.