Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
For some, this next statement is going to make you uncomfortable. It’s going to go against the grain of what you’ve been told, what you feel. And it certainly doesn’t sound spiritual.
Jesus attracted a crowd.
Yes, he did. He was so emotionally and relationally attractive that people naturally wanted to be with him. His words and teaching were amazing, astounding, and exciting. He was altogether different than the normal, garden variety, speakers, and teachers of the law .
The great crowds Jesus’ attracted were not the result of everyone reading their social media feeds and then running right over, creating a backup on the Interstate through Israel. No, it happened over time. One person heard who then shared with another, who then shared with another. It certainly was a grassroots movement.
There were no proclamations or declarations from political or spiritual leaders. As a matter of fact, the leaders were unanimously against Jesus. There was no mass media, or even handouts. The crowds happened as one person heard and was moved by what Jesus did and said.
Their attraction was more about what he said and did. How he lived. How he helped. People “heard all that he was doing, and they came to him.” They were continually hearing of the many things he was doing. Over and over, the stories were told and retold until they just had to get up and see for themselves.
They responded to Jesus, not because of a single incident, but the ongoing, cumulative impact. They didn’t hear it once, but over and over and over. The life of Jesus, and what he did, was the topic of conversation and excitement to such an extent that they couldn’t get enough of him. More and more stories were repeated, over and over. More and more information and reaction to Jesus just kept coming.
The ministry of Jesus was not the “nuclear option” of public relations. It was the result of daily, public interaction with people. There was no newsletter. There were no publications. There were no billboards. There was no texting.
Public relations were both “public” and “relations” with people. People are at the center of it all, and people must be at the center of what we do and say. And we need to start with the people who are right in front of us.
This “grassroots” approach to serving God and telling people about him must be the foundation for not only what we do but why we do it. It is to be all about Jesus, all of the time. And all about people, all the time. Everything else must take a distant back seat, lower priority.
What are people hearing about you and me? It isn’t necessarily what we said or did. We can only control what we do and say, we can’t control how that gets distributed or distorted. We can only live the truth and speak the truth one day at a time, one person at a time.
And you never know where that one encounter, that one’s word’s going to lead.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
We were walking out of church recently, not looking to attract a crowd, and we met a couple that we didn’t know. Within a few moments, the husband shared how he was scheduled for colon cancer surgery in a few days. They were both new to the area and now they were going to be further “isolated” through an extended hospital stay. And to make matters even more difficult, the hospital was more than an hour away.
With their permission, we met with Jesus right there in the parking lot for prayer. The funny thing is that this happened on “Missions Sunday” where the focus was on “going” and foreign missions. Now in one sense, this was “foreign missions” because the people were totally foreign and unknown to us.
So, we did attract a crowd, just by reaching out and showing interest in people right next to us. Believe you me, if I can do it, so can you.