In the Gospel accounts, we read about large crowds that came together to hear Jesus teach. Often, “The crowd that gathered around Him was so large that He got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake.” (Mark 4:1)
We read that the crowds listened to Him gladly. They were amazed at His teaching and His miracles. They exclaimed, “’Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us’? And they took offense at Him.” (Mark 6:2-3)
Despite this, Jesus had compassion on the multitudes. He fed them, He healed them, He cast out demons, and He taught them—always in parables because He knew their hearts. “They were ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12)
The crowds were fickle. They came to Him when they had a need they thought He could fill. After Jesus fed the 5,000, the crowd again sought Him out—not because they recognized who His is, but because He had filled their stomachs (John 6:26).
A week before Jesus was crucified His fans hailed Him as King, shouting, “’Hosanna!’ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9) But just days later, the chief priests and the elders won over the crowd to ask Pilate to execute Jesus and have Barabbas released (Matthew 27:20).
Jesus’ fans are no different today. They revere Jesus as a great spiritual leader. They quote Him and seek Him out when it suits their purposes. They’re content with a bit of Jesus in their lives, but in the end they’re just fans.
By contrast, both then and now, Jesus is seeking followers not fans. In the Mark 4 account, Jesus left His fans on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. But His followers got into the boat with Him to cross the lake. Jesus, tired from a day of teaching the crowds, promptly fell asleep in the back of the boat. Meanwhile, “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” (vs. 37)
Following Jesus often (if not always) leads us into danger—or adventure—depending on one’s outlook. The disciples were frightened by the storm and woke Jesus. They didn’t expect Him to be able to do anything about the storm, but they were upset that crossing the lake was His idea and here He was sleeping through the worst of it!
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples [followers], ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him?’” (vs. 39-41)
Even Jesus’ closest followers did not yet understand who He is, but they were willing to follow Him and risk their lives to find out.
The same is true today. When we decide to truly follow Jesus and abandon our “fan status,” we don’t know at the time what our relationship with Him will bring. In fact, in the beginning, we may not yet fully know Him. But it’s through the “storms” of life that we begin to grasp the full extent of His love and nature as God Almighty!
It’s easy to stay on the shore and watch from afar. It’s much more difficult to get into the boat and weather the storm. But I’d rather be with Jesus in the boat enduring the storm than on the safety of the beach with the crowd. How about you?