Blessed… Large Crowds Followed

Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread throughout Syria. People brought to him all those who had various kinds of diseases, those in pain, those possessed by demons, those with epilepsy, and those who were paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from the areas beyond the Jordan River (Matthew 4:23-25, Common English Bible).

Have you ever noticed that when something good, or at least something many people think is good, large crowds seem to follow? If a new Star Wars or Batman movie hits the theaters, people will come out in astonishing numbers.

When the latest greatest toy that you can’t find anywhere on the planet two weeks before Christmas is suddenly made available in one store in a 1000 mile radius people will camp out in line for days.

Several years ago my wife bought me tickets to “The Battle of the Piney Woods,” an annual football came between Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks and my Sam Houston State University Bearkats. The game is played in Houston’s NRG stadium. It promised to be a really good game (and it was even if the good guys didn’t win). These are two smaller schools. They are not the likes of Notre Dame or University of Texas or even a school like Boise State. The stadium only sold tickets in the lower bowl. The upper decks were completely empty but the lower bowl was packed. For a game that was out of town for both of these small schools, it was a huge crowd.

In just over a week that same stadium will be hosting the biggest of all football games between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Unlike my trip to The Battle of the Piney Woods several years back, they will be selling tickets beyond the lower bowl. There will be huge numbers of people in attendance. At the same time, even larger numbers of people will travel to “Super Bowl” parties to watch this game with friends.

I have always found it interesting, the number of people who will travel hundreds of miles to watch a football game but the Savior of the world invites us, calls us to a place each week, that for most of us isn’t more than a mile or two away, and over time, fewer and fewer people come. Please understand. I am not complaining about football. I enjoy a good game as much as anyone. But I appreciate even more the time I can spend gathered with God and the people of God. It seems like I spend that time with fewer people now than I did twenty-five years ago.

This is not to say that large numbers of people don’t still follow. There is enough evidence to support that. Christian concerts still draw huge crowds. The same can be said of large churches. At the same time, however, there is also growing evidence that many people, though they may claim a relationship with God, are not part of the crowd gathered for worship.

Somehow we have gotten it into our minds that worshiping alone is OK. I don’t think that is even possible but I will save that for another time. Accepting that it is possible to worship alone, I still don’t think it is what God called us to do. Again and again, throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus is with a gathered crowd of people. With these people Jesus involved himself in worship, teaching, fellowship, service and more. While Jesus could have spent his life away from people, he didn’t. Yes, there were times when Jesus was alone to pray or to rest. Those times are necessary for all of us. But, as we read, we see that Jesus was right back into the crowds of people. And that word “people” would include sinful folks (folks at least some people are trying to escape) just like you and me.

Today’s lesson talks about Jesus and crowds. In this case he was serving people. He was healing people. People saw something good happening and they followed after Jesus. Large crowds built up all around him. And, for the most part, Jesus wasn’t trying to escape sinful people. He sought to heal them, to teach them, to worship with them and to fellowship with them.

We too can gather in the presence of Jesus and experience something good. We can be part of building a large crowd. We can be part of that healing, serving, teaching, fellowship and worshiping experience. We do it by being a part of a local body of believers who want to be part of what Jesus has to offer to the world.

Jesus said, “Wherever there are two or three (or more, many more) gathered in my name, I am there with them” (Matthew 18:20, Paraphrased). If we really want to experience something good, something lasting, we need to experience Jesus with a body of believers. When we all find that something good, large crowds will follow.

When was the last time you were with Jesus and a body of believers?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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