To this point in his Gospel (8:18), Matthew has detailed how coming to the Lord means meeting Jesus as the fulfillment of prophesy and the embodiment of God’s love for His people. It means knowing Jesus as Savior. It means knowing Jesus as healer. It means knowing His Words to us, His grace to us, His care for us and His mercy upon us.
Love, healing, grace, care, mercy and fulfilled prophesy are in high demand. It is no wonder Matthew keeps referring to those seeking Jesus as either “a crowd” or “crowds”.
Everywhere you go, you will find that people want the Kingdom of God. Everyone wants peace. They want relational peace with those around them. They want peace in their community. They want peace of mind in themselves. Except for truly evil, everyone wants the peace that God Himself brings. Likewise God’s presence. Everyone wants His presence, for His presence means joy, light, life and blessing. You will never meet a person who does not want some form of blessing. Further, to come Jesus is to experience the power of God. It is to obtain health instead of sickness. It is to obtain mobility instead of paralysis. It is to obtain sight instead of blindness. Everyone wants that too. The peace of God, the presence of God and the power of God are in high demand!
The thing is that apart from unity with God, you cannot enjoy any of His blessings, because there is no blessing apart from unity. All the world knows that much at least. There is no blessing in a marriage if the two partners have animosity for each other. There is no blessing in a workplace if your coworkers don’t even like you. There is no blessing in a business if the partners argue about everything all the time. Blessing is tied to unity, and unity with God is a prerequisite to His blessing. So our experience of the peace of God, the presence of God and the power of God all mandate that we have unity with God. It is true that our sin keeps us apart from Him, but this is the very good news of Jesus – He came to make a way for us to have unity with God, and He demonstrates what that unity looks like to all who come to Him.
So it is that we read over and over again in Matthew’s Gospel account, “When Jesus saw the crowd around him…” Jesus presents a way forward. He represents freedom from what blocks us from receiving God’s peace, presence and power. The people are finding that Jesus does indeed bring freedom, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Such a thing could hardly be unpopular! It is no wonder that we see “crowds” of people coming to Jesus to this point in His ministry!
Yes Jesus was not seeking to be popular. What He was seeking is those who truly want unity with God. Those who want to become citizens of the Kingdom of God. And for that people will not only have to come to Him, they’ll have to actively follow Him. That always includes overcoming obstacles to keep following Him. After all, those who come to Christ on account of their own need inevitably are at least partially doing so out of selfish reasons. The thing is – there is not even a hint of selfishness in Christ, not a lick of selfishness in the Father or Spirit and there is to be no selfishness in God’s Kingdom either. Consequently, those who want to follow Christ find their selfishness being ground down by the demands of simply following Him.
“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.” Those who come to Him will need to follow. It is the cost of truly knowing Jesus.
The evil practice of using God must be abandoned. Instead of trying to employ God to achieve our ends we must submit ourselves joyously to God and let Him work through us to achieve His own ends.AW Tozer
What obstacles are you willing to overcome to follow Christ whole-heartedly?