When Jesus completed His sermon on the mount, Matthew records, “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.” That doesn’t sound so remarkable to the reader of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus had large crowds before He spoke, and He had large crowds after He spoke. Both crowds followed Him, and both crowds consisted of diverse peoples. We know that because Matthew had previously told us, “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” That meant the crowd was made up of people from various cultures – Jews and Greeks and all manner of gentiles. Yet through the sermon, Jesus was effectively able to move the entire group closer to ultimate reality.
When they met Jesus, they saw the Kingdom of God breaking into their reality. Jesus was, “…healing every disease and sickness among the people. 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.” That’s why they had gathered around Him to start with. A demonstration of God’s power will always gather a crowd. Everyone wants to see a healing, and everyone wants to get healed.
Now the Kingdom of God was going beyond what they were seeking and experiencing. It was breaking into their personal worldview. They recognized Jesus as one who teaches with authority; “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
There is a progression to our awareness of the Kingdom of God. First you become aware that something is happening, then you realize it is happening to or around you. Perhaps you are physically blessed in some capacity. Perhaps you find a series of eerie coincidences that you know cannot just be coincidence. Then the Kingdom of God begins to break into your thinking. You become aware that Jesus is not just someone to be aware of, but someone to look into – someone to hear from. More than that, someone who teaches truth. More than that, that He is truth. That He is ultimate truth. Truth that changes everything. Truth that compels you to follow, because your reality has been altered, and that by God.
This principle is applicable to every group of people. It is the principle by which Jesus drew individuals, families and communities into His Kingdom. It is how He demonstrated to a largely apathetic society that God was alive and cared for them: A demonstration of His power followed by a demonstration of His wisdom. Power first, wisdom second. Demonstrated power and wisdom (in that order) always results in changed worldviews and committed followers.
If we are to impact our neighborhoods, we best remember Jesus’ methodology.
“We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”the apostle Paul (from 1 Co 1:23–24)
How do you those you seek to reach see Christ in you? Is there power before preaching, or preaching before power?