Do you want more of God? Do you feel convicted to serve him? You may be at a critical juncture in your life. John Estes explores this “middle ground” after the jump.
In looking at the ministry of Jesus, he seemed to have supporters of varying degrees. It’s not hard to see the difference between the masses and his closer, more devoted disciples. For one, the crowds were large masses of people; think upwards of 5000 people. These people wanted to hear the latest sensation and wanted to see Jesus work miracles. When I picture the crowds that came to hear Jesus speak I envision people saying things ranging from “I think I’ve heard of this guy” to “I’m his biggest fan!” I think of these people being like the crowd at a concert. They’ve come when the artist visits their town.
These people knew who Jesus was from afar, but there was no personal connection. They were his supporters, but not his friends. Their commitment was there as long as it was comfortable, but not much more than that.
On the other hand, there were the disciples. These guys had given up their careers (Matthew 4:18-20). They had left family behind (Matthew 4:21-22). They had the desire to do what it took to be close to Jesus. Their relationship with the Christ was so impactful that they knew they would never be able to turn back to the way things were before knowing Him.
So what is the barrier between these two groups? Why were some discipled and others left in the crowd? These are some questions I’ve been thinking about lately. What are the factors that separate the crowd from the disciples?
I believe Luke 10 can share some light on this topic. In this passage, the Lord appoints seventy people to go out and spread his message. Jesus asked them to tell people of the arriving of God’s Kingdom, and after they had carried out his orders they returned filled with joy excited that “even the demons are subjected to us in Your name. (Luke 10:17)”
This passage strikes me as odd, because here we have a group too small to be the crowd and too large to be the disciples. They obviously had some commitment, because they carried out some pretty serious orders. However, this group of seventy is not mentioned again throughout the gospels. Maybe some of them were a part of the church of Acts, but in regards to Jesus’ ministry they were just sent out the one time.
This group of followers, in my opinion, were faced with a choice. It seems logical to think that they had been part of the crowd, but they wanted more. They felt convicted. They knew Jesus was the redeemer, and they wanted more than what the crowd offered. Yet they were not mentioned again. It seems to me that these followers had to make the choice between being of the crowd and being a disciple, but the commitment required of being a disciple was too great. More than likely, they became part of the crowd again.
The passage never mentions anything about these guys falling away or anything like that. However, the Bible does reference others who approached Jesus seeking to follow him, but turned away because the price was too great (Matthew 8:19-21). In fact, after one man asked Jesus if he could first bury his dead father (If you study this more closely, you see that he wanted to receive his inheritance.), and Jesus told him to follow him and let the dead bury his own. Immediately afterwards, it says, “And when he was entered into a boat, his disciples followed him.” (Matthew 8:21). I don’t think that man was on the boat. He stayed with the crowd. I could very much see a similar instance happening with many of these followers.
So what’s the big deal? The crowd were still ministered to. They were healed and delivered, and their lives were changed for the better. They believed Jesus was their savior. But look at the disciples. Have you read the book of Acts? These guys changed the world. They weren’t being healed; they were the ones healing. They were changing everything. In a similar way, if we want ever to see this country come back to God, then it’s going to take more disciples, not more crowds.
Now my question to you, dear reader, is “Where do you fit in all of this?” Has the Lord put a vision in you to do something? Has he convicted your heart to speak to someone? Has he challenged you? If so, then you might be lumped in with these followers. At this point, you have the choice to remain in the crowd or to step up to be a disciple. But mark my words, you cannot stay a follower for long. They were only mentioned once. They either became disciples, or they went back to the crowd.
If you get serious about your walk with God, then at some point he is going to challenge you in a new way. It won’t be easy. You’ve got to choose which path you will take, but you won’t be able to stay in the middle ground for long.
Many people choose to be in the crowd. These people may attend church regularly, have a “God is my co-pilot” bumper sticker, and may even donate to charity, but when God asks a little more of them they shrink back. But only the disciples will be able to change this world. Only they can proclaim with authority that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is my prayer than in the day when you have to decide, you will choose wisely. Choose w