The two Sundays following the Charlottesville riots along with all its social and political fallout I felt the need to address it with the Living Hope congregation. I chose to look at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter five. These powerful words caused me to hit the reset button on my perspective of the world and how God operates. I was praying this would be the case for others as well.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds”, is a common phrase found in the Gospels. Crowds were a result of need, protest or confusion in Jesus day as well as ours. In Matthew 9:36 its says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The lens with which I see others is so critical to how I will respond to them. If my primary lens is not compassion and is something other such as politics, race or economics than than my perspective will be filtered differently than Jesus'. Seeing what happened in Charlottesville stirs up different emotions for us all. Regardless of those emotions we experience, we have an example of how Jesus never allowed the crowd to determine his reaction.
Jesus never joined in with the crowd even when they sought to make him a political leader. He resisted anyone or anything that distracted him from the will of his Father in heaven. Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:15. Jesus did not come to be a political leader any more than he saved us to have our main impact in the political realm. If not careful we can easily get caught up in noble cause that aligns us people and damage our Identify as Christ follower. Taking one side or the other can hinder our ability to represent Jesus.
He never let the needs of the crowd determine his next steps. While he healed, fed and freed many through miracles Jesus knew that even physical healing was secondary to his primary mission of reconciling people back to a right relationship with their creator. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10 I am sure that Jesus did not heal every person and meet every physical need. Only eternity holds the pure hope of freedom from the pain and suffering of this world. At the same time Jesus saw the crowds as an opportunity to reveal the glory of God through healing many and offering the only hope that would change their lives. He saw through the crowd to the individual brokenness that exists in all of us. Souls that he would eventually give his life for.
Jesus used the crowds as teaching moment for his disciples. The teaching of the Beatitudes came from an opportunity Jesus seized to explain what qualities within a person God blesses. The training of his disciples was so necessary for them to move forward in the ministry they would be doing after Jesus departure. He took the focus off of the crowd and on to who God wants his disciples to be, salt and light in a dark and decaying world.
Jesus also withdrew from the crowds for solitude and prayer. He had a regular practice of separating himself from all the needs that came with the crowd. “so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16 I can’t engage the world properly if I am not engaging my heavenly Father regularly. Jesus could have taught incessantly and gave us more to think about. He chose to invest in quiet moments with his heavenly Father.
Jesus gave us the blueprint for crowd control and so while the crowds form all around us determined to carry out their will remember that God destined his followers to do his will.