The large crowd that gathered around Him

Before I became a Christian I have been organizing small pop festivals, and I went to a school for music and event management.  After I became a Christian, other Christians wanted me to ‘use’  my talents for the Kingdom. For a short time I tried, but failed.  My ‘talent’ was based on my egocentric character and was not Jesus focused.  But that is something for a different blog, for another day. This blog is about an observation I have made in the Gospel of Mark.

When you are organizing a festival there are always questions like, “Is it safe?”, “How many people are there?”, “What can go wrong?” etc.  With those questions I have read the Gospel of Mark and found remarkable ways of how Jesus was controlling his audience.

Jesus was, according to the Gospels, a super famous person. Everybody was talking about him (1:28). Also very soon in his Ministry (according to Mark) he had to wake up in the morning to find a place where He could be alone. This because everybody was looking for Him (1:37). For He was driving out demons (1:25, 39), healing people (1:41) and preaching in their synagogues (1:39). Thus, “As result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”( 1:45)

Those masses of people had to be a problem for Jesus His organization. When Jesus entered Capernaum, so many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door! ( 2:2). If we read further we notice that the crowd is now following Jesus to the lake ( 3:7). And now, for the first time written in Mark, we can read that the crowd became not only a problem, but a dangerous issue. Too many people wanted to touch Jesus, so that a possible chaos was at hand. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding  him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. “( 3:9-10). Jesus had to make precautions before it all went wrong for the people. Gundry notes that,  “He is concerned about the possibility of being crushed.”[1] However, I strongly disagree with him, because I believe that Jesus was not scared for himself (the time of Jesus was not there yet)  but for the crowd being crushed. Because some where pushing towards Jesus to touch him while others were escaping or leaving because they were just healed or delivered. For this, Jesus prepared a boat to remove the problem from the scene, Jesus himself.  When Jesus was gone, no one could touch Him and when no one could touch him, the pushing towards Jesus stopped.  Later on we see that Jesus immediately got into a boat because crowd was so large (4:1). Now he could preach to the crowd  that would listen on the shore without a crowd that wanted to touch Him.

If we go further in the book of Mark skipping some situations when a large crowd followed him or gathered around Him, we come to the famous story of Jesus feeding the Five thousand (6:30-42).  He saw the large crowd and had compassion with them (6:34).  They were hungry and He wanted to feed them. For the disciples this was a problem. There were too many people and they had not enough money to feed them.  For Jesus this was not a problem at all, as we can see in this passage. But to feed the people without creating a massive outbreak of chaos that could lead to panic, anger, aggression, and could even (in a worst case scenario) lead to the death of a lot of people. Without crowd control, there would be no hold to a large crowd of people that were hungry. So before Jesus broke the fish and loaves He directed them (the disciples) to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass (6:39). So the disciples were like a kind of stewards/security. The kind we have now at big events. They directed the people in groups of hundreds and fifties. This in order to have a good overview and easy excess to the large crowd of people.  This also indicates that there were at least more than one group of five thousand so with a minimum of ten thousand people it was a large crowd (This would be logic because the number of men who had eaten was five thousand (6:44), but the women and children were not counted). Then, while Jesus broke the fish and loaves, he gave the fish and loaves to the disciples as an opposite of collecting money like nowadays in the church. Jesus was giving the crowd food through the disciples that now where delivering boys.  Or they had different teams, some that held the groups together, some that delivered the food (This could indicate a successful organization!).

I want to note one important thing what interested me a lot.  That is, which we see in the entire book of Mark, that Jesus was famous and He was a magnet of large crowds. But near the end of Jesus His ministry when He was arrested, we see that Pilate gives the crowd, although under control of the chief priest, a choice (15:11). Freeing the famous Jesus the King of the Jews, who delivered so much of people and brought healing, or to free Barabbas, a criminal, instead (15:6-11). They shouted that Jesus should be crucified!  When did Jesus lose the magnitude of the crowd? Or was the crowd  present at the trial not the same one as the crowd present when Jesus did the miracles and the wonders?

[1] Robert H. Gundry, A survey of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan 2003), 135

Searching the Jesus-rush

Just a while ago I was reading a magazine of National Geographic about searching for treasure. The reason I wanted to read this magazine, is because when I was a child I always dreamed of great and mysterious treasure. So when I was in a store searching for a good magazine, the child in me wanted to dream again of lost treasure. Not that this blog is about my past or my dreamy childhood, but while I was reading, something flew through my thought process.  The column I read with the title ‘the Lure of Treasure’ starts with:

“From the time humans first saw the wink of a gemstone or the glint of gold, they have desired to possess that rare and costly beauty for their own.”

Not to over spiritualize everything, but I link the word ‘treasure’ almost every time with the Bible. In Matthew 6:21 Jesus is saying: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This verse shows us that if we want to live for Jesus and in His Kingdom, we have to see Him as our most worthy treasure. If we do not see Jesus as our treasure, our heart is not with Him.

But then I am reading that we as humans always have desired treasure as a fulfillment of our emptiness. Almost as a counter reaction to keep us from our true treasure.  Jesus is therefore saying in Matthew 6:19: “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Naturally, there are several meanings and interpretations about this verse. What I want to point out, is that treasure has a tremendous power. Let me explain further.

“Treasure, in its darkest guise, has been the motive for murder ,theft, and betrayal, the material of plots and bribes. It has prompted population shifts and the demise of civilizations.”

To understand our heavenly treasure, we have to see what the counter reaction of heavenly treasure (what is earthly treasure) on the earth is able to do. The roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote: “The things… concealed and hidden underground, are the things that destroy us and drive us to the depths below”. If this earthly treasure is a counter reaction to the effect of our heavenly treasure, then the opposite are the things that shape us, free us, and drive us to higher places.  The Greek deity Hades is god of both wealth and the underworld. There is something that wants to lure us from the effects and greatness of this heavenly treasure.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”Matthew 13:45-46

This desire to find and posses costly beauty is in the heart of men, and God knows this because he created us. He made us with this desire to forever search the most precious and costly beauty to ever exist: Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

Treasure in its darkest guise also has another power copied from treasure Jesus is presenting. “It has prompted population shifts and the demise of civilizations.” In 1886, the gold rush build Johannesburg and it inspired the Spanish conquest of the New world and the collapse of the Aztec and Inca Empires. Nowadays, gold is not the reason of bargain in wars, but oil is for example. So earthly treasure changes. But what happens when Christians understand their treasure and the power it beholds? If they would understand the treasure that is always the same and always has the greatest value. What if people, both Christian and non- Christian, were again searching for real value and treasure? This Jesus-rush would be able to be cause of population shifts and the demise of demonic nations and spiritual realms!

Then when I look to myself, do I really understand the value and worth of this treasure? Am I totally satisfied? Why do we as Christians pursue and desire so much more than Christ only?

For a new born Christian, Jesus is the only thing in life; nothing ells matters (obviously this can still be the case for the rest of his/her life).  This moment, what some disappointed Christians call the first love, is, how I see it, the realization of finding this treasure.  But lots of Christians are, after a while, searching for more. Did they find the treasure? Yes! (in most cases). Can we lose our treasure? Absolutely! But that is why there is a treasure map, to find our way back to the treasure. Read it carefully, follow the lines and you will see that the treasure is indicated with a cross.