June 30, 2016
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Jesus has little tolerance for the speculation of the crowds. By this point in Matthew’s Gospel he has grown weary of it. Days ago we heard him speaking to his followers about absolute trust and unrivaled fidelity—about a loyalty to him exceeding even loyalty to family and calling his disciples to absolute abandonment to the Kingdom of Heaven; losing one’s life in order to keep it.
Today we are getting the opposite speech. There’s a seeming disdain in Jesus’ tone. He’s growing weary of this. Crowds hold enormous power. It’s the power of collective anonymity. It is very difficult to do the right thing in the midst of a crowd who is doing the wrong thing. Everyone is responsible. No-one is accountable. Crowds can get anyone to do just about anything. Remember the last time the wave broke out at sporting contest you attended? Enough said.
On the one hand, Jesus will not be moved by a crowd. On the other hand, Jesus will be moved to compassion for the crowd. It’s because Jesus de-collectivizes the crowd by choosing to see people—person by person by person. I think Jesus grows impatient when he can tell that persons have become so hardened they really can’t even distinguish themselves from the crowd any more. It’s why tomorrow we will see Jesus pronounce curses on entire towns. Crowds don’t want to be challenged. They prefer to be entertained. Crowds cannot repent. Only people can do that.
The big question we must ask ourselves about our local churches is, Are they crowds or are they communities? It gets easier and easier in today’s church context for a large crowd to masquerade as a community. Communities are built on real relationships between people who are living in faithful covenant friendships. It’s why Jesus core command is, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (see John 15).
1. What differences do you see between the way Jesus relates to his community of disciples and the way he relates to the crowds?
2. What do you think about this distinction between a crowd and a community ?
3. Crowds are the breeding ground for cynicism. Communities are the birthplaces of character. What do you think about that distinction and contrast?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.