Crowds and Popularity
CROWDS AND POPULARITY – Mark 3: 7-12
If you will look through the passage that was read one of the things you will notice is that Jesus has apparently become a “celebrity.”
- He seems to be constantly followed by large masses of people.
- People wanting to touch Him…to see Him…to be where He is.
Three times in this passage there are references to the “multitude” of people that are round Him.
- And in chapters 3-5 there are 9 references to the fact that large crowds are following Jesus.
- Jesus is constantly being surrounded by people.
And I want you to notice the way that Mark describes these crowds. In the passage that we just read, in verse 9, the word “crowd or multitude”?
- That word can literally be translated “a riot.”
- And there where it says “that they might not crowd Him”…that word “crowd” means “to throng” or “to suffer tribulation.”
And notice vs. 10…where it says that they “pressed about Him?”
- That phrase literally means they were “falling into” Him…or “lying on”
Mark describes these crowds as “mobs, throngs, or riots.”
- These people are falling on Him…and lunging at Him…and they push Him…and press Him.
- So, what you have here is all these people crowding Him to the point that He can’t find time to eat…or a place to sleep…or where His family can’t get through to Him.
Now, some of us would look at this and say, “Wow, this is great!”
- “What preacher wouldn’t want to have this kind of attention…to have this kind of status…to be so popular…so sought after that people are thronging you?”
- Some would say that this is ”a preacher’s dream!”
And the fact of the matter is, today, some preachers are out to achieve this very thing…they want status and popularity.
- And some have this idea that “you aren’t a successful preacher unless you have this kind of following.”
- And we sometimes measure a church or youth program as being successful by the size of the crowd.
- We really emphasize crowds, and numbers, and popularity!
And yet, Jesus didn’t.
- Unlike many preachers, Jesus never seems to relish the celebrity status…and He never seems to be excited about the large crowds.
- In fact, several times you find him trying to escape from the crowds.
- And not one time in the gospel of Mark will he ever praise them.
What most people would relish…Jesus seems to be unimpressed with.
- What most people would say is an indication of success Jesus seems to be less than excited about.
- Why? Why isn’t Jesus impressed with…excited about the huge crowds?
- Why doesn’t He enjoy the popularity?
Well, I think Mark tells us.
- I THINK MARK GIVES US SOME THINGS WE NEED TO REMEMBER ABOUT CROWDS AND POPULARITY.
- You see, popularity and attracting big crowds brings with it some temptations and some inherent dangers that we need to be aware of.
- Now, don’t misunderstand, I would love to see a day when this building is full of people.
- But not at the expense that some churches and preachers have paid for that to happen.
Now, as we look at this we are also going to see what it is in people that Jesus really wants…and hopefully that will help some of you as you consider your commitment to Christ.
One reason Jesus was not impressed with the popularity and crowds was the MISPLACED EMPHASIS.
- Look back with me at chapter 1: 32.
- In chapter 1: 32 the people bring all these sick folks and those suffering from various diseases and those possessed by demons…and Jesus heals them.
- But that was not Jesus’ chief mission…or purpose.
- Look again at vs. 38. They come out early in the morning and they find Jesus and they say, “Everyone is looking for you” and in verse 38 Jesus says, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came our for.”
- Preaching was Jesus’ chief mission…to preach to these people a message of repentance and salvation.
- That is what they needed more than being made well…because being lost is infinitely worse than being made well.
- But that is not what this crowd of people is interested in…they are only interested in the healing.
- And so the problem is, these people are all coming to Jesus for the wrong reason….they are emphasizing the wrong thing.
- And that is why Jesus wasn’t impressed with this crowd and why He wanted to go somewhere else.
Look at chapter 2. In this chapter Mark heals a paralytic man who has been lowered down in front of Him by some friends.
- In the process He teaches the people that “He has authority to forgive sins.”
- But look what they say in verse 12.
- In verse 12 it says that the people were “amazed” and they say, “We have never seen anything like this.”
- They were impressed with the healing…they didn’t say anything about the teaching!
- You see, sometimes people and crowds come for the wrong reasons.
And modern religion is falling prey to this.
- “We have to have bigger crowds!”
- After all, with more people there is more prestige and more money.”
And so, to keep the crowds, “Don’t worry so much about what you teach!’
- “Worry more about what they want to hear!”
And one of the things we see today is more and more churches putting emphasis on entertainment than on teaching and preaching the word.
- Not too long ago I was visiting with a sister in Christ and in our conversation I told her that it seemed to me that a lot of groups were focusing more on entertaining people more than they were teaching the word.
- And her words were, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. I want to be entertained too. If it is not entertaining, I’ll go somewhere where it is.”
Now, don’t misunderstand me…I agree to some extent…no one wants to be bored to death.
- And a gospel preacher should do his best to not make the word of God boring.
- And I don’t think there is anything wrong with a congregation offering good, clean, wholesome activities to counter some of the less than wholesome activities that the world offers.
- And I don’t know that there is anything wrong with offering some activities to help bring some people in so you can teach them the word of God.
But when we feel like we have to come up with bigger and more entertaining ways in order to keep people coming instead of preaching the word and then letting the word convict the hearer as to whether or not they will come…then we are in trouble.
- When entertainment becomes primary for the sake of crowds.
- When you have to offer bigger and neater and more elaborate things so you can draw the people in…then you have MISPLACED EMPHASIS and the crowd has become more important to you than the word of God has.
I am concerned that we have a generation today that is looking more for entertainment than they are the truth of God’s word.
- I have seen and heard of preachers who were released from their job, not because they didn’t preach the word, but because they were not entertaining enough.
- And what we have to do is we have got to remember that CROWDEDNESS does not necessarily mean FAITHFULNESS.
- And one of the dangers of wanting to have a crowd at all cost is MISPLACED EMPHASIS of what you should really be about.
The second danger that comes with crowds and popularity is IMPROPER TOLERANCE.
- Letting everyone do what they want to do and be who they want to be…even if it is wrong.
If you will notice, in almost every crowd that Jesus deals with, there were demons who were always willing to give their testimony to the deity of Jesus.
- But Jesus refused to allow them to talk. You can check Mark 1: 34.
- And there are several reason why Jesus didn’t want the demons to talk.
- Demons are of their father the devil…they are deceitful and Jesus probably doesn’t want people to listen to them even if they tell the truth.
But today, one way to remain popular is to be indifferent to who follows you…and to be indifferent to what they do….and to be in different to what they say…and to let the people believe what they want to believe…no matter if it is wrong!
- In other words, “Don’t upset anyone!”
- Be tolerant of everyone and everything.
Some of the fastest growing churches today, with some of the biggest crowds, are indifferent to doctrine.
- They preach a “I am ok, and you are ok” doctrine…and they don’t really care if you are “OK” with God according to His word…just as long as you are in the pews.
But Jesus wasn’t that way.
- He didn’t want the demons spouting their lies.
- He didn’t compromise with demons.
- And Jesus didn’t preach an “I’m ok, your ok” doctrine.
- He preached the kingdom of God and He told people that what mattered was being “Ok” with God…and if they weren’t “Ok” with God they better get “Ok.”
- In fact, In John 6: 52, Jesus didn’t compromise with some of His followers…and He teaches some very difficult things…and in verse 66 of that chapter some of His followers leave because of what He says.
And the point is this: Numbers were not so important to Jesus that He was IMPROPERLY TOLERANT or improperly indifferent to who the people were or what they were doing.
- He didn’t compromise who He was or what He taught just for the sake of numbers.
And then a third danger that comes with crowds and popularity is SHALLOW IMPACT.
- What is the best way for a minister of God to reach the most people?
- Is it to barely touch thousands, or is it better to deeply touch a few who can teach others?
- Well, apparently it is better to deeply touch a few who can teach others than it is to barely touch thousands…because that is exactly what Jesus did.
- Look at verses 13-19.
13 And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons. 16 And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
Did you notice why He called these 12. He called them to do two things. Look again at verse 14:
- First, He called them “That they might be with Him.”
- That is more expensive than you might think.
- That means leaving your job…leaving your home, your bed, and all your comforts.
- That means suffering some tremendous hardships and sacrifices.
- You see, they are not going to go to class 8-5 Monday through Friday.
- They are going to spend 24 hours a day in class.
- Their classroom is going to be in houses, in fields, and synagogues, and roads because they are going to learn that you cannot reflect who you don’t know.
- That is the first thing that the disciples were to learn.
- They were called to be with Him.
The second thing He called them to do in vs. 14: “That He might send them out to preach and to have authority to cast out demons.”
- In short, they were to do the very thing He was doing.
- And what is amazing, they went and they followed.
- And maybe the most important thing you can say about these men is that, with perhaps one exception, they have the courage to stand up for Jesus even when the crowds won’t.
- At the end of the gospel of Mark, Jesus is going to be led out to a hill, He is going to be put on a cross, and they are not going to have to set up bleachers to hold the thousands of people who are still following Him.
- There will only be a few left.
- Eleven of these men will be among the few.
- And eventually, all eleven of these men will die for Jesus.
- And Jesus would prefer a few like these…than crowds and crowds of people.
- And do you know why? Because Jesus didn’t come to draw crowds…He came to make disciples.
And what you find is, the mixture you have in these verses is the same mixture you have today.
- You have crowds…and you have disciples…and the question is, which group do you belong too?
And to help you decide which group you might be in, let me suggest 3 ways to distinguish the two.
- Crowds prefer to be entertained. Disciples prefer to be trained.
- Are you frustrated if you come to church on Sunday and you didn’t think the show was very good?
- Or are you frustrated if you are not growing into the likeness of Christ by coming to church.
- Do you come to watch the show…or to grow?
- This is one difference between the crowds and those who are disciples.
- Crowds prefer to be anonymous. Disciples prefer to be accountable.
- Which requires more commitment: To join a crowd of 10,000 people who follow you even though the leaders of the government don’t like it?
- Or to join a group of 12 who continue to preach about you even when the government says stop?
- What is the government going to do to 10,000 people?
- If you march with 12 it might cost you your life.
- So, you see, the problem with crowds is they might give the impression of commitment, but often times all they do is give security to those who have no commitment.
- But disciples, well their commitment is genuine and visible.
- And it is going to be seen in all they do…in every situation.
Then the third way to tell which group you are in is: Crowds prefer to be served. Disciple prefer to be sent.
- Some assemble to receive…others come to get something to take and give away.
Which group do you belong too? Do you just belong to the crowd? Or are you a disciple?
We all want big churches…we all want a full auditorium…but you do not avoid preaching commitment so the room will stay full of the uncommitted.
Jesus did not come to draws crowds.
- He realized that crowds are fickle and that you can’t use them as any valid standard for success.
- He came to make disciples. And He calls you to bring what little you have…and follow Him.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023