Sep 2, 2015, 10:27 AM
The designation as Christians, meaning the followers of Christ, was first heard in Antioch. There, the people observed that the disciples were behaving like Jesus Christ. No doubt the disciples by their comportment and speech reminded the people of Antioch of Jesus.
Christians today are a different breed of people from the initial handful that bore that name. Not only has Christianity spread worldwide, crossing frontiers and continents but it is embraced by different cultures, people, tongues and nations. If one would have to look for a common thread, a common denominator that would identify them. What would that be?
The reasons for which people in the early church followed Jesus would have been multiple and diverse, but we would like to concentrate on only a few for the purpose of this study.
During his short three-and-a-half-year ministry, Jesus’ popularity soared to amazing heights such that crowds came in large numbers from all corners to see this man that they had heard so much about. “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:28-29) This trait already distinguished him from the traditional groups of Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees that were performing that task. That also constituted sufficient reason for crowds to build up each time Jesus was in their neighbourhood, village or town. Whenever and wherever crowds gather there is something that has captured their attention – something out of the ordinary probably, an occurrence worthy of note.
In the Gospel of John, the writer records in chapter 6 verse 2 “… and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he performed on the sick.” The miracles our Lord Jesus performed, like a magnet, pulled a large crowd that followed him. This clearly means that the crowd was fascinated by the miracles that Jesus performed. It was not so much that he was a miracle-maker than the fact that it allowed them to bring their sick to him for healing. “When the sun was setting the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” (Luke 4:40) “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.” (Matthew 15:30)
You probably have heard of the miracles of Jesus and that is what has drawn you to him. Yes, our Lord Jesus came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10b) He came for the sick and not for those who had no need of a doctor. (Matthew 9:6) He is still in the business of healing. The reason is that his name is ABOVE all other names, (Philippians 2:9) and everything in heaven and on earth must bow. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth…” (Philippians 2:9-10)
They came with their burdens, received healing and left relieved. Their purposes fulfilled, that was the end of story. That was the only reason they followed Jesus. Would that be the case with you as well?
Others followed Jesus because they saw a leader in him – one who could defy the Roman authorities and liberate Israel. Most probably they heard the authority with which he spoke and the wisdom he displayed and the responses he gave to difficult questions and that must have impressed them greatly.
On one special occasion he had fed 5,000 people (women and children not included). “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:14-15)
He had affirmed that his kingdom was not of this world. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18.36) Who would not like to install as king someone who has taken care of all our essential needs like our welfare, food, shelter and transport? They saw in Jesus a provider, a comforter, a constant help in time of trouble. Jesus is king; that is why the three wise men who followed the star travelled long distance to worship him, to pay him homage. He is king in his own right and does not need to be installed or recognised by anyone in order to be one.
In the light of the above the question we should ask ourselves is why are we following Jesus? Is it for the miracles he has done in our lives? Is it for political reasons? Do we want him to rule over us, cater for our welfare, over our nation or our state? Not everybody received the healing they sought. They, unlike those who did, returned despondent. Understandably, Jesus spent time doing good, but that was not the reason he came. He came to tell us about the Father and about his kingdom and naturally the place we occupy in this kingdom as God’s precious possessions. The Lord has a lot in stock for those who love him and care to learn of him. He can give more than healing and status. He gives life everlasting to all those who accept and acknowledge him as ruler over their lives.
Let us follow Jesus for who he is - the beloved Son of the Most High God. Love him wholly! Let us give ourselves totally to him – that is your duty.