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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney

#1054. Crowds do not impress Jesus unless the crowds are impressed with Him (13/5/24)

This week, in our devotionals, we are focussing on Luke 11:29-3. Today, we reflect on what we can learn from the way that Jesus treated the crowds. 

‘As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.’ (Luke 11:29-30) 

Lesson: Crowds do not impress Jesus unless the crowds are impressed with Him. 


You can listen to this devotional at:



Most of us are impressed with crowds. If a large number turn up for an event, we often deem it to have been successful. If, for example, large numbers go to a church it is often deemed as a good church. However, we all know that crowds can turn up for all the wrong reasons!  Jesus loves crowds. He is compassionate over them. However, if the choice is between keeping crowds or losing crowds through a clear call to repent and obey Him, He will lose the crowd! 


As an elder and someone who is called to teach God’s Word, I’m constantly assaulted with the temptation to seek popularity and respect over faithfulness to Jesus and His truth; I need the Holy Spirit to give me fear of God over the fear of people, and we see perfectly displayed in Christ. You, likewise, will be tempted with popularity over truth in the places and relationships into which God has placed you. You and I need God’s help to be faithful to Him over love of self and crowds! 


Jesus knew that the crowds that followed Him were mixed. There were ‘wheat and tares’ in the crowds. Over the crowd in our text, He declares these hard words: 

‘“This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”’  

Jesus sets an example of being compassionate but honest with those who come to Him even if that means that they rejected Him. In John, we see another occasion of Him ’sifting’ a crowd through hard teaching. He illustrates the gospel in very unpleasant terms:

‘Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”’ (John 6:53). 

The response of the crowds is not positive: 

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?’ (John 6:60-61) 

After this, we read of how many in the crowds who had followed Him turned away:

‘From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.’ (John 6:66) 

As I’ve said, if the choice was between crowds or sifting them through the gospel and a call to follow Him, He’ll lose the crowd. Too often church leaders can idolise numbers -  and I certainly feel this pull - I’d love, for example, for these devotionals to be more popular!  This temptation can lead to our teaching to create attention, or  a false or watered-down gospel, or to narrow and shallow teaching. The church is not in decline because she needs to get more up-to-date. Jesus’ church is always successful when she is faithful and worshipful, even if she is small in number! However, I do believe numbers of disciples will grow through the Spirit’s blessing on those who genuinely seek Jesus’ glory. True revival always comes on the back of powerful gospel and discipleship preaching that’s undergirded with prayer. Jared Wilson writes of the danger of seeking crowds: 

‘An attractional church conducts worship and ministry according to the desires and values of potential consumers. This typically leads to the dominant ethos of pragmatism throughout the church…It bears mentioning that people being attracted to church is not in itself a bad thing! But when attraction becomes the primary mission, you tend to use whatever works to attract them. “We will do whatever it takes to get people in the door,” I often hear pastors say. “We just want them to be able to hear the message of Jesus.” That latter motivation is wonderful, but the problem is that “doing whatever it takes to get people in the door” can replace or undercut what we want them to be attracted to. What you win people with is what you win them to. The best motives in the world cannot sanctify unbiblical methods.’ (Wilson, Jared C.. The Gospel-Driven Church)

Our call is not to gather a crowd. Our commission is to make disciples of Jesus. 


Response

Crowds do not impress Jesus unless the crowds are impressed with Him. Do we look at the crowds of the world and feel compassion because they are, ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ and need to be found and taught by Christ? Are we doing all that we can to encourage our church to be fully devoted to Jesus? Are we praying for our leaders - those who preach God’s word - that they would be loving and courageous enough to call people to repentance? Personally, are we part of the crowd or a part of Jesus’ devoted family? Notice how Timothy, a church leader and teacher, is urged to act in order to combat the building of ungodly crowds: 

‘Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’ (2 Timothy 4:2-5) 
 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY


This week is ‘SIV’ Week. During our time together, let’s give more focus to how we are bringing our community to Jesus through Serving, inVesting and inViting.


1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

Please ensure that the members of your group are aware and familiar with using the daily devotionals, which are accessed in Church News, the Teaching button on the website and are now available on the major podcast platforms. 


2. Icebreaker

How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you? 


3. Worship together

Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.


4. Study and pray together

Our message from our series in Luke on Sunday, based upon Jesus’ teaching  from Luke 11:29-32. Here, in response to opposition and requests for Jesus to prove Himself by given them more signs, He responds by telling them that they will be given the ‘sign of Jonah’. 


Please read Luke 11:29-32, and discuss: 

  • Did God speak to you about anything specifically from Sunday’s message?

  • What is meant by ‘The sign of Jonah’ (See also Matthew 12:39-41)?

  • We are to continue to share about ‘the sign of Jonah’ with our community; why should this be the focal point when sharing our faith (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)?

  • Why does Jesus use the response of ‘The Queen of the South (Sheba)’ and that of the Ninevites in order to shame the religious leaders, whom He terms ‘This wicked generation’? 

  • Jesus shows how the Queen of Sheba and the those of Nineveh respond to the words of Solomon and Jonah. Jesus then compares Himself to these characters as ‘something greater…is here’. Through this, how does Jesus expect us to respond to His Word? 

  • SIV - What three different responses to God do we get in this passage, and what does this say about how people will respond to us?

  • SIV - Do we have any stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’ recently?

  • SIV - Spend some time together talking and praying about who and how you are seeking to bring your community to Jesus. 

  • Let’s pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV; and pray for anything else that's come out of our time in God’s Word.

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