On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Matthew 13:1
Can you picture this scene? Can you envision the pressing crowd surrounding Jesus? A multitude that was so desperate to hear His teachings and words that they followed him wherever he went.
In this modern era, the closest image that I can envision is liken to what we see at rock concerts, sporting events, or the appearance of a Hollywood Star. However, what attracted the multitude to Jesus was not rock, sport, or film star qualities but rather it was his message of God’s love for them and His kingdom to come.
On this particular day in Jesus ministry, he responded to the presence of the “great multitude” by getting into a boat and setting himself offshore in order for the whole crowd to be able to see and hear him.
I personally find it interesting that while he sat, the crowd stood, not just some, but all. Kind of like what you experience when attending a sporting event. When someone in front of you stands, blocking your view, you stand to counter the vision obstruction. “I want to see what is being done!” I am being fully engaged in the game and don’t want to miss any of the action. I believe that the crowd that day felt the same way.
It is good to be reminded that during this particular time in Jesus ministry, that he was already taking the hit by the religious authorities of his day. The Pharisees had already begun rejecting his teachings, raised controversy over his works during the sabbath (healings), accused the miracles that he was doing as being the work of the devil, and had begun developing a plan to destroy him (Matthew 12:14). But this did not stop or slow Jesus’ mission. He continued his ministry in spite of the heat. The need for people to hear what he had to give was much more important then his personal comfort or safety.
So what was the message that he shared that day while sitting in a small boat cast upon the waters? What was so captivating that the multitudes stood and pressed the shoreline to hear? What were those last words that Jesus spoke to this particular multitude that when concluded he immediately departed from them?
They were Parables, (a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson) four to be exact:
- Parable of the Soil – truly receiving the word of God.
- Parable of the Wheat and Tares – how to recognize true Christ followers from imposters.
- Parable of the Mustard Seed – faith is ever growing, starting out small but if continued to be cultivated grows great and strong, providing encouragement and comfort to others.
- Parable of the Leaven – the Kingdom of God will grow and expand. Transforming the lives of those that God’s grace comes into contact with.
Four lessons that equip the people with understanding and direction to receive the good news of God. Did they all get it? The answer would be no (Matthew 13: 14-15), but what is more important is that some did.
Something else worth noting is that the scriptures never tell us that the while Jesus spoke that the crowd sat down. They continued to stand, pressing themselves against the shoreline. Eager to learn. Eager to understand.
Can I say the same about me on a Sunday morning while sitting in church? When the Word of God is instructing and encouraging me to “fight the good fight.” Am I so engaged to receive God’s message that my attention is solely focused on receiving it that nothing can distract me? And if I do become distracted do I make adjustments in order to continue to focus on the message or do I drift and focus on the distraction?
Am I’m pressing to learn? Am I pressing to received? Am I pressing to implement?
I understand that the multitudes in Jesus day were receiving new and unconventional teachings which drew them to him by the thousands. But is our present day that much different?
The revelations of God are always new discoveries and according to the direction that this world is headed, His ways are increasingly unconventional. So we are not that much different then those crowds in Jesus day with exception that we may have become apathetic to His teaching.
Distractions are ever present no matter where we are. It takes work not to let those distractions interfere with our ability to receive God’s word, His message and lessons to us. And with the increasing persecution toward those who believe in Christ, we, his followers, need to recapture our zeal to press the shores in approaching His Word.
Developing our faith to outgrow the hulls of the mustard seed and expand our reach like leaven bread is always a good thing.