Posted by MK | Filed under Bible Study
Sometimes we take a 21st century version of North American Christianity and import it into the Bible. When we read about Jesus preaching in front of a large crowd, we don’t really consider the implications of the setting. A sermon, for us, is about sitting in a pew or a chair or maybe even on our couch with a set of earbuds in. The air conditioner or heater is running, and we are comfortable as we casually nod or take notes. We are well dressed and perhaps are even sipping a cup of the free coffee we got in the lobby.
You would have found a radically different setting on the day of Jesus’ great sermon. The people would have been jammed together, either sitting on the ground or maybe even standing, for it was customary in those days for the teacher to sit and the audience to stand. Probably not a whole lot of shade from the hot sun, either. What might have made it even more uncomfortable were the people in attendance.
If we look back a couple of chapters in the Bible to Matthew 4, we get a good picture of the rabble that was following Jesus:
Then the news about Him spread throughout Syria. So they brought to Him all those who were afflicted, those suffering from various diseases and intense pains, the demon-possessed, the epileptics, and the paralytics. And He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan (Matthew 4:24-25).
Jesus, even this early in His ministry, was developing quite a following. And a reputation. People were coming out of the woodwork, in large part because this man was healing the sick and associating with people no one else would. He spoke with authority and loved generously. What do we think, then, that the crowds looked like as they sat on the hill that day? Suits and ties? Sundresses?
There was no polite listening here. No nicely dressed parishioners with moleskin notebooks and coffee cups in hand. Imagine men and women, shunned by society because of their physical ailments. Their sin. Their injuries. Their reputations. Horrible issues of illnesses of all kinds. Imagine the words of Jesus being interrupted by an epileptic seizure. Imagine the shrieks of the demon-possessed. While you’re at it, consider the smell. Rotting flesh. Clothes dug out of garbage heaps. The scent, almost palpable, of people who have been discarded as unimportant and unnecessary and unclean by society.
These are the most regular of regular kinds of people. But Jesus? He looks at the crowd and smiles, for these are the people, so neglected and unloved, who are also so ready to hear the good news. So He begins to teach them, never once holding His nose.