Matthew 5:1-2 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
I notice some things in this that I haven’t paid attention to before. In the first place, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went somewhere else. That could have been simply to get a vantage point from which to teach them, but it also could have been to see who would follow Him. Preachers today like to go to where the crowds are, and some will do almost anything to keep the crowds from leaving. Jesus was never like that. When hard teaching caused many to turn away from Him a little later, He bluntly asked those who were closest to Him if they were going to leave too. (John 6:67) In this case, those who were really interested in being His disciples gathered to Him, and He taught them. It was customary in those days for a rabbi to sit to teach, so that isn’t at all strange, even though we are used to teachers standing as they teach. Jesus did something to see who had ears to hear what He was going to say. The point is, every crowd is mixed. That is, there will be some who will hear gladly, some who are merely curious, and some who are there in opposition. Jesus taught them anyway, but only after doing something to weed out the indifferent.
As both a classroom teacher and a pastor, I am certainly familiar with mixed crowds! There is no question that it’s more rewarding to teach those who are hungry to learn. It can be torture to try to teach a classroom full of people who are bored and/or antagonistic, but it is joy indeed to open God’s truth to those who are eager to receive it. I have experienced the gamut! I am to pray for my learners, both secular and in the church, to have ears to hear what I have to share with them. I can’t force them to receive if they are unwilling, and I should not try. Far too much preaching is of the “trying to force” variety. At the same time, I am not to prejudge people, deciding ahead of time that it’s useless to try to teach them. Rather, I am to depend on the Holy Spirit to show me when to say what. If I will do that, then I will have the joy of seeing people receive what God wants to give them through me.
Father, thank You for the teaching appointment yesterday. Those who heard had no background and actually very little understanding, but they had the commitment to learn. Help me be gentle with them, leading them along as fast as they are able to follow, but not making them run ahead of their pace. I do pray for hearing ears for all of my listeners, not that they would hear what I am saying but rather that they would be able to grasp what You say through me, so that people would be set free and lives transformed, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!