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. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here. (New International Version)
Just when we think we might have a handle on Jesus as the meek and gentle Savior we get a picture of Jesus behaving badly. When the crowds begin increasing we might expect Jesus to be pleased. After all, we might reason, Jesus can reach more people, have a wider influence, and greater impact with a crowd. It’s good for kingdom business.
But Jesus isn’t down for all the people following him around. He opens his mouth and tells them they are an evil generation.
“The crowds” continually get a bad rap throughout the New Testament Gospels. That’s because Jesus isn’t much of a crowd kind of guy. Although he loved people deeply, the Lord Jesus typically had some hard words for the masses.
Maybe it would help if we used the word “mob.” This is likely the more nuanced understanding of “crowds.” It’s the herd mentality which tends to rub Jesus the wrong way, that is, doing something without understanding why you’re doing it, just because other people are doing it. A mob of people acting in concert never ends well, which is why Christ confronts the crowd.
Jesus chided the people who were looking for a cool miracle, a clear sign of his power, and nice clean lines of spiritual authority. Christ didn’t give it to them. Instead, Jesus let the mob know they have ample opportunity to accept him – yet they aren’t doing a dang thing to move in that direction.
Sometimes, we might so desperately want to make Jesus as Joe Cool so that others will follow him. If only Jesus will heal this person in a big audacious miraculous way, we wrongheadedly think, lots of people will believe.
Or, if only Jesus will compassionately and powerfully perform some grand universal sign that nobody can miss, we believe, the world will have to take notice and put their trust in God.
However, that’s not how Jesus rolls. Christ simply pointed people back to characters in the Old Testament. Jesus insists that if people won’t take notice of what they already have, they are not going to be swayed with a shiny new miraculous sign from heaven.
Jesus defies any stereotype we might try and corral him with. And that’s as it ought to be – since Jesus is the rightful and sovereign King.
So, this is why we need a steady daily stream of God’s Word to help ground us into the ways of Jesus. The more we allow the Scriptures to shape our spirituality, the more our lives will be formed into the likeness of Jesus.
Spiritual growth and maturity is a process. It is often slow. There are not a lot of bells and whistles to it. On most days, there is not a lot of drama – just the pedantic plodding of a faithful believer trying to make sense of living the Christian life.
And those are the people I think Jesus most likes to hang-out with.
The popular thing isn’t always the right or best thing. Rather than being a lemming which ends up running off a cliff, we have other options, especially when it comes to thinking spiritually and theologically about things:
- Stop and think. It’s easy to go through a typical day on autopilot and do things out of habit. The best way to avoid this is to consciously stop and think about why you’re doing something or holding tightly to a particular belief. Does what I’m doing jive with the words and ways of Jesus? Why am I believing or living in this way? What is my purpose?
- Take the necessary time to make sound decisions. Avoid copying other people and taking shortcuts. Instead, pray, consult, collaborate, seek wisdom, and make a deliberate and well-thought decision based in the ethics of God’s kingdom. Am I doing my due diligence with properly searching the Scriptures and praying before I act? Have I interacted with some trusted and sage people?
- Be willing to stand out from the crowd. If what you believe and the way you need to live your life makes you stick out, well then, it makes you stick out. Giving up your power by letting others make decisions for you isn’t going to end well. To be a faithful followers of Jesus, we will likely have to go against some social norms and stand out as individual believers.
Astounding God, you sometimes shake us out our pre-conceived notions about you and invite us to see Jesus from a different viewpoint. Help me to see Jesus so that I might more fully embrace him and walk in his ways and in the strength of the Spirit. Amen.