Let’s dig into this passage from Luke 6 first through the eyes of Jesus, who encounters a large crowd made up of his disciples and many people from all over the region. When he looked, Jesus saw that the crowd was made up of people who were his disciples, while others were his faithful followers, and still others were people who knew about Jesus. These people wanted not only to see Jesus, they desired to hear Jesus and to be healed of their various ailments.
The author uses the word crowd, which tells us that there were many people gathered around Jesus. Now, Jesus was used to being surrounded by a crowd of people. There are many characteristics of a crowd, and we can gain some insight here by looking at a few such characteristics of crowd behavior. First, when a person becomes part of a crowd, there is anonymity. Such anonymity allows the members of a crowd to act as though they do not know one another. This perhaps grants each person a certain freedom to act on his/her own behalf. Second, generally speaking, behavior in a crowd is emotional and usually impulsive. For example, all the people tried to touch Jesus. Being anonymous allowed them to drop any thought that might have prevented them from touching Jesus. Third, a crowd often becomes impersonal, losing its individuality. In this story, the crowd began to act as a group, coming to Jesus and receiving his ministry.
We have to note a special characteristic of the crowd. This was not an ordinary crowd. They weren’t a mob, right? They weren’t angry nor unruly. This crowd was expectant, full of anticipation, because they knew that since Jesus had previously healed sick people, surely, he could and would heal them. Their expectation was threefold: They wanted to see Jesus, hear his comforting words; but most of all, they wanted to be made whole. Jesus did not limit his healing ministry to physical health. He also cured people who were “troubled by impure spirits.”
Pause for a moment and note that “all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them” (Luke 6:19). Here we see the power of a touch. The people touched Jesus, rather than being touched by Jesus. There was a transfer of spiritual power or energy. The people not only expected to see Jesus, they expected to be healed by Jesus. Their expectation was based on their belief in the power of Jesus to heal the sick.
This passage of Scripture is commonly known as “The Sermon on the Plain.” Jesus “came down with them and stood on a level place” (6:17). The location on a level plain suggests that Jesus assumed a vantage point of equality. In this position, he was not above the people. He could maintain good eye contact with the crowd. In addition, he could readily look out and see who was in the crowd. Jesus, from his vantage point, could read the faces of the people; he could read their body language. He also could sense their expectations, enabling him to prepare himself to respond appropriately.
In our churches, what are we doing or not doing that might either attract or keep a crowd like this away? Certainly, we don’t see too many churches being swarmed by crowds that actually expect to be healed, do we? And the TV shows that we do see are propped up by personalities that exploit the sick for money like Benny Hinn. But what if we were more like Christ – so much so that all that people thought they would need to do would be to show up to be healed? Wouldn’t that be something?
Here’s the challenge though – our slogan in the United Methodist Church is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”. It’s a catchy slogan, until you really think about it. We’re definitely open to other people, and we’re welcoming, but our doors are open…that suggests that we’re just waiting. I’m not a fan of that.
Besides, this slogan also sets it up like “we’re open to whoever you are or whatever you choose.” There’s one problem with that. God isn’t. God didn’t lay down a truckload of laws because he was cool with just, whatever we want to do. Jesus didn’t usher people into a new life by saying, “it’s ok, just stay the way you are.” He said things like, “go and sin no more” and “go and sell all your possessions” or even “you are a new creation.” We as a church aren’t telling people that there’s more to life than what they already have, and it’s the reason why the message can fall on deaf ears.
If there’s no change, or no challenge, or no difference in my life – what’s the point? Jesus accepts us as who we are when we accept Him as our savior, but that’s just the first step, amen? That’s only the beginning, amen? We’re to live a life of change! Otherwise what we have is just “cheap grace.”
According to theologian Deitrich Bonhoeffer, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace…is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”
A life of discipleship is not about popularity or staying the same; rather, it is about living the truth that Jesus teaches us. It is better to give your life away in service, just as Jesus shared his spirit with those who touched him and believed in his teaching.
We should live our lives expectantly – expecting Christ to heal us as he has offered to do. Then, we should preach and teach and talk about Jesus in our own lives – letting the word spread just like in Jesus’ day so that we see expectant crowds coming to meet this same Jesus – looking expectantly for their lives to be changed, amen?