Why People Followed Jesus: Luke 6:17-26

Focus Passage: Luke 6:17-26 (GW)

17 Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples and many other people were there. They had come from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They wanted to hear him and be cured of their diseases. Those who were tormented by evil spirits were cured. 19 The entire crowd was trying to touch him because power was coming from him and curing all of them.

20 Jesus looked at his disciples and said,

“Blessed are those who are poor.
    God’s kingdom is theirs.
21 Blessed are those who are hungry.
    They will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who are crying.
    They will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, avoid you,
    insult you, and slander you
        because you are committed to the Son of Man.
23             Rejoice then, and be very happy!
                You have a great reward in heaven.
                    That’s the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But how horrible it will be for those who are rich.
    They have had their comfort.
25 How horrible it will be for those who are well-fed.
    They will be hungry.
How horrible it will be for those who are laughing.
    They will mourn and cry.
26 How horrible it will be for you
    when everyone says nice things about you.
        That’s the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Read Luke 6:17-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the heights of Jesus’ popularity, Luke describes a message Jesus gives to His followers. While Luke states that this message was given to the disciples, Luke qualifies the word “disciple” in this instance to mean the large group of followers present and Jesus likely spoke it loudly enough for everyone present to hear.

But while transitioning to Jesus’ less famous “Sermon on the Plain”, Luke shares some interesting details in the setup for this message. Luke tells us, “Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples and many other people were there. They had come from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. They wanted to hear him and be cured of their diseases. Those who were tormented by evil spirits were cured. The entire crowd was trying to touch him because power was coming from him and curing all of them.” (v. 17-19)

When I read this, I am amazed at the detail in verse 19 that “the entire crowd was trying to touch him [Jesus]”. When I think about crowds and individuals trying to touch Jesus, I immediately think of the woman who tried to secretly touch the edge of Jesus’ robe. That event is so well known that seeing another place where people were clamoring to touch Jesus may come as a surprise.

It is during this commotion that Jesus turns and shares the four blessings and four warnings with His disciples. Luke doesn’t say that Jesus finished healing the sick in the crowd before beginning to speak; Luke simply transitions the focus making me think that Jesus paused in the middle of this crowd.

Luke shares two reasons for Jesus’ popularity at this point during His ministry. He tells us that the crowd of disciples “wanted to hear him and be cured of their diseases.” (v. 18a)

Wanting to hear Him and being cured of their diseases are two key reasons to follow Jesus. While some people think following Jesus is simply “fire insurance” (another way of saying they would rather go to heaven than hell), following Jesus out of fear does not produce true love. A “fire-insurance”, fear-based relationship does not create the society that God would want to build in heaven. There are many examples of fear-based societies on earth, and none of them are desirable to live in. Fear and love may not be able to co-exist together.

In order for love to be present on both sides of a relationship, there must be the freedom to choose and the desire to be present. This crowd demonstrates this by freely choosing to come to Jesus because they wanted to hear Him. The freedom to choose is the first key reason to follow Jesus.

But the second reason is because Jesus is able to heal us. Another way to say this is that He can free us from our diseases. Luke describes Jesus banishing evil spirits who were torturing others. The crowd came to Jesus in order to be helped by Him.

Jesus is interested in freely helping those who come to Him. Jesus wants us to choose Him because we want a relationship with Him and a relationship with God. God wants to win us over to Him through acts of love and a selfless attitude towards us. Jesus demonstrates this – and there is nothing fear-based in God’s approach of inviting us to follow Him!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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