[1] That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. [2] Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.

Matthew 13:1-2

It seems like a long time since I have seen a street performance. That might be because, for obvious reasons, I’ve not been out much in the last couple of years – or perhaps it’s because the street performers themselves have stayed away from busy spaces. I hope that they’re coping with the current global situation – not least because so often they bring enormous joy to public spaces. I do enjoy watching an escapologist teasing the crowds, drawing out his escape from the chains for as long as possible in order to build up an ever larger audience. One of my favourite street entertainers was a perfectly ordinary tuba player performing in Trafalgar Square. Perfectly ordinary apart from the rhythmic jet of flames coming out of the top of his instrument! I wonder if he realised quite how close he came to setting his hat on fire! The largest crowd I’ve seen gathered was for some truly remarkable dancers/acrobats in a square in Seville. They were incredibly talented and great fun to watch.

Today’s verses come right before Jesus teaches the Parable of the Sower. I’m sure you know the story well. Rather than thinking about that story, I thought it might be worth looking at the verses that precede it. Matthew 12 tells us about a very busy day in the life of Jesus. He started the day walking through grain fields, talking to his disciples about the Sabbath and got into an argument with the Pharisees. He then went on to a synagogue where he healed a man with a shrivelled hand, which led to the Pharisees plotting to kill him. He withdrew but was followed by a large crowd, many of whom he healed. Next he healed a demon-possessed man, which led to another row with the Pharisees. Then his mother and brothers tried to talk to him, as we saw in yesterday’s Bible Notes. All in all, quite a busy day!

But it didn’t end there. Matthew starts chapter thirteen of his Gospel by saying “that same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.” I would imagine that by this point in the day he was feeling exhausted, and simply wanted a moment of peace by the lake. 

That may have been what he wanted, but that wasn’t what happened. Instead, huge crowds gathered around him. In order to stop being mobbed, and in order that he could see and be seen, he jumped into a boat and pushed off into the lake. From there he continued teaching the crowd. He was driven by a desire to teach as many people as he could, and to take every opportunity to do so. 

I find it incredible the numbers that Jesus attracted. Everywhere he went, he was followed by huge crowds. It’s hard to think of a modern day comparison. There was just something about this poor carpenter from Nazareth that people found deeply engaging. I’m sure that the miracles, and the hope of miracles, was in no small part responsible. But here in Matthew 13 we have Jesus teaching them in parables from a boat. If it was just about the miracles the crowds would have withdrawn, but no, they continue to follow him, hanging onto his every word, listening intently to all that he had to say. How remarkable it must have been to be in that crowd. How lucky they were to hear Jesus teaching. 

Perhaps we are even luckier! We have four Gospels, all of which set out Jesus’ best teachings so that we can study them at our leisure, ponder them, reflect on them. We have preachers and pastors who we can listen to as they unpack and explain them to us. We have YouTube and podcasts where we can watch and listen to people around the world drawing out the salient points. We have thousands upon thousands of books, thousands upon thousands of websites, exploring Jesus’ teaching and encouraging us to reflect upon his words.

How lucky WE are!

Do we take advantage of this? Do we understand how lucky we are to be able to access Jesus’ teachings so easily – his crowd-drawing, life-changing, heaven-opening words that can transform us, that can transform our world?

Why not commit to studying Jesus’ teaching more in the coming weeks? Why not try to study a little of Jesus’ words each day?

Question for reflection: am I as excited about the teachings of Christ as the crowd that followed him in the Gospels? Why/why not? How can I feel more of that excitement?

Idea for action: why not consider how you can support the Bible Society as they seek “to bring the Bible to life for every man, woman and child.” Find out more at https://www.biblesociety.org.uk.

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