The Disciples and The Multitudes

The people had various responses to Jesus Christ. As a whole they did not receive Him. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. John 1:11. The Pharisees and Sadducees hated Him and constantly looked for a way to condemn Him. Isn’t it strange that the most religious were the ones that had the greatest problem with Him? God sent His Son to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), and it was the teachers of the Scriptures that wouldn’t receive Him. Do you think that could happen today?

There were some who thought Jesus was a prophet (John 6:14). Very few, though, could say like Peter, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). At times great multitudes followed Him (Matthew 4:25). But most of the time only the twelve disciples walked with Him. The Scriptures show a vivid contrast between the disciples and the multitudes that were drawn to Jesus. It is much the same today. Many want to receive the benefits of being a Christian, but very few are willing to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes (Revelation 14:4).

Matthew 4:23-25 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
24 And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them.
25 And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.

Why was this great multitude following Jesus? It was because of the miracles. He healed all manner of sickness and disease, and delivered those possessed of demons. They followed Him for what they could receive. Now let’s compare them with the disciples.

Matthew 4:18-22 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.
21 And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.

The multitudes followed Jesus because they saw Him work miracles, but not so with the disciples. As Jesus walked by the shore of Galilee, He called Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They probably couldn’t have given a reason, at that particular moment, why they followed Him. And the Bible doesn’t say what Zebedee’s reaction was when his two sons walked away leaving him with all the work. They left everything. Their hearts must have leaped within them. They were quickened to the very depth of their being, almost compelled to follow this man Jesus. And they did! They followed Him because they heard a Word. And it wasn’t the natural hearing that made the difference. Many others had heard Jesus speak and did not respond at all. But the words of Jesus touched their hearts and they responded.

We see another contrast between the multitudes and the disciples in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. Take notice that Jesus is always ministering with His disciples. They go everywhere He goes. Whenever He ministers, they are there; He always ministers in their midst.

John 6:1-2, 5, 8-13 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
2 And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.
5 When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto Him,
9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
12 When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

Jesus took the five barley loaves and two small fish, gave thanks, and began distributing them. He fed the whole multitude, the men alone numbering about five thousand. Notice in verse eleven that Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to His disciples and they to the multitude. In other words, the disciples received from the hand of the Lord, and then they turned and ministered the bread and fish to the multitude. Ministry is the same today. The disciples of the Lord are those who are dedicated to walk with Him, to be with Him at all times. They receive from His hand, and that which they receive they minister unto others.

In the latter portion of this sixth chapter, which is the very next day, Jesus is ministering to the same people He had fed with the bread and fish.

John 6:47-55 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.
48 I am that bread of life.
49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.

You can imagine the response of the Jews when Jesus said, Whoso eats My flesh and drinks My blood hath eternal life. They found that statement very repugnant.

John 6:60-61, 66-69 Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Doth this offend you?
66 From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. (The multitude walked away and forsook the Lord.)
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

The contrast between the multitude that followed Jesus and the twelve disciples is clearly seen here. The multitude was drawn by the works of Jesus. They only followed Him for what they could receive. He could heal them and fill their stomachs. But when Jesus said, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. Whoso eats My flesh and drinks My blood hath eternal life, the multitude turned and walked away. That was too much. They weren’t that dedicated to walking with Jesus. That kind of talk today and He would have been branded as a cult leader.

The disciples, on the other hand, had heard a living Word. It wasn’t just commandments and doctrines; it was the Spirit of the Word that quickened their hearts. They heard the Spirit of God speaking in the words of Jesus, and they responded to that Word. They left all to walk with Him.

After the multitude walked away, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Will you also go away?” Simon Peter answered, and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? We know that You have the words of eternal life.” They probably didn’t understand what Jesus had said anymore than the multitude, but they did know one thing: He spoke a Word to their hearts, and that Word did something to them. They were quickened by it. Even without understanding what Jesus was saying and doing, they knew that He was speaking words of life. They were walking on with Him into the unknown. They didn’t know what was ahead for them. They only knew one thing: this man Jesus was the Christ; He was the Son of the living God, and they were going to follow Him.

We need that same revelation today. We must also hear the words of eternal life. We must have the same dedication to walk with Him. We don’t know what lies before us, but we’re not turning back.

Another contrast between the multitudes and the disciples is seen in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Matthew 13:1-3 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
3 And He spake many things unto them in parables.

Then Jesus told them the parable of the sower. In fact, there are seven parables in this chapter that He related to the multitude.

Matthew 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and His disciples came unto Him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.

The first three verses say that Jesus went out of the house and taught the multitudes with parables. Then verse 36 says that He sent the multitude away and went back into the house, and the disciples came unto Him.

The house was a literal house. Jesus came out and ministered to the multitude. When He finished He sent them away and went back into the house with His disciples. Spiritually we understand that the house represents the abiding place of Jesus in the realm of spirit, where He had direct contact with the Father at all times. Consequently, He could say that He only did what He saw the Father doing, and He only spoke what He heard the Father speaking (John 5:19; 8:28-29; 12:50).

The disciples went into the house with Jesus, but the multitudes didn’t. They were not living on the same plane of spirit as Jesus and His disciples. Therefore, Jesus would leave the house to minister to the multitude. Then afterwards He would send the multitude away and return into the house with His disciples.

Matthew 13:10-11 And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

The disciples didn’t understand why Jesus was speaking in parables; they knew the people couldn’t understand His teaching. And Jesus answered, “It is given for you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” In other words, He was saying, “You may come into the house with Me; you have access to the same realm of spirit with the Father where I dwell, and to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to them it is not given.”

Why would Jesus be so willing to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God to His disciples, but not to the multitudes? It was because the multitudes never dedicated themselves to walk unreservedly with Him. Jesus ministered to them and to some degree they responded to Him. They brought their sick friends and relatives, and Jesus would heal them. But there was never that deep dedication to walk with Him. If something didn’t agree with their way of thinking they would turn and walk away. Consequently, Jesus didn’t reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom to them as He did to His disciples.

What we have seen thus far are two realms of ministry. The ministry of Christ involving His disciples was on one realm, and His ministry to the multitude was on another. The difference is “to” and “with.” He ministered “to” the multitude “with” His disciples. The multitude only received ministry from the Lord (and it was a limited ministry), but the disciples were involved with His ministry. Jesus always ministered from the midst of His disciples.

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.

This passage of scripture is usually referred to when Christians come to church and many of the congregation are absent. With only a few in attendance, someone says, “Well, where there are two or three gathered in His name, He is in their midst. Even though there’s not many of us, the Lord is still here.”

But Jesus is saying something entirely different. “For where two or three are gathered in His name” doesn’t just mean a few Christians gathering together for a church service, but “gathered in His name.” It is those few disciples who are determined to dwell where He dwells, to live in the house He lives in, to have the same relationship with the Father that He has. It doesn’t take many.

We determine our dedication. We decide where we will dwell. Will we be satisfied to just be one of the multitude? Jesus did minister to them. Or, will we go in the house with Him where He reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom of God?

Copyright © 2003 by Henry DuBose

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