“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.” (Matthew 8:18)
Why, when Jesus saw that a crowd had gathered, would He tell His disciples that it was time for them to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee? While it is not “spelled out” for us as such, the reason seems clear: Jesus had more in mind than merely attracting a “crowd.”
This may seem odd to us today, when the goal of many churches is to attract the biggest crowd they can, through virtually whatever means they can. Many pastors and churches have compromised their standards and the integrity of their ministry, all for the sake of attracting a larger following.
But these pastors and churches should rethink their goals in light of what we see in Jesus’ ministry. He was not merely about attracting the crowds. He did minister to the multitudes, sure. And we must not forget that God loves people; that’s why Jesus came: “For God so loved the world …”. And yet that truth must be balanced by the fact that Jesus never compromised His mission or standards just to gather a crowd. In fact, in this verse He deliberately LEFT the crowd. Then in the next verses we find Him laying out a tough standard of discipleship for His followers that would cause many to walk away.
We must not hesitate to follow the standards Jesus gave us, even if it “costs us some people.” The holiness of our God, the purity of our doctrine, the standards of His church, and our own integrity, must never be compromised just to attract large numbers of people. Jesus showed us here that merely gathering a big crowd was not His goal. Neither is it ours.