Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. Mark 2, verse 13.
We are attracted to celebrities, aren’t we? This week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – aka “Prince William and Kate” – are in the United States. As I write this, they arrived in New York yesterday and were surrounded by throngs of paparazzi and onlookers. Or there’s center stage at the Mall of America, where I spend some evenings walking. I’ve seen all kinds of celebrities on the stage in the center court; last year, I saw a number of people from HGTV on that stage. Whenever someone famous shows up, crowds gather.
Jesus became famous; duh. And there are many reasons why He gained quick fame. Miracle worker, Jewish patriot, hoped-for king, rabble rouser, esteemed teacher, kind hearted, new and unusual: He was all these things. Yet the Bible is replete with stories like the one from verse 13 about what Jesus did when large crowds gather. He taught.
He would begin speaking by telling parables, stories that seemed to have one meaning but were also talking about another. Or sometimes (as in the Beatitudes) He would extemporaneously recite what sounded like beautiful poetry. Other times, He spoke directly, telling people things they needed to hear. Maybe He would perform a miracle, or simple be Himself and act just like other people. Yet He always taught people in some way, teaching in and about each moment…and more. He taught them from the heart – from HIS heart. He taught them about God and His immeasurable glory and love.
I doubt you’ll see Prince William, Kate Middleton, or the Property Brothers do that.
I doubt you’ll see them do that because they aren’t Jesus; that’s true. Yet that’s not what most celebrities do, and I would say it isn’t why people flock to them either. Folks want to be near fame; that’s also true. Yet I think people flock to celebrities because they sense that famous people have something desirable and we, as strangers in this strange land, want to be desired. People want some of the shine, the glow, that seems to emanate from people in the limelight.
Yet when Jesus used His fame, He used it to teach people; to impart lessons on things they needed to hear deep inside. Jesus didn’t mug for the cameras or walk the red carpet. Instead, He met people right where they were and told them things that nobody ever had. Things like “love your neighbor,” and “forgive your enemies,” and “love the Lord God with all your heart.” And “I forgive your sins.” Instead of tarnished celebrity luster, Jesus addressed some of peoples’ most fundamental spiritual questions, then gave them answers that helped and healed. No other leader, or rabbi, or celebrity of the day did that. Is it any wonder, then, in a first century, word-of-mouth culture, that news of Him spread so quickly over the relatively small area of Judea? And then worldwide?
So I say good luck to Prince William and his wonderful wife; have fun on your trip to the States. And good luck, too, to the folks from HGTV; my wife and I enjoy your programming. But as much as we enjoy watching folks like these, in the long run, they’re pale and fading – just like us – when compared to the Godly, shining teachings of Jesus.
Lord, let me bask in Your shining light today.
Read Mark 2, verses 13-17.