Our verses today are Mark 5:20,21: "And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea.'" Everywhere Jesus went, he healed people, cast out demons and preached the kingdom of God. Through his life and verbal witness, he gave God the glory and showed that the Father's kingdom rule, through Jesus, had been inaugurated.
As a result, the crowds swelled. For example, after healing the Gerasene demoniac in our previous verses, he got into a boat with his disciples and went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. There, upon arrival, there were larger crowds waiting for him. More people wanted to hear what he had to say. More people wanted to be in his presence. More people wanted to be a part of his every burgeoning ministry.
Many pastors and preachers today desire a following. They may not admit it. They may even deny it. But they want crowds. They want growing crowds. They want ever burgeoning crowds. They yearn for popularity.
I know because when I was younger, sadly, that's what was going on in my heart as a pastor. Then, one day, I read Jeremiah 45:5. The prophet Jeremiah (often called the "weeping prophet" because no one ever listened to him!), said to his scribe, Baruch, "Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!". It hit me like a hammer. I was not to use Jesus for my own glory. I was not to use faith to seek great things for myself. I was to serve Jesus for his glory.
Notice Jesus never sought celebrity status. Note he never sought the crowds. They came because of his words and works. But he never wanted nor needed them for his own needs to be met. In fact, the twelve with whom he began, eventually became eleven. The thousands that shouted, "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday five days later were yelling, "Crucify him!" At the foot of the cross, all his disciples, except John, had deserted him.
Jesus knew how fickle crowds can be. He knew how dangerous popularity can be. He knew the condition of the human heart. Therefore, he shunned fame and exalted servanthood. He resisted superstardom and taught the need to give our lives away.
"For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many," Jesus said (Mark 10:45). The pupil is not greater than the teacher. If this was Jesus' life mission, it should be the same for those who purport to follow him.
It's a valuable message for pastors today and anyone who seriously wants to follow Jesus.