The gospel lectionary reading stops at Matthew 4:23 this week. I find myself reading beyond that verse though. It seems to me that the next two verses raise important questions.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed,those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.(Matthew 4:23-25, NIV)
Jesus did three things in Galilee in the opening days of his public ministry: He taught, he proclaimed the good news, and he healed.
It was the third of these that drew the crowds.
They did not come because they were longing to be taught or to hear the good news of the kingdom. They came because they were sick and they had heard that he could heal them. And when he stopped being able to do things for them they abandoned him or joined the crowds calling for his death.
What is the relationship between the teaching, the proclaiming, and the healing?
Does the gospel ride in on the back of the stuff that people want more? We want healing. We want economic security. We want better family relationships. We want justice in the face of oppression. We want “meaning” in our lives. These things we will show up for. If Jesus talks about the kingdom of God in the process, we’ll listen if we have to.
Is that the meaning of the crowds?