Mark 3:7-12

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.

Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known. Mark 3:7-12

Maybe you learn a lot about a leader by looking more closely at who follows them…

The Pharisees left a worship service and looked for some co-conspirators to plot the death of Jesus.

Jesus left with his friends and a huge crowd of people from all over the place. Including the sick and the outcast.

It is interesting that the Pharisees and the unclean spirits both saw Jesus as a threat. One because they thought Jesus was a charlatan and the other because they saw that he wasn’t.

And those huge crowds? Who did they think they were following? What were they looking for?

We imagine those huge crowds following Jesus and we see in our minds’ eye the crowds of screaming fans at rock concerts, sporting events, movie premieres. What is that about? Why do we continue to see actors and athletes and musicians as larger than life heroes worthy of worship and admiration? Are we that eager to escape the reality of our lives that we dive ever deeper into the unreality of entertainment?

They all exist to sell stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong about that but let’s be clear: Take away advertising and commercials and ticket sales and monthly subscriptions and it would all come crashing down. Just follow the money.

It is interesting also that we so quickly associate money with “value” as easily as we do with “cost”. If we connect value and money, what does it say about us that the head coach of a state college football team likely makes much more money than the school’s teachers or the school’s president or the state’s governor?

The crowds followed Jesus because he gave them hope. Hope that he could help them. Hope that he could make life better for them. They followed Jesus because of what they could get from him. Even if what they could get would just be the feeling of hope, the exhilaration of being swept up with the rest of the crowd.

Because that is also the power of our cult of celebrity. People gather around celebrities and, in their gathering, they experience a powerful sense of community, for good or ill. They feel connected. It really is a liminal, almost spiritual, experience to sit in the crowd when the performer on the stage is really “working it.” But it is also empty. Illusory. And then you go home. You hit the bathroom, then the bed, and you get up the next morning for school or work. Real life.

Jesus tells the unclean spirits not to tell anyone what they know. There will come a time for that but that time is yet to come. Maybe Jesus doesn’t want to be associated with a “celebrity cult.” Maybe Jesus doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea – he doesn’t want fans who show up to get what they want from him, he wants followers who will do what he does through them. That’s not the same thing. It might not draw a crowd but it could change the world for the better.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, selfishness dogs us. Self-centeredness betrays us. We are prone to gravitate toward whatever promises to give us what we want, when we want it. We are far more likely to remember you as Savior than to obey your call to us to be servants. Deliver us from the cult of celebrity and drive us toward real community. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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