If you’ve never noticed, there's a big difference between being part of a crowd and being an actual participant. A crowd watches; a participant engages. A crowd can be amazed for a moment; a participant is somebody who's committed to a way of life. I mention this because at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount this same distinction is very carefully drawn by Matthew. This is how he puts it:
"Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them."
In other words, Matthew wants us to know there are two groups in Jesus' audience. He doesn't use the distinctions other people would have noticed. He doesn't say they were male and female or Jew and Gentile or slave and free. Those distinctions don't matter much to Jesus, but here's the one that does. There are the crowds, and then there are the disciples.
Matthew actually mentions the crowds several times in his gospel. The crowds come to hear Jesus' teachings. They bring sick friends to receive his healing. They're often amazed by what Jesus says and does. They call him a prophet, but they are present with Jesus only sporadically. They come to him when they have a need. They recognize he is unique, but they drift with the circumstances.
A disciple, on the other hand, is somebody who used to be part of the crowd, but somewhere along the line Jesus has gotten under their skin, and they can't get loose of him and have to be around him all the time. They aren't satisfied to just hear what he says; they have to do what he asks until they can see what he sees and live like he lives.
Now, you need to know Jesus loves the crowds. He's crazy about the crowds. The crowds do a number on his heart, not because he needed the attention but because he saw the dignity and need of everybody in the crowd.
Matthew tells us, "When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. "Jesus understood most people live their lives as part of the crowd, and this remains true in our day.
You might want to ask yourself some of these questions to see, "Am I just living like part of the crowd? What have I committed myself to? Anything? What kind of person am I trying to become? How seriously do I try to evaluate my moral and spiritual character?
The crowds and the disciples have a fundamentally different experience of Jesus. The crowds are amazed at what Jesus said to them; the disciples are amazed at what Jesus did in them. The crowds are amazed when they look at Jesus's life; the disciples are amazed when they look at their life, which is now changed, characterized primarily by Jesus's presence and work and grace in it. The disciples are amazed at their new identity, their new purpose, their new community, their new growth. Guys, Jesus' grand invitation is for you to leave the crowd and become a disciple and know the amazement that only a disciple of Jesus can know.
The Word became flesh, so let’s get some skin in the game!