“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching.” – Matt 7:28
Jesus’ mountain-speech has come to an end. Jesus has instructed his disciples, and the crowds, on the way of kingdom-living. The new Moses stands on the new mountain, where even the crowds are welcome, and has given God’s new law, which perfectly fulfills all that went before him. Jesus’ disciples are still at his feet – it’s hard to know exactly what they’re feeling. The crowds, on the other hand, stand around astounded.
Being “astounded” at Jesus’ teaching isn’t the disciple’s goal. After all, this is how Matthew describes the “crowds.” And discipleship is not about blending in with the crowd. The Greek word translated “astounded,” ekplesso, can also mean “panic-stricken” or “taken aback by amazement.” Of course, ekplesso also means fascinated or amazed. But whatever Matthew intends it to mean, ekplesso isn’t the primary posture of a Christ-follower.
The crowds are still astounded by Jesus – even today. Jesus’ social prominence in our world, from a mere sociological perspective, is mind-boggling. It’s astounding that a humble, 1st century Jewish peasant from an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire launched a worldwide revolution with a handful of fisherman and hookers – a revolution that ended with his crucifixion. Sociologically speaking, this is mind-boggling and astounding. And the crowds are still astounded. Look for Jesus on the cover of Time Magazine around Christmas. He’s made the cover far more than anyone else.
I have to admit, Jesus astounds me too sometimes. That being said, I think the disciple’s primary emotional response to Jesus’ words should not be the same as “the crowds.” Jesus’ words should “pierce our soul” (Lk 2:35). Jesus’ words should “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). Jesus’ words should leave us with an odd mix of “fear and great joy” (Matt 28:8).
Mountain-top experiences are great. But Jesus’ time on the mountain has come to an end. He begins a long trek to Jerusalem. And he’s looking for a few intentional and joyful students to go along with him – people who aren’t too “astounded” to follow.
FOR THE WEEKEND: Do the hard work of taking your place on the mountain and asking yourself where you fit in. Are we sitting at Jesus’ feet, ready to follow him down the mountain? Or maybe we’re just standing around astounded?