Jesus and his disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that he was doing. Because of the crowd, Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready for him, to prevent the people from crushing him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing towards him to touch him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw him, they would fall down before him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But he warned them sternly not to tell anyone who he was.
Social sciences have been studying crowd behavior to understand the dynamics when individuals become part of a crowd. They can be swept in the emotion of the moment and lose their individual voice and identity. For instance, we read of fanatic crowds stampeding and trampling people at sports events, or angry crowds destroying property and killing people. Crowds can be exhilarated one moment and ferocious the next. Crowds can be unpredictable and easily manipulated by a few powerful voices. During Jesus’ public ministry, he was dogged by different kinds of crowd; most of them were needy, hungry, and sick. Others followed him because they were attracted to him and his teachings. Yet, there were others who were perhaps mere thrill-seekers, curious to see another miracle. As his popularity skyrocketed and spread throughout the neighboring provinces, there was no end in sight to crowds milling around him. Jesus knew what happens to individuals when absorbed in a crowd. He took precautions not only for his own wellbeing but perhaps also to give people some space to be aware of why they were following him. If we were to put ourselves in one of these crowds today, why would we be following him?
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