In Judea, Jesus was attracting more and more attention. The scenes presented in the text of Luke move progressively from a private house setting (Luke 10:38ff) to a small group of disciples (Luke 11:1ff) to a crowd (Luke 11:27). Finally, Luke 11:29 tells us that “the crowds were increasing.” To a man, we would consider this rise in popularity a clear sign of success. As evidenced by our social media age obsession with “viral videos” and high volumes of “hits” on websites, we have a deep-seated desire to be in the majority. Big numbers validate our own beliefs. If people are coming, we reason, then keep giving the people what they want!
Jesus’ surprising next words in Luke 11:29 demonstrate that he operated under a whole different paradigm, and serve to rebuke our craving for the approval of the many. Instead of rolling with this apparent “success” and complementing the people gathering, He used the occasion to condemn a wrong attitude in the crowd, proclaiming, “This generation is an evil generation.” The masses had gathered upon hearing of his miraculous works, and were demanding even more signs from heaven (Luke 11:14-16). Jesus lacked no power to provide such crowd-pleasing signs, but refused to do so, calling out fundamental heart problems. He knew that big numbers didn’t equal big glory to God. We can make a few applications of this principal.
Application 1: Be careful of the primary motivation of our own hearts.
As part of his rebuke and exhortation, Jesus warns, “Your eye is the lamp of your body…be careful lest the light in you be darkness” (Luke 11:34-35). Where is your spiritual vision and perception focused? Our choices are the way of the many or the way of God’s will. Following God’s will even when it is unpopular will often find us on a lonely road. “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Application 2: Be careful of groups that are all about crowd-pleasing.
There is no shortage of churches with practices and activities so foreign to the Bible that Christians from New Testament times would find them unrecognizable. Many churches have unabashedly embraced the entertainment world, the pursuit of material prosperity, and feel-good messages that offend no one but don’t approach Biblical teaching on sin and salvation. Why? Their first questions are: “What do people want? How can we get them in our doors?” So they cater to generational whims. Jesus, in contrast, wanted hearts fully converted to God’s truth, be they many or few. Stay away from groups that don’t share this spirit.
Application 3: Don’t be discouraged by opposition.
I am constantly surprised at the hostile reaction to efforts to share the gracious message of the gospel. People will search for whatever pretense possible to reject it, just as some in this crowd were willing to promote the ridiculous assertion that Jesus was casting out demons in the service of Satan himself (Luke 11:15). All the same, the opposition of the majority can sometimes cause us to question our own convictions. “Am I in the wrong?” we wonder. Jesus never wavered, and neither should we as long as we persevere in the word of God.