Why People Followed Jesus
The Christian life is a call to follow Jesus Christ. In my early twenties, I was asked to serve in a large ministry in a difficult leadership position. I was younger than many of the other staff members but I was placed in a position of leadership. This caused a great deal of friction just simply because of the fact that I was younger and leading. I read every book I could lay my hands on when it came to leadership principles. I read after pastors, coaches, CEO's, by the way, John Maxwell should give me stock in his company! I read everything because I was out of my depth and I knew it! I spoke with a wise pastor who has always given me godly counsel when I was in this position, his statement to me was revolutionary. "John, if you are leading and look behind you and nobody is following, you are not leading!" That may sound simple, but fourteen years later I have come to the conclusion he was exactly right!
I finally put down the leadership books, which by the way I have no problem with gleaning from their wisdom, and picked up God's Word and started a study of great leadership in the Bible. When I came to the life of Christ I was completely captivated. A man with a brief ministry had multitudes of people who met Him briefly followed Him everywhere He went. 2000 years later the impact of His leadership is still being felt, books are written about Him, universities named after Him, churches meet weekly to worship Him, He was a leader among all leaders because people today are STILL FOLLOWING HIM! Why did people follow Jesus?
Matthew 4:25 states, "And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." In the context of Matthew 4, let me share five reasons why people followed Jesus.
1. There Was A Clear Identification (Matthew 3:13-17)
Matthew 3 records for us the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was glad to identify with the man John the Baptist, the message of repentance, and the manifest of the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus was not wishy washy when it came to identifying with what He believed and why He believed. He was meek yet bold, silent yet strong, humble yet confident in His baptism which identified Him. Leaders do not have the luxury to be unclear when it comes to identification. If you have been called to lead you absolutely cannot be afraid to identify clearly and publicly with who you are and what you believe. People will not follow nor respect an individual who is called to lead yet timid about identifying who they really are. On a side note let me add that Jesus did this with all humility. Leading like Jesus will never cause you to be abrasive, rude, loud, and obnoxious. None of these traits are Jesus' leadership traits. Humbly identify with yourself with Christ, the gospel, the Bible, and the Christian faith, but do so with a spirit of humility.
2. There Was A Conquering of Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus, following His baptism, was lead into the wilderness and tempted by Satan forty days and nights. It has always been interesting to me that following this identification of baptism, it was immediately followed by a testing to prove His identification. Jesus passes this test with flying colors by correctly quoting and applying the Scriptures. Jesus was followed by many because of the purity of His life. People watched Jesus and knew that He was the genuine article. Pilate even said he could find no fault in Jesus. Spiritual leaders must conquer temptation if they are going to lead people. People need examples that live a life of purity and will not succumb to the fiery darts of Satan. Jesus was worthy of following because He lived a life of purity and example to those who followed Him.
3. There Was A Contrasting Illumination (Matthew 4:12-17)
Jesus begins to preach and comes into a region of spiritual darkness. The Scriptures states in Matthew 4:16 "The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light sprung up." There was just something different about Jesus! He brought light to darkness, hope to hopelessness, faith to doubt, love to hate, and life to death! Everywhere and everyone He met saw a great difference and felt the difference when He was with them. Spiritual leaders should strive to leave people better than where they found them. The only way to make a difference is to be different! Jesus changed the world because the world could not change Him!
4. There Was A Confident Direction (Matthew 4:18-22)
Jesus calls His inner circle of disciples to vocational ministry in Matthew 4. While calling them, Jesus knew exactly where He was going, where He wanted them to go, and how to get it all accomplished.
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." - Matthew 4:19
Jesus was confident in the direction He was going to lead these men. He did not present a vague plan, He presented a detailed plan that included them being "made" by Him. Leaders do not point the way, leaders lead the way. If we are the last to show up and the first to leave we are not leading! Leaders are involved in the process just as Jesus was involved in the process of making His disciples fishers of men. We cannot lead people where we are not willing to go! Jesus was involved in the lives of His followers and presented confident direction because He knew where He was going.
5. There Was A Competent Compassion (Matthew 4:23-25)
I am amazed constantly at the compassion of Jesus. He was intimately involved in ministering to other people, but His compassion was competent. His compassion was not just a "I'll be praying for you brother" type of compassion. Jesus knew how to solve problems that people presented to Him. Leadership is not about identifying problems only, it is about solving problems. Dr. Tom Malone once said to me: "The greatest churches and pastors are the churches and pastors that fulfill the Great Commission and resolve the problems that come along with it." Problems are always going to arise because people always have problems. Listen carefully, people are not the problem, but people have problems. Jesus never ran away from the problems, He was compassionate and component to resolve the problems that arose while ministering to people.
I am so thankful for every book on the subject of leadership I have read, but I have yet to find a greater leader or book written on leadership than Jesus Christ and His Word. Let's strive to lead like Jesus today!