Rabbi Yeshua did not seek large numbers. He sought disciples. The story says, “When Yeshua saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him” (Matthew 5:1). Why did He go up the mountain?
The ministry of Yeshua drew large crowds almost from its outset. “Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan” (Matthew 4:25). Multitudes of people sought him: The sick, the infirm, the troubled, the curious, the seekers, and the skeptical. Luke explains, “A large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people … had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured” (Luke 6:17-18).
Yeshua did not go up on the mountain so that the crowds would be able to better hear him teaching. He went up on the mountain to get away from the crowds so that He could have some time to teach His disciples. That is why it says that, when He saw the crowd, He went up on the mountain and sat there—then His disciples approached him, not the crowds.
In Luke’s version of the story, Yeshua stands “in a level place” (Luke 6:17), giving rise to the title “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke does not, however, say that Yeshua delivered the sermon in that level place. Instead Luke prefaces the sermon by distinguishing between the large crowd and the disciples, just like Matthew does. Luke says, “Turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say …” (Luke 6:20). In these words, Luke indicates that Yeshua delivered the sermon to His disciples, not to the crowds. Matthew explains that He first withdrew from the crowd by ascending the hill.
This story indicates that Rabbi Yeshua had two kinds of followers: the crowds of people and the disciples. Which kind of follower do you want to be? Are you one of the crowd that flocks around Him to receive a miracle, a blessing, or a ticket to heaven? Or are you one of His students, eager to learn His teachings and every word that comes from His mouth?
Be a disciple!