This verse is an introduction to the story we are soon to consider, the Parable of the Sower. In this verse, a crowd was beginning to form. As you will remember, Jesus was making a preaching/teaching tour, moving from city to village. He was accompanied by His twelve apostles as well as some women who had been healed of both sickness and evil spirits. Jesus had quite a few people traveling with Him, and as He traveled, the news began to spread.
People began to come from everywhere, especially from the cities, and a large crowd began to assemble. Jesus addressed the crowd by speaking in parables. He later explained the parable to His disciples, but the crowd would have to sort it out on their own. In some ways, the parable described the people in the crowd around Jesus.
Not everyone in the crowd was a disciple. In fact, most people probably were not disciples. They were simply taking a jaunt out of the city to see the most popular and controversial man around. Some of them were, almost certainly, true seekers, hoping to find life-changing truth in an unlikely place. The usual array of critics and skeptics would've been there, as well as those hoping to find a cause they could mold to suit their own purposes. The smallest group would've been the people who not only believed but had been transformed by grace.
The crowds around Jesus are not much different today. We still have skeptics and critics, seekers and disciples, manipulators, and those just looking for a place to be accepted or to have a good time. Our tendency is to look around us and try to fit those in our crowd into one of these categories. We would do much better to evaluate our own reasons for our place in the crowd around Jesus.
Why are you there? Why are you attending church services on Sunday? Are you a true disciple, a seeker, a sceptic, or just in the crowd by force of habit? Our reason for being near Jesus has a direct correlation to the receptivity of our heart to His message, and the coming parable will show us how important right motivation can be.
Today, pray that God will reveal our motivations, as well as those of our loved ones, change any that are not authentic, and draw us from the crowd to walk close beside Him.