For 30 years Jesus lived in Nazareth the hometown of His mother Mary and her husband Joseph. Following His baptism and the arrest of John the Baptist we are told that He relocated to Galilee “…to live in Capernaum by the sea,…” (Matthew 4:13). At this point His ministry began to build momentum.
Matthew describes it this way:
“Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 Then the news about Him spread throughout Syria. So they brought to Him all those who were afflicted, those suffering from various diseases and intense pains, the demon-possessed, the epileptics, and the paralytics. And He healed them.” (Matthew 4:23-24)
It is no surprise that Matthew would end chapter four with these words “Large crowds followed Him…” (Matthew 4:25).
But just because you are in the crowd does not mean that you belong to Christ!
That appears to be the point that Matthew is making as he opens chapter 5. We notice that there are two different groups of people who are mentioned in Matthew 5:1. First he mentions “the crowds” that were first introduced to us at the close of chapter 4. Then he mentions “His disciples.” At this point this small group consists of at least four men whom Jesus had called to follow Him in the middle of chapter 4.
In response to His call we are told that Andrew, Peter, James, and John “immediately left” what they were doing to follow Jesus. That is to say that these men “desired to be Jesus’ disciples.” Therefore, when we get to the setting of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus’ disciples stood out from the crowd.
Notice how Matthew makes the distinction between those who had gathered to hear Jesus teach “When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He began to teach them…” (Matthew 5:1-2a).
By the time that Jesus finished His sermon “…the crowds were astonished at His teaching, 29 because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29). There is no denying that the crowds were impressed by Him but the disciples were committed to follow Him. They were not afraid to stand out. To be different. To be inconvenienced. To be willing to learn and live for Jesus in life and ministry.