At the height of Jesus’ popularity, multitudes of people, sometimes numbering in the thousands, came to see and hear Him, and to be ministered to by Him. While the Gospel writers tell of the multitudes that were attracted to Jesus, they were careful to make a distinction between multitudes and disciples. For example, in Matthew’s introduction to the Sermon on the Mount,
he says, “Seeing the multitudes, He [Jesus] went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying” (5:1-2 NKJV; italics in the quotation for emphasis).
There were some from the multitudes who responded to Jesus’ calls to discipleship, but we do not know how many. We know about the Twelve, whom Jesus chose from His disciples and named “apostles.” We know about the Seventy whom He commissioned, and we know about the 120 who were in the Upper Room after Jesus’ ascension. Finally, we know Paul spoke of 500 “brethren” who saw the resurrected Jesus, whom we presume were Jesus’ disciples.
If multitudes come, and they hear the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, this is good. Still, we need to remember that multitudes are not disciples, and the Church’s Great Commission is to “make disciples of all nations.”This is also the mission of the Sunday school— to make disciples for Jesus Christ. To a group of Jews who believed in Him, Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed” (see John 8:31). This should be your goal in teaching adults in Sunday school—to have them continue always believing and obeying the word of Christ.