Everyone has special memories of events that happened when they were a child. Sometimes they are connected to a holiday or some kind of a special day. One of my favorite holiday childhood memories is going to the football field in Wacker Park to watch the 4th of July fireworks. We would go, a little before it was getting dark, with blankets and bug spray in hand. After finding the right empty spot on the football field, we would spread the blanket out and then start looking around for friends to play with until the show started. The air was filled with excitement and the smell of popcorn and roasting hot dogs. You would hear children begging to watch the fireworks with their friends on their blanket or the opposite-begging for their friends to watch on their own blanket. Parents would remind them to be back where they were before the intermission was over (when the lights came on so more popcorn could be sold) because that's when the big fireworks were shot off and then came the big push to exit the stadium to go home.
I would like to think the expectations and atmosphere was very similar when crowds would gather to hear Jesus speak. It all began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus as written in Luke 3:21-22. The ones present witnessed a dove landing on Jesus' shoulder and a voice from Heaven. I imagine word of that happening spread all around as Jesus began his Galilean ministry. Word spread of Jesus, "filled with the power of the Spirit . . . he began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone" (Luke 4:14 NRSV). Soon people were telling of the miracles that they had witnessed Jesus performing. Crowds of followers, disbelievers, the curious, and people who wanted a miracle of healing for a loved one followed Jesus around the countryside. In this crowd of people would be families with children. In all four gospels are stories of crowds gathering and the people were amazed, astounded and awed at the teachings they heard and the healings they witnessed. Although, there was not the smell of hot dogs and popcorn, there was bread and fish several times. I imagine that the children in the crowds were just as excited about what was going to happen as I was about playing with friends and watching the fireworks.
The memories I will have from this 4th of July will be in many ways different from the ones from childhood. But the atmosphere and expectations that I believe the people and children had when they gathered to hear Jesus and see the miracles will be the same. Every time I read these stories from the Bible, I will smile at the memory of my feelings of excitement and of awe at watching the fireworks. I will know that they were the same as the children who got to listen and see Jesus.