In the world of education, size matters. The larger a class, the less efficiently pupils learn. Wealthy families pay significant sums of money to put their children in schools with small classes. Political parties promise huge sums of money to reduce class sizes in state run schools. Smaller is almost always better when it comes to learning groups.
Jesus knew this. As a rabbi, he was part of an adult education system that was committed to delivering high quality, wholistic, learning. But Jesus faced a serious problem: his teaching and message was so popular that he soon had too many pupils (disciples). As a result, his educational mission risked becoming inefficient and ineffective.
Rabbinic tradition advised that no rabbi should have more disciples than he could effectively teach. Following this principle, Jesus robustly cut his class size down to just twelve. There must have been a lot of disappointed men and women that day, but Jesus wasn’t trying to build a large movement; he was trying to teach a renewed philosophy of life and faith. At key moments Jesus cut that group down even further, to just three: Peter, James and John.
Most Christian churches fail to be Christlike in this matter. Churches like to be big, and big churches are considered to be successful. But the bigger a church grows, the less efficient it becomes at delivering Jesus’ teaching. Some growing churches wisely sub-divide themselves into small groups where effective learning can take place.
As a teacher, Jesus knew that size matters - smaller is better.