Jesus could draw a crowd, but he was not interested in just attracting a crowd. He was interested in making disciples not simply converts. The American Church could learn a lesson from Jesus. In John 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand then walks across the water at night to get to the other side because the disciples had gone ahead of him. The next day the crowd is looking for Jesus. When they find him, they ask him how he got there knowing the disciples had gone ahead of him. Here is Jesus response, “26Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
They see he is not going to answer their question, but has answered a deeper question and longing. The people ask how to be doing the works of God, and Jesus responds believe in the one he sent. Then the people ask for him a sign…he just feed 5,000 people yesterday…these very people. They want another meal. They want their physical needs taken care of, but are missing the point that Jesus wants to address. Jesus is speaking to their deeper need of the spiritual nature. Jesus has come to give them much more than a meal, but a way to be feed always. They ask him for this bread. Jesus response is, “35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.”
The people grumbled against him. He is not going to give them what they want, but he wants to give them what they need. The Church today need to take note of what Jesus is doing. He is not catering to the crowd, but trying to point them to himself, the true bread from heaven, and the one they really need to feed them. Churches today cater to people who have no idea what they need. They think they need this or that, and if we don’t give it to them they threaten to leave. Here is what Jesus told the crowd, “47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” I am the one you need Jesus says. I am the bread from heaven, and in me you will be full satisfied. If you want this bread, you are going to have to eat this bread. Jesus is saying I am going to give up my body for you on a Roman cross, my body, and my blood sacrifice will give you life. It is what you need.
“53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, youhave no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Jesus wants to feed them a meal that will last forever, a meal that gives life now and in the life to come. This is a hard saying. Jesus is not catering to the crowd, but he is trying to lovingly point them to what they really need: Life found in him that lesser things could never bring. Here is the crowds response, 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Many in the crowd who had been following Jesus getting their immediate needs meet don’t like it when Jesus doesn’t do what they want him to. They don’t like it when he challenges why they are following him, and they don’t see he is trying to give them true life. However, his true disciples stay. They believe even when it is hard, and even when they don’t fully understand what Jesus is doing that he is the one who has the words of life…that he is the Holy One of God.
Don’t be afraid to learn this lesson from Jesus. Don’t just attract a crowd, but make disciples by God’s grace in Christ. Give them what they don’t know they need: Jesus. Even when it is hard, it is good for them, and what God has called us to do. Give them the true bread, the true drink that will satisfy their souls forever that will give them life now and forever. If the crowds leave, don’t worry about it, see who is left and build on them. Jesus desires true disciples not just a crowd of people. If we seek to honor God and seek him above man, he will bless our ministries. It just might be a different blessing than we even imagined.
-Clay Adkisson, 501 Pastor