“A huge crowd was following Him because they saw the signs that He was performing on the sick.” John 6:2.
“Therefore, when many of His followers heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?”… From that moment on, many of His followers turned back and no longer followed Him.“ John 6:60, 66.
Chapter 6 of John’s gospel is one of the most tragic chapters in all the Bible. At the beginning of the chapter, there are multitudes of people who are following Christ, but by the chapter’s close, He is left only with the twelve disciples, and Christ is worried that even they will desert Him.
What caused this vast change in the popular opinion of Christ? How could people possibly “turn away and no longer follow Him?” If we look John 6:2, we see that, for many of those in the multitudes, their hearts were never really in the right place to begin with. They weren’t following Christ because they agreed with His preaching and teaching, nor were they following Him because He was satisfying a spiritual hunger that they had. They were following Him because “they saw the signs He was performing on the sick,” meaning they were just interested in seeing what kind of miracle He would perform next. To them, Christ was nothing more than a novelty act, a righteous magician of sorts, who went through the land healing the lame and curing the sick. As long as He kept giving the people what they wanted, they’d follow Him anywhere.
But that’s the thing about Christ– He didn’t come here to give us what we want, He came to give us what we need. We don’t need to witness miracles, we need salvation. We don’t need a good show, we need someone to save us from our sins.
As Christ is teaching the crowds one day, the crowds begin demanding a miracle “so that they might believe.” They say, “If God provided bread from Heaven for our ancestor as they wandered in the desert, what can you do for us?” Jesus then begins explaining to them that He actually is “the Bread of Life,” and that anyone who eats that bread will never hunger again. He goes on to say that anyone who drinks of His blood will also have eternal life.
When He says these things, the crowd is aghast. They were completely misunderstanding the message that He was teaching. He was not endorsing cannibalism, the literal eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood. He was speaking metaphorically, meaning that anyone who believes in Him and the sacrifice He will make will receive eternal life. He was here foreshadowing His crucifixion, as well as the tradition of the Lord’s supper. But the crowds had heard enough, and they didn’t like what they were hearing. As far as they were concerned, the show was over. Christ had stopped entertaining them with His miracles, so they all left. Only the twelve disciples remained.
How often do we do the same thing to Christ in our lives? Do we seek to follow Him everyday and learn the deep spiritual lessons He teaches us, or are we just along for the ride, hoping for a good show? Do we seek Christ to teach us or to entertain us? Christ never intended to be popular. He never intended to attract large crowds. He sought out, and is still seeking out, people who will be dedicated to Him, through thick and thin. Where do you stand? Are you here for show? Will you leave when the teaching gets hard? Or will you follow Christ, even when it’s not the popular thing to do?