John 6 is the longest chapter in the book of John at over 70 verses. And of those 70 plus verses, over half of them are the words of Jesus, the red print as we like to call it. The chapter begins with two great miracles of Jesus: one, the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and, two, Jesus sending His disciples away and then walking on water to them (John 6:16-21). From there, the rest of the chapter shows the difference between the true followers of Jesus, the true Believers, and those who sought Him only for the bells and whistles, the temporary trinkets and toys, the loaves and fish that He gave them in the first miracle. They were the fickle thrill-seekers who wanted Jesus as their Genie in a Bottle and not as their Lord.
“Feed me Lord, and I’ll follow you anywhere.”
“Take care of my needs, Lord, and I’ll love You as long as You continue to take care of my needs.”
“Make me number one in the world, Lord, and I’ll make You number one in my heart. Uh… that’s until You and I clash over something You want me to do, then I’ll be number one and You’ll be… well, not number one. You’ll be my co-pilot.” Just like the bumper sticker says.
But nestled between these two miracles is a captivating verse that sets the foundation for all the subsequent teaching, the red print, that completes the chapter. That verse is John 6:15 which reads:
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself.
Think about it, the feeding of the 5,000 led the stuffed, overfed multitude to demand that Jesus serve as their King, as the Head of their government, as the Commissioner of their IRS, as their Food Stamp Administrator. And as King, He obviously would want to make His subjects happy by supplying them with bread and fish and whatever else they wanted whenever they were hungry. He was to meet their every need and want when they beckoned Him to do so. After all, isn’t that what He did for them earlier? Of course. And that would mean they wouldn’t have to work or save or budget or want… because Jesus, as Head of their government, as their King, would exist to meet all their needs and all their demands. He would be like their personal ATM machine spitting out $20 bills as fast as they could punch in their PIN and their balance would never be depleted nor their account overdrawn. Cha-ching, cha-ching and cha-ching. Wow! This is great! Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. I can “live long and prosper” or exercise my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” or I can have “My Best Life Now.”
“Come on Jesus, I’m bored. What are You going to do to wow me now? And hey, what’s for lunch?”
This same message is often preached from some of the most prominent pulpits in America to some of the largest crowds. It’s like the ancient adage from the Roman Caesars to give the people “bread and games” and appease the masses. As Rome ruled to feed its own belly and its insatiable appetite for entertainment, so the church today exists to do much of the same. We’ve embraced church branding and marketing, self-affirming messages that make us feel good about our sin and lukewarmness, cutting-edge light shows and pulsating music that make us think we are at a rock concert, or the sensual, highly choreographed dance routines that are the envy of any Broadway producer all point to the fact that we “have left our first love” (Rev. 2:4). We, the church, seem to desire the praise and affirmation of the world rather than the pleasure of the Lord. And to desire to be a “friend of the world” brings with it horrific consequences (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15). Remember?
“Panem et circenses.” Bread and circuses. Just bread and games.
When Jesus saw the crowd begin to want to make Him their personal Servant by force, He purposely put His disciples on a boat and sent them away from the cultural mindset of the day so they would not become tainted or contaminated or deceived by what they heard others say. Like a loving parent or a faithful Shepherd, Jesus was protecting those He loved. Did He not say that He would lay His life down for the sheep, for those He loves? (John 10:15).
And what about us? Instead of shielding our young and impressionable from the deceiving lusts of the world, we open wide our church doors and say, “Come on it! Show us how to draw a crowd in here like you do out there.” And the world has gladly accepted our invitation, and we have enthusiastically embraced the carnality of the world and the culture, and the holiness of the church has suffered much. In fact, holiness has become a byword among Believers. It is banished, taboo.
One final thought, when the crowds caught up with Jesus the next day and wanted to know what He was going to do for them to satisfy their craving for excitement and wonder and awe, He did not give them an answer, but instead, a rebuke:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).
Jesus revealed to them their heart.
In essence, you did not come to Me because of the signs I performed that pointed to the reality that the Father and I are One, that I am the Messiah, the Christ, Who has come into the world. Or the simple fact that I am Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23). No, you came because you wanted another free meal, another discount coupon, another paid day off from work, another $20 bucks out of the ATM machine so you could go and have yourself a good time. You wanted Me to take your breath away like a trapeze artist at the circus. You wanted another feel-good thrill, more goose bumps, a tingling up your spine. But that’s not why I came.
Never has been. Never will be.
Oh, and how about you? What are you seeking from Jesus? Do you seek Him as Lord and Master, on His terms, following Him through the narrow gate? (Matt. 7:13-14). Or have you created a Jesus that works for you? A hip, cool, politically correct Jesus who died just to make your life better now? You know, a Jesus you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable introducing to your friends? Which one is it?
Because please understand, one Jesus leads to eternal life and the other to a life of torment in Hell. Two roads, but only one way.
So, which one is it?