Jesus Ran People Off

Every time the crowd following Jesus grew, He tried to run some of them off.

It happened in John 6. You know the story. Jesus feeds the 5,000. People go nuts. They’ve never seen anything like it. He disappears for part of the night, walks on water, and the crowd seeks Him out and finds Him the next day.

“Feed us again!” they exclaim. They are into Jesus, these people. He fills their bellies. They can’t get enough. Jesus unloads. “I did that yesterday,” Jesus said. “But you’re hungry again because you’re not eating the right stuff. I’m the bread of life. If you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can’t really be my disciple.”

Jesus wasn’t actually suggesting everyone come take a nibble out of his calf muscle or elbow. He is declaring that He was from God. He is declaring that it’s better to have an empty belly and a full heart than the other way around. People don’t like it one bit and start grumbling. Full bellies are the crowd’s preference. They went from exuberant exclamations of “Who is this man?!?” after the miracle the day before to frustrated shouts of “Who does this guy think he is?” twenty-four hours later. John records the aftermath of this bold statement:

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

This isn’t the only time Jesus tries to run a crowd off.

In Luke 14, massive crowds are following Jesus. He turns to them and draws a line in the sand.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

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It’s not that Jesus is a grouch. It’s just that crowds don’t impress Him much. Crowds love a good show, but few sign up to give their lives. There is a difference between accepting a savior and bowing to a Lord. Anyone grabs on to the life saver when they’re drowning in the ocean. Few bow their knee to the rescuer once they’ve dried off and forgotten their brush with death.

It seems like every time there is a crowd, Jesus tests their allegiance. A week after riding into Jerusalem triumphant He is hanging lonely on a cross with just a small band of devoted disciples within ear shot to hear his final words. Where were the masses who had witnessed His miraculous works? Where were the crowds that had cried His praises?

Disciples are those still standing after the hard words are spoken. Discipleship is not an easy path. The road walked with Jesus is not marked with ease but inconvenience. Self sacrifice, not self worship, defines the follower.

In the modern church, there are far too many leaders who scratch their congregation’s itching ears. It is the 21st century equivalent of feeding the hungry mob day after day after day. They love your bread, it’s true. That doesn’t mean they love Jesus.

I am thankful to serve at a church where the uncompromising truth of Jesus is taught, not in a hateful way, but with a bluntness that I think is very Christlike. Every time the crowd following Jesus grew, He tried to run some of them off. It wasn’t because He didn’t want them to follow. It’s just that He refused to let them think they followed someone less than the God of the Universe who demanded their loyalty. It is how He separated the disciples from the entertained, and it usually worked.

Jesus said lots of things that were hope-filled, inspiring, and motivational. Yet He didn’t shy away from difficult teaching no one really wanted to hear. As communicators of the Gospel, if we want to preach like Jesus, we need to make sure we’re doing the same thing.

 

 

 

One comment

  1. The title of your recent post is “eye catching” to say the least. It reminds me that the church is about loving each other and teaching God’s truth – not judging false motivations or spiritually weak through public conviction. The Holy Spirit will do that well enough if there is an ounce of faith. It also reminds me that there is but one judge of a person’s heart and that judge is God.

    Of all the issues before this nation and the world at large, perhaps you can agree it is not whether Jesus ran off a few non-believers; it is a growing evil in avalanche across this nation and the world. The end goal of the evil movement is to capture the souls of the weak, destroy God’s children and silence the message of Christ’s salvation once and for all. The battle is old and relentless, but victory is assured – for we are shown in explicit detail how God defeats the dark one and reigns on earth for “the age to come.” Until that day comes, we have our great commission and our charge remains to rebuke evil in all its forms when we see it.

    Timothy 5:20: As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

    “In the presence of all” does not mean behind closed doors. The rebuke must be in God’s name and from the full and mighty power of the Holy Spirit – for nothing man alone may say will elicit fear in any man. This is not a timid act, nor is it meek. It is bold.

    With rapture eminent, as God’s creation who acts not on sense but faith and reason we are given an opportunity to choose. The opportunity is to choose either meek silence, or righteous boldness. As you pointed out, Jesus was bold in speech. Most of his followers became bold through faith and empowered by accepting the Holy Spirit.

    How can we now, as children of God Jehovah, choose anything but boldness – boldness to speak up, boldness to work in Christian unity, boldness to gather in one voice, boldness to stand before evil at home and abroad and declare evil for what it is. Our rebuke should be absolute. Yet as I and others look around, we see no call for rallies, no calls for repentance, no marches against State and corporation, no public outcry from the Christian community at large that evil, no matter what form, will not be tolerated. It’s almost as if a large portion of God’s believers are walking in defeat and not in the victory of Jesus Christ.

    The Bible is clear. A long time ago, God’s people walked in defeat and later arrogance after He made them free. God’s judgement showed no mercy. They ultimately fell to their knees and glorified God to the exclusion of all other gods. Now, here today we are in the same mind as Israel of old: embracing false gods, coveting materialism, sanctifying infant sacrifice and sexual perversions of all manner, embracing humanism in all its forms and denouncing God from the highest office to the lowest office. We live in the moment and not for truth or the kingdom to come.

    If God is consistent – and I believe that He is – God is about to deliver a crushing blow to this great country for abandoning Him in Church and in State. Like Israel of old, every man woman and child will be forced to our knees, without wealth, without freedom, without human rights and without the right to speak up against our oppressors. The time is critically short and the cause is beyond great…it’s historical and a turning point for our nation and our faith.

    Are we ready to turn while our faith is still a majority, albeit divided by walled up denomination? Each and every heart will decide to be bold in God, or defeated in Satan. If we are bold, then we must be bold in action and in speech. If we are bold we shouldn’t tolerate sin by state representative, public figure, or any special interest group claiming the right to sin. Bold people do not allow symbols of God to be removed. Bold people don’t allow our faith to be sidelined or silenced. Boldness requires each of us to speak up at every opportunity no matter the price, or tax. Bold people walk arm and arm in unity and victory in Jesus. We must retake this great nation back one battle at a time – for there is no greater cause than our Christian Heritage, our liberty, our freedom or our right to declare God sovereign over our government, our land, our house, our family and our life. Our time to walk and talk in victory is before us. Only by “a third great awakening” will the course change and judgement be lessened.

    Someday when my children and my God ask me “Why did you let this happen when you had the strength of the Holy Spirit behind you.”

    I want to be able to look them both in the eye and say “I did all I could.”

    In Christ, we are all victorious. In silence, we are already defeated.

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