The crowds just kept getting bigger. Jesus had healed many sick people and did other miracles. (John calls them ‘signs.’) When he tried to take a break, escaping by boat, many people followed Him around the Sea of Galilee to somewhere near Bethsaida (NIV Study Bible notes). Then He started handing out free food. He fed five thousand men, plus women and children, from the lunch box of one boy (John 6:1-14).
Not the way to thin your crowds, Jesus. Everybody likes free food.
Afterward, the people wanted to make him their king, so Jesus retreated again—this time onto a nearby mountain (John 6:15). He and his disciples must have made a plan while they were up there because, come nightfall, the disciples moseyed down to the lake. (Okay, I’m imagining that they moseyed. The text—v. 16—just says “went.”) Jesus wasn’t with them when they got in a boat and headed toward Capernaum. Maybe that’s why the crowd stayed put.
A large portion of the crowd spent the night on the shore.
The sun rose, and still, Jesus hadn’t come down from the mountain. (In fact, he had joined the disciples on the boat—John 6:19-21—but the people didn’t know that.) Once they could see clearly, it didn’t take long for the crowd to realize Jesus wasn’t there. They jumped in some boats and headed toward Capernaum, trying to catch up with Jesus.
Jesus did what he always
did, which was to not
answer the question.
When they found Jesus, they were puzzled. They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (John 6:25). The answer would have been simple. I’m thinking, “3am,” maybe. That would have blown their minds! But Jesus did what he always did, which was not answer the question. Instead, he turned the spotlight onto them. Just read it:
Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. –John 6:26
They were looking for Jesus because they wanted to fill their bellies again.
They worked hard to catch up with Jesus to satisfy their own desires.
They weren’t interested in Jesus. They were interested in what Jesus could do for them.
I can imagine one of them saying, “Look how faithful we are to you, Jesus. We spent the night on the sea shore. We’re missing another day’s work. We hired boats to take us across the water so we could get to you faster. We have worked hard for you, Jesus. Now will you please heal my mother?”
Sounds like something I might say. “I’ve gotten up early every morning for a month, Jesus, so I could spend time with you. I gave up coffee for three whole days to prove my faithfulness to you. I donated extra money to my favorite charity just to honor you. I have worked hard for you, Jesus. Now will you please ______________?”
Sometimes I chase Jesus not because I want to be close to him, but because I want what he can do for me. Sometimes I get mixed up in Jesus’ posse–that group of hangers-on who are in it for the fame and fortune.
Jesus told that crowd in Capernaum,
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. –John 6:27
We don’t have to chase Him
around the lake…or around
He gives us what we need. We don’t have to work for it. We don’t have to chase him around the lake…or around our hearts. Eternal life is about the daily presence of Jesus, starting now and continuing after death into eternity. We don’t chase him. He dwells in us.
Later, Jesus would tell the disciples,
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. –John 15:5
Remain. Not chasing, not working…steadily staying with him.
Once it got a little weird,
the crowds bailed.
Jesus’ discussion with the crowd that morning in Capernaum became more difficult. Eventually, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). There were happy to receive from Jesus, but once it got difficult and a little weird, once they couldn’t solve the formula on their own, they bailed.
Now that’s the way to thin your crowd, Jesus.
I’m still learning how to remain…how to stop chasing him for what he can do and, instead, receive what he gives.
I find John 6:26 (the one where he says they are looking for him because he filled their bellies) to be one of the most convicting verses in the Bible. What verse especially convicts you? Or, how have you learned to remain in Jesus rather than chasing his blessings? Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!