Jesus Vs. the Crowd
Jesus lifted his eyes; on the horizon, he saw an enormous crowd make its way toward him, like a tidal wave determined to breach the seawall.
With his gaze focused on the mass of people, he said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat” (John 6:5)? That day, Jesus would feed well over five thousand people, taking women and children into account. It was an astounding sign that left everyone in awe. Feeling the inevitability that mob rule would soon take effect, Jesus withdrew to the mountain by himself, knowing the crowd wanted to take him by force and make him king.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to not invent a god we’re comfortable worshiping, but rely on the revealed Word of God to inform our theology and practice.
The next day, a resolute group boarded boats and set sail to Capernaum, seeking the man who had met their felt need. Finally, when they found Jesus, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here” (John 6:25)?
Avoiding the tip of the iceberg, Jesus refused to answer the initial question and instead took aim at what lay beneath the surface. As he did throughout the Gospels, Jesus sidestepped pleasantries in order to get a clear view of the heart:
“Jesus 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” (John 6:26).
Called out! If the crowd thought their selfish motives were deeply submerged, Jesus — without hesitation — exposed their intentions to the blinding light of the sun. Theologian and Pastor Edward Klink describes this scene as if he is narrating a tense hand of poker, “Jesus calls their spiritual bluff and directly addresses the source of the ‘seeking,’ their stomachs, reflective of their selfish desires and passions.” 1 Jesus knew that their real interest in him was rooted in a materialistic longing for potential gain. A yearning to sacrifice self and follow him as their ultimate Rabbi did not cross their collective consciousness.
In no way did Jesus mince words. As we read the rest of the sixth chapter of John, we find even more offensive messages to the crowd:, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). Jesus taught difficult truths that caused “many of his disciples” to “turn back and no longer walk with him” — it was not a recipe for creating a religious movement (John 6:60, 66). Jesus was and is in the business of upholding a high bar for both truth and grace.
In the current evangelical culture, the crowd that allowed their stomachs to guide their steps as they hunted Jesus would not only be content calling themselves Christians, but would find many kindred souls within the pews. There is a level of comfort in the American church that points away from the Gospels and towards — as Michael Horton puts it — a Christless Christianity. 2
Two thousand years after Christ walked the earth, the same idol directs the path of the quintessential crowd, the god of self. This is the heart of consumerism. There is a mad dash to feed and satisfy the desires and demands of self, with one question leading the charge: Will this make me happy? If the church is able to provide the feeling of happiness desired, then most will skeptically give “Christianity” a chance to make its best pitch, as if a timeshare is on the line.
Instead of shining the light of the gospel into the dark corner of selfishness, revealing Christ as the solution to the counterfeit god of self; the church seems satisfied presenting a mess of psychobabble and pragmatic, utilitarian, self-help triviality. 2 In an attempt not to offend, the gospel is neutered and the church seems to be happy pastoring a consumerist culture that has lost a sense of what it means to be a biblical Christian.
C.S. Lewis points out the absurdity in this rationale in his book God in the Dock, “I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”3
Happiness is fleeting and will never be ultimately achieved through materialism. What the gospel offers those who repent and believe in Jesus is unmitigated, supernatural joy, despite the tyranny of the ever-changing circumstance. The gospel that transforms our affections and centers them on Christ is cemented in the pages of Scripture. As Christians, it is our responsibility to not invent a god we’re comfortable worshiping, but rely on the revealed Word of God to inform our theology and practice.
Although it’s palatable to our culture for Jesus to be merely supplemental, the Scriptures demand that Jesus is instrumental and foundational to the Christian life.
At Grace Church, this is a core belief. Our mission is to help people take their next steps toward Christ. We invite you to join other believers in making and maturing disciples who trust Jesus. Reject the temptation of shallow, superficial, and watered-down Christianity. Reject the temptation to be a 21st-century consumer. Jesus is clear, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me… For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23, 25-26).
Pursue Jesus, it is in him where you’ll be spiritually filled for all eternity, never hungering again.
1 Klink, Edward. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.
2Horton, Michael. Christless Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009.
3 Lewis, C.S. “Answers to Questions on Christianity,” God in the Dock. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970.
This story, written by Pastor Bobby Raulerson of Grace Oviedo, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.