The Day Jesus Lost His Crowd
Churches put a lot of emphasis on drawing a crowd. Jesus did not.
I've never known a preacher whose church was in decline who wasn't insecure about it, no matter the reason for it. Usually a pastor blames himself for it, and sometimes he is to blame.
Jesus had His big attendance days, but His overall trend was advancement through decline - and in today's text we see one of several times when Jesus lost His crowd.
v. 66 Let's read together John six six six!
What a change has occurred since the beginning of this chapter, where we see a great crowd walking toward Jesus...now they are walking away. Jesus was surrounded by a huge throng and not long after He has only His 12 disciples...and He knows one of them is a devil!
Oh how fickle people can be. Oh how shallow many people's commitment is.
Notice the progression:
v. 15 They want to make Him a king.
v. 41 murmur = undercurrent of criticism. They are talking bad about Him behind His back.
v. 52 strove = all out verbal warfare
…And by v. 66 they have left the building.
This all happens within a few hours' time.
It's one thing to follow the Lord in exciting times when crowds are filing in and it doesn't cost you anything, but it is another thing entirely to follow Jesus when it demands a sacrifice. That's when you find out what your faith really consists of in depth and reality.
One of the difficulties of full time ministry is watching once faithful people turn away and follow God no more.
2 Timothy 4:10
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world...
He was Paul's right hand man, and walked away from it all. The pull of the world is strong, but when our faith is tested it is pass or fail.
"A faith that fizzles before the finish was faulty from the first."
1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
1. Those who fought.
v. 41 These Jews fought against Jesus' direction. They get their murmuring honestly from their ancestors who could always find the negative in any situation.
What do you do with those who can only brighten a room by leaving it? Maybe what one lady did in response to her husband's griping:
He didn't like the casserole
And he didn't like my cake.
My biscuits were too hard...
Not like his mother used to make.
I didn't perk the coffee right
He didn't like the stew,
I didn't mend his socks
The way his mother used to do.
I pondered for an answer
I was looking for a clue.
So I turned around and smacked him...
Like his Mother used to do.
Ladies, raise your hand if you know what 'selective hearing' is. You can say, "Take out the trash" or "Pick up your clothes" and a man cannot hear it. You can use the same tone and volume and say, "Would you like some ice cream" and be heard, no problem. "Would you like to go upstai...YES!"
Unfortunately, many who claim to be followers of Christ have selective hearing...they hear only what they want to hear...things they agree with, that don't challenge them too deeply. A man of God can preach two truths from the same Bible but one is heard and the other is ignored...selective hearing.
The crowd in chapter 6 has selective hearing. It was a big crowd who came to see miracles and be fed, and join in the 'hip' trend of the day. But Jesus wanted to see who was serious and so He preached on commitment and many departed. It doesn't mean they weren't saved, though undoubtedly many of them were only in it for what they could get out of it.
Why are they complaining in our text? Because Jesus said He was the bread from heaven.
v. 42 "Who does he think he is?"
But who is really the father? God! Jesus is the only baby ever born who was older than His mother and the same age as His Father!
2,000 years later this is still the big question on the planet. Who is Jesus Christ? A good man or the God man? A prophet, a teacher, or the bread sent down from heaven like manna?
This is a pivotal question - it will determine how your life goes - what your priorities and values are - and it will determine where you will spend eternity!
This is a paramount question - no more important question to answer than this, and giving no answer is giving an answer of no.
This is a perennial question - it isn't going away, it will hound you until the day you die, and then it will finally be answered on the day when every knee bows and every tongue confesses Christ as Lord!
Who is Jesus Christ? They didn't believe His claims, and so they fought with Him.
v. 47-52 No longer are they talking behind His back...they are now criticizing to His face. They are now challenging Him publicly.
Jesus introduces a brand new word: 'flesh' at the end of v. 51. He will use this word 6 more times before this dialogue is ended. This is Jesus' announcement of Calvary.
In 3:16 He said I will die for the world.
In chapter 10 He said I will lay down my life for my sheep.
In chapter 11 He said I will die for the nations.
In chapter 15 He said greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends.
This is God our substitute...and the One who came in flesh came to give that flesh to save our skin!
v. 52 The idea of eating human flesh is offensive to them. They are misunderstanding a spiritual truth by taking this literally. This is the fourth time they have done this in John's gospel.
In chapter 2 Jesus said 'destroy this temple and three days later I will raise it up.' He wasn't talking about their church, but His flesh.
In chapter 3 told Nicodemus he had to be born again, and Nicodemus said, I can't go back inside momma again? It was another fleshly misunderstanding.
In chapter 4 Jesus told the woman at the well to drink of the living water and she didn't realize what He meant. It was a spiritual water, not physical.
All of these took Jesus' illustrations literally and misunderstood the spiritual point.
Jesus was saying that just as you take food and water into your physical body and it brings you physical life you must take my flesh and blood into you spiritually to bring you spiritual life. This is a message of commitment - the difference between believing with just your head and believing with your heart.
Jesus is talking about receiving Him into your innermost being. And I say today on the authority of God's Word that people who are truly born again are not just those who believe a set of facts in their head or pray a prayer with their mouth...rather, they are those who receive Jesus Christ into their innermost being.
"Believe IN the Lord Jesus?" No! "Believe ON the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!" It’s a commitment!
v. 47 'on'
'Believe on' contains the idea of commitment. This group wasn't willing to make that commitment. As long as He is working miracles and feeding them He was fine in their eyes, but once you ask for a person's heart...for commitment, you risk losing your crowd!
A person may say they have decided to be saved, but if it results in no change, no fruit, and no desire to go in the right direction the Bible gives us little encouragement about the reality of that decision.
Vance Havner, "I didn't understand much about trusting Jesus, but I understood one thing, and no theologian had to explain it to me. I understood that I was under new management. That was perfectly clear. I had a new Lord. I believe that the sad state of Christians in churches today is due to a cheap believism that doesn't believe and a cheap receivism that doesn't receive. After all, the word Savior is found only 24 times in the NT, and the word Lord is applied to Jesus 433 times."
This first group fought with Him...
2. Those who fizzled.
v. 60 These are recent 'converts' now who are calling this a 'hard saying'
It's not as though they couldn't understand it, but rather that they couldn't stomach it. They were offended. They stumbled at this teaching. They didn't want to follow this teaching. It's not palatable. And so in cafeteria style they take the parts they like and leave the parts they don't care for.
Jesus is asking a difficult thing of them...He asks for a real commitment, and it's not as lovey dovey as they want their leader to be. And so they fizzle out on Him.
ill.--I counseled a guy who said he was saved, but saw nothing wrong with sleeping with his girlfriend. He's been in churches a lot, and sat under much preaching, and I have to ask, have we watered down the gospel to the point that people believe they should just pray a prayer and let God give them good things and save them from bad things? That boy's not saved. I'm not saying you give up bad things in order to be saved, but that when you make the COMMITMENT to Christ to be saved He will change you heart and help you give up bad things, or at least change your mind about them!
You know there's a lot of preachers today teaching forgiveness without real repentance and I have to point out that they draw quite a crowd!
I'll be the first to admit that repentance without faith is works salvation and is wrong. But on the other hand, faith without repentance is empty and meaningless...and doesn't save anyone!
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Yet even though He is the way they didn't want to follow. Even though He's the truth they didn't want to believe it. Even though He's the life they didn't want to receive it...not that way! They saw the demands of discipleship were too great.
Was Jesus disappointed? No. In order to be disappointed you must expect one result and get another. But Jesus knew all along what was in their hearts.
v. 64 Jesus knew!
"A faith that fizzles before the finish was faulty from the first."
Some fought with Him, some fizzled on Him...
3. Those who followed.
v. 66-69 'to whom shall we go?'
If you walk away from Jesus Christ you walk away from everything that matters.
In Christ we have a love that can never be fathomed; a life that can never die; a righteousness that can never be tarnished; a peace that can never be understood; a rest that can never be disturbed; a joy that can never be diminished; a hope that can never be disappointed; a glory that can never be clouded; a light that can never be darkened; a happiness that can never be permanently interrupted; a strength that can never be enfeebled; a purity that can never be defiled; a beauty that can never be marred; a wisdom that can never be baffled; and resources that can never be exhausted.
To whom shall we go? Where else are you gonna receive what Jesus gives? Just commit your life to Him! It's a real commitment, but it is not too difficult. I say that life is most difficult when we insist on carrying the weight of sin and suffering its consequences! His yoke is easy, and His burden is light!
If He said we had to be crucified to go to heaven we would do it. If He said we had to do good works to receive His gift of life, we would do them. If He said we had to do very hard things in order to know Him I would hope we would be willing to do those things. But in actuality He did the hard part, and just asks for us to believe AND receive all that He is and give to Him all that we are. Just make that simple commitment!
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