The Gospels are clear that great multitudes of people flocked to Jesus during His ministry, often following Him for miles over rugged terrain. There were times when the crowd so thronged the Lord that He had to speak from a ship in shallow waters! Certainly, it must have been an amazing sight to see the Lord Jesus, without the aid of modern sound systems, speaking to thousands of people in the open air!
However, as we examine the multitude that followed the Lord, we find that they were not all there for the right reasons. In fact, at the end of John 6, the entire crowd abandoned Christ, with only the apostles remaining.
John 6:66-68 “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
There were four basic groups following the Lord Jesus, which can still be found in churches both great and small today.
1. Some followed because of the miracles.
They had great needs that only Jesus could meet. Others in this group wanted to see signs, but even with the signs they still would not believe. When the miracles stopped, this crowd disappeared.
2. Some followed because of the multitudes.
They followed the crowd. They showed up for “the big day.” Nothing wrong with that – but when the multitude left, this segment followed them to the next “big thing.” This crowd makes up much of the attendance of the worldly megachurches in our country. They are there to be entertained.
3. Some followed because of the meat.
They were needy; Jesus fed them at the feeding of the 5000 and the feeding of the 4000. However, when He stopped giving out the free food, this group also dwindled away (see Jn 6:26). This crowd is epitomized by many a bus kid who asks on Saturday, “What are we having tomorrow?” Many an adult has the same attitude. And many that we help through charitable giving never even attend our church; they are simply looking for a material handout and a temporary fix.
4. Some followed because of the message.
This is what Peter said: “Thou hast the words of life.” This is the group, though often small, that is interested in more than just a show, entertainment, a handout or a big day. They aren’t church hoppers looking for the newest or biggest or coolest programs. They are there because they love the Word of God.
Which part of the multitude best describes your Christian life?