During the Messiah’s ministry, He encountered many types of people and had different types of exchanges with these people. For the most part, He exhibited great compassion for those He met but there were occasions, though, when He chided some for their self-righteous attitudes, their unbelief or their selfish behavior. Most of these more animated exchanges were with the religious elite of the day but there were times when He scolded some of the common people.
In John 6, after feeding the people with five barley loaves and two fish, He mysteriously disappeared from Tiberius and then showed up in Capernaum. When the people realized that He was in Capernaum, they jumped into boats and followed Him there. When they found Him, they asked:
“Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
In other words, these people wanted to follow Him, not because they believed the Father had sent Him, but because they might see a miracle and get free bread. We could conclude that, among these people, there were those who wanted something for nothing. As long as they could get, they would show up; but if they were required to give or to commit to something, that’s where they drew the line. In this case, the commitment would have been to acknowledge who and what Christ was. It was during this exchange that He likened Himself to the bread from heaven and that what He had to provide was much more important than loaves and fishes, or even the manna that fell from heaven.
Furthermore, when talking about this bread, He managed to offend some of those who had been following Him.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:51-56)
It was at that point that many of the disciples became quite offended.
Therefore, many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” … From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:60, 66)
It’s likely that those who walked away were grappling with the fact that Scripture forbids the consumption of blood. According to the account, they didn’t stick around for a clarification and maybe they wouldn’t have understood His explanation, anyway. The point is, they chose to be offended, and left. When they did, Christ didn’t chase after them to explain further about what He had meant. Instead, He allowed them to leave and live in their offense and, to those who were left, He turned and asked, “Are you going to leave, as well?” Peter replied, “Where are we going to go? You, alone, have the words of life.” Ironically, among those who stayed – Peter included – ended up abandoning the Messiah when things got too uncomfortable. Peter, the one who said, “I would never deny you,” denied knowing him three times.
The point of all of this is to say that, people are people, whether they lived 2,000 years ago or today. There are always going to be those who will follow the signs and wonders to get a thrill, maybe even to see if they can get some loaves and some fishes. But, unfortunately with some folks, as soon as they’re required to commit to something that would provoke them to deny themselves, they shy away. Even among those who do commit for a while, some can be easily offended, get mad and leave never to be seen again. And when it comes to the remnant – those left when all the others have gone – you have to wonder how long they’re going to stick around if things get too uncomfortable.
Though the message, today, might seem pessimistic, the point is we need to avoid being any of these types of people. The only way we can accomplish that lofty goal is to truly set our eyes on the Messiah and His example. He said what the Father gave Him to say and He did what the Father told Him to do, regardless of what everyone else did or said. If we are going to follow Him, we may have to die to our appetite for loaves and fishes – those things we find exciting but don’t us anything. We must die to our appetites, our opinions and anything that might cause us to abandon the path He has set before us. It’s the hardest things any of us will ever have to do but, if we are to follow His example, we will have to walk this road that is designed to provoke us to die to self.