In John 6, it describes a 2-day period where Jesus ministered to 3 different groups of followers. With each group he ministered differently and he required different things. There are some lessons we can learn from these interactions. This chapter caused me to ask what type of Jesus follower am I?
In John 6:1-15, you find 5000+ men who were hungry. This count doesn’t include the women and children. They came out from the city to the desert to hear Jesus. They had heard he did amazing things and taught with authority. As the day went on, they got hungry. I admire all these people hiking out to the wilderness, but only 1 boy planned and brought a lunch of bread and fish. Jesus did a miracle by multiplying that lunch so that everyone had something to eat.
When this 1 day meeting was over, Jesus left. There was no second meeting. This has always struck me as odd. Here was an enormous crowd with great teaching and miracles. Sounds like a week long revival should have started! It says in John 6:15 that the people wanted to make Him king by force and he refused and left. He was not into following people’s demands.
What commitment level was required by this group of people? Not high. They had to come to the desert to his meeting and listen to his message. But beyond that, I don’t see where Jesus required anything of them. He met them where they were at and didn’t turn them away.
Meeting people’s basic and obvious needs is an entry point to invite people to deeper levels of commitment. Needs like food, clothes, healings, miracles should be given because it gives us a chance to show them Jesus. But it is important to realize that this type of ministry is not enough. Jesus did not spend all of his time doing this type of ministry. In this chapter he had an enormous crowd of people and after 1 great miracle filled ministry he shut down the meeting and left. He used it to see who would follow him for something deeper. We see this call to go deeper in the second group.
What do group 1 followers look like? They follow Jesus when there are benefits to them that require low commitment.
When Jesus left, he went to the opposite side of the lake. It says that the next day the people realized where he was and followed him.
Jesus said to them, “Let me make this very clear, you came looking for me because I fed you by a miracle, not because you believe in me. Why would you strive for food that is perishable and not be passionate to seek the food of eternal life, which never spoils? I, the Son of Man, am ready to give you what matters most, for God the Father has destined me for this purpose.” (verse 26)
Jesus said follow me for who I am and not what I can physically give to you. He would no longer give them any physical bread and demanded they eat of Him. He said, “The one who eats my body and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” (verse 56). This on the surface seems disgusting, but it was a call to take all he stands for and to follow him. He went on, “I am the living Bread that comes from heaven. Eat this Bread and you will live forever!” (verse 58)
Notice how Jesus demanded something of them he didn’t in the first group. I am not sure they even fully understood what he was asking. Either way, most of the people in this group stopped following him. “And so from that time on many of the disciples turned their backs on Jesus and refused to be associated with him.” (verse 66).
What do group 2 followers look like? They have a desire to follow Jesus but when the commitment gets too high or hard they stop. This is especially true when they don’t understand what Jesus is doing and where he is going. It was hard for this group to follow on faith alone.
After the second group left, there were only 12 disciples left. Jesus in verse 67 said, “And you—do you also want to leave?” Jesus didn’t lower his demands, apologize, or in any other way make his demands easier so he wouldn’t lose the 12 too.
Peter replied in verse 68, “But Lord, where would we go? No one but you gives us the revelation of eternal life.”
What do group 3 followers look like? This group had already given up everything. They left careers, their families, all for the promise of following the Messiah. They gave it all up with no other promise but eternal life and walking with Jesus! The commitment level of this third group was high!
What Type of Jesus Follower am I?
I have to ask myself, am I a Christian for the benefits, a deeper walk, or a commitment that will cost me everything? Some days I have to admit it might be better if I don’t answer!
* All verses are from The Passion Translation