Posted by: gbake783 | October 25, 2011

Luke 9:10-17

I remember a session from pre-marital counseling. The pastor said to me solemnly, “Now, Greg, I want you to know something. Sometimes your wife will cry, but she won’t know why she’s crying.” Shocked, I looked toward my wife-to-be for a denial. “Sometimes,” she sympathized, “you just need a good cry.”

The heart mystifies – we question even our own motivations, desires, and emotions. I suppose I shouldn’t be hard on my wife not knowing why she’s crying when I often wonder about my own motivations. In the gospels, Jesus reveals the hidden motivations of many who follow Him. And when Jesus exposes the crowds’ motivation, we see ourselves.

In Luke 9:10-17 Jesus transforms 5 loaves and two fish into a meal fully sufficient for ten to fifteen thousand people. This miracle and the activities that followed were so important that all four gospel writers to record it. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the same basic story, each adding three or four unique details (I place little exegetical significance over which gospel writer may have recorded the account first). These three tell the story from the apostles’ perspective. John, however, tells the story from the crowd’s perspective. And in John 6 we see Jesus lovingly pointing out for the crowds their own motivations. It takes a couple miracles, a sermon, and a confrontation, but the public went away knowing “the thoughts and intents” of their hearts.

John begins chapter 6 by recounting the miracle of feeding the 5,000 men and then we pick up some very intriguing details regarding the crowd’s response. Surely this is the Messiah, they reasoned. Afterall, Isaiah 25:6 predicts, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food.” Jesus would be their King – His opinion on the matter was irrelevant (6:15a). So Jesus withdrew himself not once (6:15b), but twice (6:22-25).

At this point Jesus begins His confrontation, but it’s worth noting whom Jesus is confronting. These people are neither Pharisees nor skeptics looking to catch Jesus in a trap. The pursuing crowds have abandoned everyday activities to get to Him. American Christians can hardly roll themselves out of bed on Sunday mornings to pursue Christ. Some don’t even go that far, preferring rather to click on the television to get their “Jesus” fix. Twenty-first century American Christians would probably find the crowds’ following extreme to the point of embarrassment. Yet, Jesus was disinterested in their rabid pursuit.

Jesus wants a certain type of follower.

The crowds track Jesus to the other side of the lake and Jesus greets them with a probing assertion, “Truly, truly, you are not seeking me because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (6:26). It’s generally a good idea not to assume on people’s motives – Who can really know the heart? But this is the God-Man. He’s not assuming; He’s proclaiming. And this condemnation launches Jesus into a dialogue that both offends and repels the crowds. He offends their sensibilities (6:61), exposes their true motives (6:64), and reveals the source of true discipleship (6:65). The crowd, so eager to make Him King just a few minutes earlier, filters away. Many leave and never return (6:66).

These crowds are no different than the ones today. People often seek Jesus for help: my marriage is falling apart, my kids don’t respect me, my finances are in ruin, my happiness is gone. And people should seek Jesus for help with those very things as these difficulties are often God’s prodding. Yet, as is often the case, when people seek Jesus for help, the response they receive is unexpected and offensive. We seek Christ only to learn that we are the problem. All the noise around us should cause an inward assessment, not an outward one.

A mother once appeared on my doorstep – her teenage son was ranting and raving. She escaped her home and fled to mine with this question, “You’re a youth pastor, right?” I said yes. She responded, “I need you to help me with my son.” I said as lovingly as I could, “I probably can’t help you right now with your son because he doesn’t want to listen. But I can help you with you.” And then I went on to describe the gospel. She fumed, “I come to you asking for help with my son and all you can talk about is me. All this gospel mumbo jumbo . . . .” She then said something revealing before stomping out of my house, “This is exactly what the other pastor said!” Her apparent need revealed her real need – she needed the Spirit’s regenerating power through the gospel. She was offended when Jesus didn’t help her the exact way she wanted to be helped.

So what is the proper attitude when coming to Christ? Jesus turns to the apostles and asks, “Do you want to go, as well?” And Peter speaks for all, “You have the words of eternal life.” In other words, Peter says, “Where else can we go? Your Word is what we need.” And that’s the attitude we need when approaching Christ. “Lord, you have what I need. And even if you tell me something that brings me face-to-face with my sin, your word is what I need.” I guess it goes back to what Jesus told the crowds: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life” (6:26).

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