Jesus does these amazing miracles, and of course, the people are ready to follow him. Of course, they want to make him their king. He can provide an abundance for them. He can heal the sick. He’s amazing. He’s fun to watch. Imagine having a ruler who can make food and wine appear out of thin air. One who can heal the sick. One who can walk on water. Life would be full of promise!
The disciples must have been thrilled. The people were on board. They were figuring out that Jesus is the Messiah, the rightful king. Finally everything was falling into place and Jesus would soon be on the throne, just as they had been waiting for. This was beyond exciting.
So, I imagine how confused they must have been when Jesus resists being made king, and goes off by himself.
Jesus knows the hearts and minds of the people. He knows they want to make him king for the wrong reasons. They still don’t understand. They still don’t believe. They are still looking out for themselves. So he teaches them a little more about what it means to be his follower. It is NOT what they expect. Many leave.
So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus according to John 6?
1. Following means seeing beyond the physical
Miracle – Feeding 5000. Jesus is Lord over the physical. He can multiply a little fish and a little bread into an abundant meal for 5000 men with food to spare.
Miracle – Jesus walks on water. Again, Jesus is Lord over the physical. He can walk on the water, defying the law of gravity, doing the impossible.
Second part of miracle – as soon as they let him on the boat, they immediately reach the shore. Once again, defying physical laws.
There are no physical boundaries with God, for it is God who created the physical world. Most of the time, Jesus operates within the constraints of the physical world during his earthly life. But sometimes he does not. We call these miracles. Why does he do miracles? To teach his followers to look beyond the physical, into the spiritual. To show that the physical cannot contain God. To cause his followers to have to look outside of themselves. To show that there is a whole dimension outside of what we know. Though we are at home in this physical world and it seems like everything to us, we need to not just be aware of the spiritual world, but to be spiritually residing there. To constantly look beyond what we see into what we know through faith to be true.
2. To have enough, even when it seems we won’t.
5000 were fed, with food to spare.
Jesus provides. He always cares for us. Even when it seems impossible, he provides. And though Jesus is not bound by physical laws, he understands our physical needs. Though it was so much more important that the disciples understand their spiritual needs, Jesus knew their physical needs and met them. And he used their physical needs to teach them of their spiritual needs.
Likewise, Jesus meets our physical needs with abundance. Verse 35. If we believe, we will never lack. He will more than meet our spiritual needs. He will always fulfill our spiritual longings.
3. Following requires belief.
Verse 29. Believing is how we follow. It is the work we are called to do. Verse 36: belief takes more than just seeing Jesus and acknowledging him to be something special. It means putting full trust in him. Making ourselves nothing in order to acknowledge that he is everything.
4. Following is rewarded with eternal life.
Being forever his. What an amazing promise we find in verse 39-40. No one who is a true follower will be lost. Jesus’ job is to keep us in the fold. Just like the parable of the lost sheep. Not one of us is too small or unimportant or too messed up to have Jesus’ full care. True belief is forever belief.
5. Following means abiding in Jesus.
The point of Jesus’ teaching in verses 53-58 is that not only does Christ give the bread of life to men, but he himself is that bread. Therefore, it is in a personal relationship with him that our souls are fed and satisfied.
“Eating the flesh and drinking the blood” is a metaphor, meaning to believe on him. Salvation is by the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Through his death comes life.
It is easy for us to read these verses and equate them to the Lord’s Supper. We should remember that Jesus does not institute the Lord’s Supper for another year. Rather than these verses being about the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Supper is about what John 6 is talking about. The Lord’s Supper is celebrating and remembering this sacrifice that Jesus is teaching about, and honoring the relationship that is found only in Jesus.
Jesus is speaking of the fact that he will make atonement by His death and will give life to those who believe on him name.
Just as good food and drink sustain physical life, Jesus sustains his followers spiritually, as He is the real spiritual food and drink.
This means partaking in a mutual, abiding relationship with Christ.
Followers enjoy intimacy with and security in Jesus.
6. Following can’t be faked.
To follow Jesus means hearing and seeing some things we really like and other things we don’t. There are “hard teachings”. The message of Jesus is offensive. It tells me I am a sinner deserving of eternal punishment. Those who are following Jesus for the wrong reasons will fall away eventually, when faced with enough of this offensive teaching.
Verse 66 – many left. Many were driven away by finding out that the Messiah was not what they wanted him to be. Judas would remain, but his unbelief would be proven too.
In contrast, we see true belief.
Verses 67-69 – so beautiful! Though they still did not fully understand, and wouldn’t until the resurrection, they confess their faith and their dependence on Him.