Christ held an impromptu open air meeting that drew a huge crowd to a deserted place. One thing that was true then, and is still true today, a crowd loves a crowd, and a crowd draws a crowd! Some came to be healed. Some came out of curiosity to see this One who was becoming such a celebrity. Everyone had their own particular reasons for coming. Mark 6:34b tells us, “He had compassion on them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.”
It is well known that Christ fed five thousand men plus the women and the children that day. But this blog entry is concerned with the aftermath. The crowd went home with their bellies filled with food. The disciples were sent to the other side of the lake. Christ withdrew to a mountain to pray. It didn’t take long for the crowds to begin to gather again. In fact, many of the same people who had been at that impromptu open air meeting made their way to the other side of the lake to find Jesus again.
Thronging crowds! Huge popularity! Approval rating through the roof! Even a groundswell of support to declare him King! Any decent publicist would tell you, “Strike while the iron is hot and make the most of your 15 minutes of fame!” Evidently, Christ did not have a good Hollywood handler. Instead, he confronted the crowd for the very reasons they wanted to see him. John 6:22-71 report to us the results of this next open air meeting. Jesus confronted their motivations: Food (prosperity teaching?), entertainment (self worship?), healing (who doesn’t want to be healthy?), having perceived needs met (self-improvement?). How many came to give glory to God? How many desired true spiritual teaching? How many really cared about the message Christ spoke? Twelve (and a handful more) stayed with him, but even one of them was a devil (John 6:71).
How many will throng to hear a famous speaker today? Some preachers enjoy brief periods of fame and they will be accountable to God for how they use their ministry. Will they teach the Word, even if it costs them fame? Will they be responsible for leading their hearers into errors like the Charismatic movement, or the Prosperity Gospel, self-esteem theology or some form of emotionalism or mysticism? Will they be faithful and grounded in the Scriptures alone? How will they handle the fame (and fortune) they generate? How will they deal with those who come only to be part of the crowd? How about the masses who feed on the emotionalism generated? How about the ones who come to see a gospel show? The Fabulous Forum, former home of the Lakers, is now a church, the “Faithful Central Bible Church”. This is where Britney Spears made her famous religious “decision” in what has been described as “a powerful, emotional service” about five years ago. A simple Google search will tell you what you need to know about that “decision” and that “church”.
Most of the time, the Word of God given in truth will repel a crowd, instead of draw it. There are isolated incidents in ancient or modern history where we find men and women gathering in large numbers for the sake of truth and righteousness. As Reformed Baptists, if God is pleased to grant us large numbers, or even relatively small ones, let us make sure we do our duty as ministers of the gospel to give them the entire counsel of the Word of God when they come. Even our small gatherings present temptations for compromise in various ways. We must be faithful to the Scriptures, and preach the truths we profess to believe, as found in our Confession, and not rely on the popular methods and techniques of our day. It will likely keep our numbers relatively small, and keep us from being popular, but what good is it to draw a crowd – if they come and are not fed?Steve Marquedant Sovereign Grace Reformed Baptist Church Ontario, California www.sgbc-ontario.us