The biggest reason people followed Jesus wasn’t because of what he taught. In fact, most probably wished Jesus would stop talking because every time he talked he upset them. People followed Jesus because of His miracles. Because He healed the sick. and fed them. We all like free healthcare and free food.
“Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. John 6:10-11
This was such an impactful miracle that it is the only miracle that is recorded in all four eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Once the people realized what Jesus had just done, they responded exactly how you would expect:
“After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, He withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” John 6:14-15
What the Jews wanted more than anything else was a political and military ruler that could defeat the Romans. They were ready to join His army and that’s why they tried to force Him to become their king.
As things progressed, the crowds grew more frustrated. Again, the crowds literally wanted to make Jesus their king, and he disappeared. So they went after him.
“So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.” John 6:24
When they caught up with Jesus, He said to them, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” John 6:24-26
Jesus saw straight through them. They weren’t interested in the Kingdom of God, they just wanted a free meal. That ended up being a real sticking point between Jesus and the crowds because He performed legitimate signs and wonders to prove His divinity. But they weren’t interested in getting to know the Blesser so much as they wanted His blessings. They weren’t interested in the Giver, they just wanted the gifts.
“But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)” John 6:61-64
They wanted to follow Jesus on their terms, they wanted Jesus to give them what they wanted. As Jesus continually reminded them, it doesn’t work like that. Jesus did not come to be a genie in a bottle who would grant magic wishes to anyone who said a magic prayer. Jesus came to do something much more majestic.
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:65-69
We all need to ask ourselves why we follow Jesus. Has the Word been sown on good soil? Are we bearing fruit “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
“The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the Word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word that is sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the Word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the Word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful.
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:14-20