I'm fascinated by Jesus' relationship with the crowd. He taught the crowd, healed the crowd, fed the crowd, was moved with compassion by the crowd. The crowd loved his miracles and would not leave him alone, so much so that he did not have time to eat, and his mother thought he was losing his mind.
But Jesus wasn't enamored with the crowd. He didn't play to the crowd. Sometimes he hid from the crowd. From time to time he even said things that made the crowd scatter.
After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand he took the bread that had just been multiplied and said, "Unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you can have no part of me." It is a probing statement that touches a raw nerve. Essentially, "If you are only here for my miracles but aren't interested in me, then rather leave."It is a crisis for the crowd. The crowd is fickle. The crowd is purged from 5000 to 12.
This piece of the Gospels is deeply challenging for any pastor or preacher. Who doesn't want a crowd? Who doesn't want their church to grow? Who doesn't preach with the question in the back of their minds, "Will preaching this truth empty the church?"
From time to time, it is important to bring the crowd to a crisis. Even if that means the crowd shrinks a little. I believe there is a way to bring tough truth skilfully. Better a scalpel than a blunt butter knife! I believe we are to preach the blessings of the Gospel more than we preach its demands.I believe we are to preach and pastor with patient respect for people in process.
However, if we do not bring the crowd to a crisis from time to time, the crowd may grow, but it will not be growing with disciples.