By Akin Ojumu

Public opinion is a powerful force that shapes government policies in most civilized societies. Because the viability of a political career hinges on the goodwill of the people, politicians invest considerable amounts of money to assess their public approval. Periodically, elected government officials like to feel the pulse of the citizenry to gauge the public’s view of their job performance at a particular point in time.

While it’s true that the people of Palestine in the time of Jesus didn’t have scientifically objective tools to measure the approval of the man who called Himself the Messiah, there are plenty of anecdotes in the Bible from which we can glean moments when Jesus’ popularity shot through the roof and those times when His approval rating dropped like a rock.

For much of His 3-year ministry, Jesus had a favorability rating that would have put the nail in the coffin of any aspiring politician’s political ambition. There was nothing attractive about Him, nothing to make the people want to associate with Him. One look at Him, they spat and turned away in revulsion. He was a nuisance and the scummiest of the scum of the earth.

To their stony hearts, His Words were infuriating. His strident call for repentance and turning away from wickedness was thought to be humiliating. Even His goods deeds, they painted as evil. When He healed the sick, they railed against Him for violating the Tradition of the Elders. For setting a demon-possessed man free, the apostate religious leaders accused Him of operating by the power of Beelzebub. Upon hearing Him teach, His own Nazareth kin got irate and ran Him out of town to the brow of a hill so that they could throw Him down the cliff to His death.

Great multitudes followed Him wherever He went. But they were mostly either gawkers and thrill seekers drawn to the flavor of the week or spies and snitches looking to catch Jesus say something incriminating. The few instances His stock rose in the eyes of the people were times He tended to their temporal needs.

One of those occasions was at the wedding in Cana. Just as wine makes the heart glad, anyone who turns 60 gallons (210 liters) of water into exquisite wine is bound to turn an instantaneous celebrity. Jesus’ favorability rating hit an all-time high after turning water into wine in Cana.

On only two other occasions did Jesus’ favorability reached that height. In both instances, Jesus miraculously fed multitudes of people with a few loaves of bread and fishes. Unlike never before in their lives, they were treated to an excess of food with baskets of leftovers. They got so full they wanted to make it a permanent feature. To ensure a steady supply of bread and fishes, they decided to take Jesus by force and crown him their king.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26).

Seeing through their charade, Jesus wouldn’t let them. He knew the people weren’t really seeking after Him but after the loaves of bread. Their favorable opinion of Him as a result of their full stomachs meant nothing to Him. He knew that the same people would soon reject, denounce, and crucify Him in a few days hence.

Tragically, the same empty and hypocritical worship that characterized the Jews of Jesus’ day is emblematic of Christianity today. Many honor Him with their lips, but their heart is far from Him. These loaf of bread Christians seek Jesus for the signs and wonders, but not because of deep devotion. What they are after is the blessings and miracles, and not obedience to His precepts. These are waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, and uprooted.


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