So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king. (John 6:15)
When Yeshua heard the people acclaiming Him as “the Prophet,” He neither confirmed nor denied the people’s acclamations. He had always tried to avoid popular messianic acclaim and crowds of that size.
Herod Antipas arrested John the Immerser because he feared his large crowds might foment an insurrection. What would Antipas think of an assembly of five thousand people gathered around a colleague of John the Immerser—and only a week or so after Antipas beheaded the Immerser? The crowd’s sudden attempt to acclaim Yeshua as King made the situation politically dangerous. Tiberias was just a short distance down the coast. News of a crowd of five thousand gathering around this mysterious John-the-Immerser-like character would have certainly alarmed Herod Antipas. Antipas’ paranoia had some merit. A crowd of five thousand rallying behind a messianic leader had explosive potential in the revolutionary Galilee.
Josephus the Galilean wrote, “The Galileans are conditioned for war from their infancy, and have been always very numerous; nor has the country ever been short on men of courage, or lacked a large number of them.” The revolutionary Zealot movement had grown so large and popular that Josephus considered the Zealots a fourth sect of Judaism along with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. A revolt seemed inevitable. Charged with messianic and apocalyptic fervor, the Zealots prepared for war and waited only for a definitive moment to unite their various terrorist organizations together and begin the wars of Messiah. They needed only the arrival of a charismatic leader who could rally the Jewish people together—preferably a messiah. Their movement marched under the slogan, “God alone reigns over Israel!”—a message dangerously similar to the Master’s gospel message, “The reign of God is at hand!” Inevitably, people confused the two slogans, and the Zealots of the Galilee rallied behind Yeshua.
Darkness had fallen on the lakeshore. The Zealots in the crowd of five thousand began to stir up the multitude. “Perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king,” Yeshua acted quickly to defuse the situation.
Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. (Matthew 14:22)
Yeshua knew that the crowd teetered toward declaring Him Messiah with or without His permission. A violent insurrection seemed possible. The Master knew that, somehow, He and the disciples had to escape the multitude. He wanted to get back to the privacy of Simon Peter’s home in Capernaum, but He did not want five thousand people showing up the next day. To get the disciples out of danger, He forced them back into the boat and sent them away while He stayed behind to disperse the crowd. The disciples reluctantly boarded the boat in the darkness, carrying with them twelve baskets of bread.
“After getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum” (John 6:17). By this maneuver, Yeshua led the crowd to believe that He was staying behind with them on that side of the lake. He actually planned on privately rejoining the disciples in Capernaum, far away from the crowd of five thousand.