90 Days with Jesus, Day 22: John 6:1-15: When Jesus Refused to Be King
1Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. 3Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4The Jewish Passover Feast was near. 5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9″Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Well as you can see I am significantly behind schedule. I anticipate that I will be able to get back on track sometime this week. I am on vacation and not going anywhere so time is not really an issue this week. All I know is that today I spent time working in my garden, fiddling around the back yard, and visiting with family. What a truly blessed day it was. Anyhow, there’s other things to think of now.
This is a most significant episode in the Gospel of John. Jesus has a great opportunity before him to win people over to his side—and what he does works for a while. When it is all said and done the people Jesus fed were ready to come and make him king by force. These people were not going to take no for an answer. The implication, I think, is that that was the sort of King they wanted. Here is our King: Give us Lord, our daily Bread! Jesus really could have made a big impression on people, and he did, but this was not, I say this for lack of better words, satisfying to Jesus. So what does he do? They want to make him king because he gave them bread: He runs and hides in the mountains.
Inside this story there are many details that are laid out for the readers. Jesus was testing Philip even though Jesus knew what he was going to do for the people. Philip wisely answers that here we are confronted with a problem that money cannot solve: “Eight months wages will not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” No, this was not a problem that was going to be solved by money.
Then there’s Andrew who has something in mind, but I’m not sure what. If eight month’s wages will not buy enough for everyone to have a bite, then how far indeed will five loaves of bread and two small go? We could say that Andrew had faith, but what sort and in what? Honestly, what was he trying to do? Bruce says, ‘Andrew drew attention to it simply to underline its ludicrous inadequacy for so many hungry people’ (FF Bruce, John, 144). A joke? Maybe.
But in the hands of Jesus this meager offering amounted to something. In the hands of Jesus even something to inadequate manage to stifle the hunger pains, and the grumbling crowd. I might be inclined to say something rather cliché like, “Even the smallest offerings in the hands of the Lord can be used for a mighty purpose.” But I don’t think you would allow me to get away with it. Then again, the Lord ‘already had in mind what he was going to do’ so maybe there is more to this boy’s offering that meets the eye.
When dinner was over, all had eaten, all were satisfied and there was an abundance of bread pieces left over—enough, in fact, to fill twelve baskets. And I’m sure if I took the time to look the scholars would tell they were very large baskets. So they clean up their mess and they practice good stewardship: One basket for each of the twelve disciples. Jesus has already told us that he has food to eat that we know nothing of so there was no need for a thirteenth basketful of bread pieces.
Then the end: After the people saw the [miraculous] sign Jesus did they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ They saw the sign and guess what? They actually made the correct assumption about him: He was the Prophet who was to come into the world. This Prophet is spoken of by the Lord in Deuteronomy 18:
“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. 15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” 21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
However, even though they correctly identified Jesus as The Prophet who was to come into the world they missed the greater significance of why He came. Thus when Jesus deduced they were about to force a crown on his head he went and hid in the mountains. Jesus is no Bread King. He is no Bread prophet. So Jesus refused the crown that the people of earth offered him when he fed them bread. He refused. Just like he refused Satan’s offer during his wilderness trials. Later we see the true nature of Jesus. He will not accept a crown on the basis of his feeding people bread and fish, but he will accept the crown offered to him at Calvary. Strange. Very, very strange. Why do you suppose Jesus would not become king after such a sign?
It doesn’t seem to make sense. Really, it doesn’t. Here’s a way that Jesus can become king and avoid all the horror and misery the cross was sure to bring into his life. And yet he refused. He fled and hid. What we might guess that He is The Prophet and He is The King, but he will be crowned king for other reasons. He will be exalted as King in another venue. He will become King not by the force of a fed humanity’s will, but by his own willingness to lay down his life. He will become king not on our terms, but on his own terms. He will be crowned king not for reasons of which we approve, but for reasons of his own determination. He lays down His life and takes it up again. Jesus is not someone we can force to be or do anything that is contrary to His stated objective: To finish the work the Father had given him.
In his book He Leadeth Me, Walter Ciszek wrote, “This tendency to set acceptable conditions upon God, to seek unconsciously to make his will for us coincide with our desires, is a very human trait. And the more important the situation is, the more totally we are committed to it or the more completely our future depends upon it, then the easier it is for us to blind ourselves into thinking that what we want is surely what God must also want. We can see but one solution only, and naturally we assume that God will help us reach it…[B]ut we were created to do God’s will and not our own, to make our own wills conform to his and not vice versa” (69). This is a most important teaching to live by. We don’t have the right to crown Jesus king based on our ideas of Kingship. It is our responsibility to submit ourselves to the King Jesus is, and not to try to force him into the kind of king we wish him to be.
I hope this 22nd Day of 90 is Blessed for you by our King!
Soli Deo Gloria!