A few months back, I embarked on a journey of studying the life of Jesus intimately through the eyes of His most beloved disciple, John. It’s not been easy especially because the book of John is so loaded, almost every verse can arrest you. Needless to say, this is taking a while.
Over the weekend, I have been meditating on one particular verse and have not been able to get past it. It gives me such deep insight into the mind of Christ and His character. Of course, I decided that I had to share this insight with you today…
This is the verse I’m talking about:
Then Jesus, realizing that they were about to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.
Now, a little back story, alright? For context…
This happens just after the incident on the mountain where Jesus miraculously fed more than 5000 people with just five loaves and two fish. This marvelous miracle on the mountain wasn’t His first. He had, by now, become known as a Miracle-worker, a Rabbi and a Teacher. In fact, that’s exactly why He was followed by such a huge crowd. They wanted to hear what He had to say, they wanted to experience a miracle, they were fascinated by Him. You have to understand a lot of these Jews who followed Jesus were longing and waiting for a Messiah — for their promised Savior. Was Jesus going to be that Savior? They didn’t know for sure. All they knew is that this Man from Nazareth was someone they were attracted to and mesmerized by. So, they followed Him up to this mountain.
They were tired, exhausted from the heat and hungry. There was no mall with a food court close by. They were famished and far away from their homes. At this point, Jesus took a little boy’s lunch, that his mother had probably meticulously packed for him. It was just five barley loaves and two fish — just enough to keep the boy fed. Jesus gave thanks to God and asked His disciples to distribute this tiny meal among the five thousand. It was a ridiculous request but they were familiar by now with these kinds of requests from the Teacher and so they just followed through.
It was an astounding miracle of multiplication. Incredibly, every person on that mountain had more than enough to eat and there were still 12 baskets of food left over. How could this be humanly possible? It was an amazing feat and the people marveled at Jesus. Verse 14 says that when people saw this particular miracle, they started to say amongst themselves, “Truly this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”. They felt convinced He was their promised hope and insisted He become their King. But that’s when John documents something important about Jesus that captivated me: v.15. Then Jesus, realizing that they were about to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.
Jesus basically realized these people wanted to forcefully make Him their King and instead of giving in to their requests, chose to retrieve into solitude. I didn’t quite understand this. I had so many questions the first time I read this.
- “Jesus, if they’ve realized who you are and want to make you King, you’ve just saved the next three years of ‘ministry’, right?”
- “Why are you rejecting such a great offer?”
- “If you really wanted to be their Savior, wouldn’t it be easier to do it as their King?”
I couldn’t wrap my head around His desire to retreat from people who wanted more of Him. That’s when I felt the Holy Spirit bringing on an important teaching moment.
As usual, I’d like to share the notes I made to myself in my journal:
1. Jesus wasn’t interested in the position of a King. He was more focused on His purpose on earth. He cared more about His function than a fancy title.
Note to Self: You need to be so focused on what you are called to do that you’re never distracted by a lucrative position or title that may sound really attractive. You need to really be aware of what good opportunities are keeping you away from your greater purpose.
2. Jesus wasn’t going to succumb to this flattering proposition even if it came by force. He knew this was a distraction and didn’t confuse it with God’s plan for His life on earth.
Note to Self: You need to be so much more discerning when things come your way. It’s easy to get carried away with recognition from man and to confuse it with God’s plan for you. Approval from God is what you need more than accolades from man.
3. Jesus withdrew from the crowd to be by Himself. He did not stay back a bit to soak in all the attention. He chose solitude at a time when people wanted to be around Him the most.
Note to Self: You don’t really mind attention do you, Becky? But guess what? It’s temporary and can be such a distraction from your purpose. Choose to retire to the secret place more often, especially when there’s a temptation to be around people and bask in their appreciation. When God uses you in a public place, immediately make time for the secret place.
4. Lastly, Jesus wasn’t pursuing a fascinating purpose and He knew very well that it involved death. Becoming King now would’ve been the perfect way to avoid death and take a short cut. But He made the hard choice. He chose solitude over salute, pain over praise and purpose over position.
Note to Self: Pursuing your purpose is not easy and definitely involves death to self. It is easy to avoid that pain and just take a shorter path to what may seem like a position of success. But, Becky, remember that Kingdom success is only measured by the position of your heart.
I’m so deeply encouraged by these small insights that John gives us into the life of Jesus. He clearly could’ve been King without the Cross but He didn’t choose that. He chose the Cross because He knew His Purpose. He had you and me in mind. He reminded Himself of the millions of unborn people from the future who would make Him King in their hearts and change the world through love. He knew that was far more valuable. He had the big picture in mind and thought about posterity.
My prayer today is for you and me is that we are more purpose-led like our beautiful Savior, Jesus.