When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:14-15)
What’s the strangest scene in the entire Bible? The frogs falling from the sky? That’s a pretty good one. What about Balaam’s donkey turning around and demanding that Balaam stop hitting him? Sheesh. That would get your attention. Maybe Ezekiel’s vision of wheels with eyes all over them? Creepy, right?
I’ve always thought that one of the strangest scenes in the Bible is recorded in a comment the apostle John makes in chapter 6 of his gospel. Jesus had just performed the miracle of multiplying the loaves and fishes. From five pieces of bread and two small fish, Jesus feeds five thousand people and has enough leftovers for lunch the next day. The people are absolutely amazed by what they’ve seen. So much so that they declare as one, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world” (v. 14).
The people were so overwhelmed by what Jesus had done that they immediately agree together that Jesus must be the messiah—the long-awaited prophet-king who would come to rescue the people of God and rule over the world forever and ever. And yet, something so very strange was happening in their hearts. And Jesus saw it as it was happening.
John writes, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (v. 15). Wait… what? Did you catch that? They intended to make him king? So… if they wanted to make him their king it kind of seems like they were under the impression that he wasn’t yet their king. They seemed to think that he needed them to make him their king.
Maybe they thought that he still needed a crown or a robe or a throne in order to be a proper king—not realizing that his crown is power, his robe is heaven, and his throne is not of this earth. In fact, the earth is merely his footstool (Isa. 66:1). And what kind of king did they think he was going to be, exactly, if they thought they could take him by force and make him king? What kind of king would you be if your own subjects could take you by force and make you to do what they want you to do? That’s called a puppet king.
On the other hand… Don’t we all do this? Don’t we all try to force Jesus to be the kind of king we want him to be?
Don’t we all try to dictate to him when he’s going to be king, and what things in our life we will and won’t let him be king over? Don’t we all decide that we will only follow Jesus if he doesn’t demand too much of us? If he doesn’t ask us to step out into risky situations for the gospel? If he doesn’t call us out of our comfortable and self-centered lifestyle for kingdom causes? If he doesn’t point to our sin and say, “Turn. Turn from that. Why will you die?”
Jesus is not a tyrant king. He is a king who loves us enough to die for us. But he is also most definitely not a puppet king who will always approve and always agree with whatever we want him to do or be. He is most definitely not a king who will let us define him by our own preferences of how we think he should be. He said, “I AM that I am.” Which means, he defines himself. We can never invite him to get on board with our plan for our lives. If he is truly the king our only decision is whether we will get on board with his plan for the rescue and restoration of his world, or whether we will rebel and continue to contribute the decay of the world.
For far too long, I allowed myself to imagine that I defined what kind of king Jesus would be to me, and what parts of my life he would be given access to. I know many of you can relate. May we be people who invite and embrace the benevolent reign of Christ over every part of our lives.