Perhaps there is no better time than right now to take a look at the value Jesus placed on political or governing power.
“After 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.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” John 6:14-15
In modern terms we would have to note that Jesus’ free food and free health care, rather healing, was so successful that the people wanted to come and make him king by force. No election needed.
If Jesus had thought for a moment that political ruling power was what man needed or was what He wanted to implement then certainly this was not a moment to withdraw from.
Jesus, though, withdrew.
This moment where they wanted to make Jesus king was really the exception. As I read through the Gospel accounts I see that most often Jesus pressed his message and works to the point that the people sought to kill him as we see in this passage.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.
As you see in this passage Jesus was known and sought after by people from Jerusalem, Judea, Idumea, regions across the Jordan, Galilee and around Tyre and Sidon. He had been in these places and now had withdrawn in the face of those who would kill Him.
Reading the Bible from a questioning mindset, as I often do, I asked myself, why is God withdrawing from men who want to kill him? Isn’t He more powerful than them?
So he withdraws from those who would kill him and withdraws from those who would make him king. Why?
We begin to see Jesus’ plan and purpose when Mark describes the scene in his chapter previous to what we call His triumphal entry.
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Do feel the tension in this passage? The disciples knew of many growing threats against Jesus. They were afraid of going up to Jerusalem. Jesus on the other hand is “leading the way”. Wow!
Jesus knows what is going to happen according to His perfect plan. They will “flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Jesus knew that striking dead those who opposed him and God would not accomplish His glorious plans. Jesus knew that being king of a people that were slaves to sin would not change anything. Jesus knew that to change man he had to go to the cross. He lead the way to Jerusalem, to His death, to His resurrection!
Jesus died and paid the price for man’s sin. Those who believe are born again in Christ. They are no longer slaves to sin. God’s plan for their lives is to transform them into the likeness of His Son. They do not need a better political king or president to change their lives.
What about those who do not believe or have not yet believed. Would Jesus want to be their king if they are still slaves to sin? Are we as believers called to transform them via political or governing power? No and no. The price has been paid, the path has been opened to all who would believe to enter into the kingdom of God. There is no king, president or earthly government that is going to redeem those who do not know or wish to enter the kingdom. The exercise of earthly authority over men and women who are slaves to sin will always be very imperfect and even evil.
Jesus demonstrated that political power is no substitute for the power of the Gospel to transform lives. While God gives government to restrain evil and promote good, as followers of Jesus who withdrew from being just an earthly political king our main task is to live forth Christ in our lives and share the Gospel in such a way that others are drawn to Jesus, eternal king of all that is seen and unseen.
Stephen Orla Searfoss