Today’s reading is part of a longer narrative that stretches over two days of Jesus’ ministry. Right in the middle of the action we note a significant event—the people want to force Jesus to be their king.
The crowd’s reaction to the feeding of the five thousand with twelve baskets left over seems understandable: Deliverance is at hand. Jesus is just the man to overthrow the Roman occupiers and reinstate a kingdom bound by the law. Here is a king who can also take care of the physical needs of his loyal subjects—Jesus has bread-making on his resume! Why not force him to accept their adoration, their followership, their willingness to fight alongside him? What could go wrong, given the power of this convenient neighborhood messiah? No fault here!
One large problem: These newly zealous believers are trying to force him into their mold, to fit their preconceived notions of what God desires. Forged by years of revolutionary theology, these people remain self-serving with narrowly conceived notions of messiah. Perhaps unknowingly, they are trying to put God into a box by determining God’s nature and priorities. Another way of describing self-idolatry!
I understand their impulsive semi-adoration: How easy it is for me to recast Jesus into the kind of Savior I need just for myself! If it was only “me-and-you, Jesus,” and this salvation thing was some kind of game, I could get away with that attitude. But Jesus came to redeem the entire world for all of time. My self-idolatry is petty compared to the needs of the cosmos and the scope of God’s all-encompassing love for the world.
How dare I remake Jesus into a Bread King to serve only me! A grievous fault that requires yet another mea culpa!
Almighty and all-loving God, forgive me for missing the point: You love far more people than simply me! Amen.
The Bible is filled with the stories of imperfect people. David is a classic case. In Second Samuel he commits adultery, tries to cover it up, and then plots a murder. How can this be the same man who penned this week’s psalm, which decries the foolishness of people who act in a godless way? Like us, David was a fallen person who needed God’s extravagant mercy. In Ephesians we read of this same extravagance given through Christ, whose power can do what we cannot—namely redeem all of us who are also foolish and fallen. The Gospel author demonstrates the power of Jesus through what he describes as “signs,” which Jesus performed not primarily to amaze the onlookers but rather to point them to his identity as the Son of God.
• Read 2 Samuel 11:1-15. How often do you consider the ramifications of your decisions and actions on the wider body?
• Read Psalm 14. How frequently do you find yourself envisioning a life free of constraints? What does that life look like?
• Read Ephesians 3:14-21. How does “being rooted and grounded in love” manifest itself in your life?
• Read John 6:1-21. When have you tried to force God into a mold of your own making to serve your needs?
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