Do you know what a leader looks like? Would you know a king if you ever met one? The Gospel this week (John 6.1-21) is about kings and kingship – or in modern day terms about “leadership”. The world has its ideas and demands of what good leadership is about. And in a democracy, we reserve the right to call in new leadership and dismiss poor leadership. We will here all about that in the next few months through elections and the electoral process both here in Canada and down in the United States.
But let’s come back to the Gospel and the people whom Jesus fed in that lonely place for a moment. The Gospel notes, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6.14-15) People understood what Jesus was claiming about himself and who he was for Israel. The nation had not seen a sign like this since the days in the wilderness with Moses. People, having witnessed what Jesus had done, had their own expectations raised. The people were expecting Jesus as the Prophet God had promised, to be more; do more. The people were expecting the Prophet to bring back the good old days of David and Solomon. This is significant because they wanted to have their own kingdom back, and I suspect because they want to be great amongst the nations of the earth.
What they and the Church these days in North America often miss, is that we are different. We are not called to be like the other nations of the earth, only more glorious. As followers of the Lord Jesus, we are called by God to be A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2.9) In essence then, we are called to some more, something bigger something better that we might participate in the coming of the kingdom of God and at the same time, draw others into it as well.
It is not lost on me that these who went seeking the powerful and miraculous Jesus in the place where they had been blessed, where they had eaten and had their fill, to discover that Jesus and the 12 had left and moved on. They searched and searched for him until they found him on the other side of the Lake, unaware of what had transpired overnight between the 12 and Jesus. Jesus himself rejected the temptation to make a fantastic earthly kingdom in favour of the rule of his Father in the kingdom that is to come. Jesus rejected the idea of earthly leadership as he did when it was offered to him by Satan. This is why Jesus withdrew from the people and went to a lonely place and to watch his followers out on the lake who, without him were struggling to get where they needed to be next.
This is what makes the walk on the water so powerful. The Church gathered in that boat, struggling to learn to trust in the Lord in the rough water. There is another danger that the Church faces and that is thinking that we are on our own. Jesus is always watching, waiting and walking to us and reminding us that it really is him. The question for us is, “Will we let him into the boat?” Someone once quipped that, “If we took the Holy Spirit out of the Church, 95% of what we do would still go on.” The interesting thing is that Jesus, according to John, waited until he was invited into the boat by his disciples. It was not a matter of manners, but of choice. And in choosing to let him in they reached their goal immediately. So there is something important about the life of the Church and the need to recognize the import of the presence of the risen Christ being in our midst. Without him not only can we do nothing, as Church, as a holy nation and priesthood, we are nothing. It is in Christ that we are competent. It is in the presence of Christ that we live and move and have our being.
We must work to seek Christ our King and when we see him, serve those who are with him, in the least, the last, and the lost. After all, did Jesus say that whoever wants to be the greatest, the one who wants to be a leader, must be the last and servant of all?