16 That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” 21 Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. 23 Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
There was one thing at the end of yesterday’s reading that I want to bring up because it relates to today’s passage. After the miracle meal, the crowd wanted to make Jesus king by force. Think about that for a minute. How could a crowd force someone to become king? If they managed to somehow invest absolute authority in a person, couldn’t that person then use that new power to undo what the mob had just done? This whole thing makes no sense because the rule of a king and the rule of a mob are mutually exclusive. A group of people could only convince someone to be their leader if that person were willing to take on the responsibility and then, having been made king, the group immediately would become subject to what the king said, losing their power in the process. Right?
Well, not really. It is always the case that people are governed by consent. What about dictators? There hasn’t been a single regime, however brutal, that could literally coerce compliance from its entire populace. The numbers would never add up. Every human government, however bad, has some number of people who actively participate in maintaining its power, and some other (much larger group) who go along without offering any meaningful resistance. They may not like their government, but their failure to resist is its own vote of complicity with the given regime. Government is always by consent. This is the logic behind the old adage, “people always get the government they deserve.” I don’t know how completely true that sentiment is, but it has some truth to it because of the consent required for any government to remain in power.
So what does this have to do with Jesus? The crowd wanted to make Jesus king on their own terms, based on their ideas of who he was and what he was about. The king they would have made Jesus would have been a reflection of the sort of government they deserved, one focused on free food and violent resistance to Rome. Jesus refused to be defined on their terms or have his mission coopted by them, do he disappeared and walked across the lake to get away from them. When they find him, Jesus warns them about being too focused on perishable things and tells them they failed to understand the meaning of the miracle meal.
And we still do this same sort of thing. We tend to think of Jesus as being on our side, supporting our cause, lending his divine power to all our wants and schemes. But Jesus does the same thing with us as he did with them – he runs and hides. Jesus won’t be king on our terms. He will only be king on his own terms. The question is whether we are willing to be subjects under such a rule.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.