Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taking Hold of the King

Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. (John 16:15)

Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going. (John 6:21)
Two different groups. Two different responses to Jesus. The first group tried to “take Him by force” — they wanted to make Him king, but they tried to do it by force. The second group “willingly received Him.”

The first group was from among those who had just been fed by the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. Afterwards they watched the disciples gather up the leftovers, twelve baskets full of scraps from what had originally been five barley loaves. “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world,” they said (v. 14), a reference to a prophecy from Moses about the Messiah who would come and rule over Israel.

These men were tired of the Roman oppression that had plagued Israel and were ready to do something about it. When they witnessed the miracle of bread Jesus performed in the wilderness — think Moses and the manna in the wilderness — they intended to “take Him by force.” The Greek word, harpazo, means to seize violently. They wanted to press Him into their political agenda, to use Him for their own plans. Jesus, however, perceived what they were about and would not allow Himself to be squeezed into their purposes.

The second group was the disciples. When Jesus went up into the mountain, the disciples went down to the sea where they got into a boat and set out toward Capernaum. It was now evening and Jesus had not yet come down. As the darkness fell, a strong wind came and the sea rose up. They had had been rowing hard for about three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the water, heading toward the boat. They were fearful, but Jesus comforted them, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they “willingly received” Him into the boat.

The Greek word for “receive” is lambano. It means to “take hold,” not seize violently or take by force, but as something that has been offered. Jesus had come and made Himself known to them. He offered them His presence. They gladly embraced this opportunity and took hold of Him, welcoming Him into the boat.

Now let’s compare the two groups. The first one wanted a kingdom. Jesus came announcing the kingdom of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). And indeed, Jesus came too be king. But the first group wanted to make Jesus and the kingdom all about themselves, their agenda, their timetable. They wanted it when and where and however it suited their own concerns. They would take Jesus by force, if necessary, to make Him be the king. But that was not a decision for them to make, and Jesus would not be their puppet.

The second group, the disciples, also wanted to see the kingdom. They, too, had witnessed the miracle of bread in the wilderness — they had been a part of it! They saw Jesus up close. They loved Him, followed Him, did whatever He told them. They did not try to force Jesus into anything. They understood that the kingdom, whatever it was, would be about Him and would be worth everything they had. They might have been reluctant to leave Him behind at nightfall and were certainly afraid when they saw His shadowy figure walking toward them on the water, but they were very glad when He identified Himself to them and they received Him into the boat.

The difference, then, is this: The first group wanted the kingdom; the second group, the disciples, wanted the King. It is the difference between taking hold by faith and trying to take hold by force. King Jesus will always respond to faith.