4 : 4 April 2005

Patricia M. Pope

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15, NIV)


We are all well aware of Christ's humility if we look no further than the fact that He allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter as prophesied by Isaiah (53:7).

While this is the most obvious example of Christ's humility found in Scripture, there are others such as the passage cited above in which Jesus' miraculous feeding of the 5,000 is recounted.

When everyone had eaten the meal that was provided for them with a mere five loaves of barley and two fish, Jesus instructed the disciples to gather up the leftovers.

The people were amazed at what they had just witnessed--Jesus feeding so many with so little. It was then that they decided He must be the one whose coming had been foretold - "the Prophet" (v. 14).

After perceiving that the crowd wanted to seize Him and make Him their king, Jesus went away to a mountain by Himself. The Greek word translated here as "seize" is harpazo, which can also mean to snatch or lead away forcibly. So determined were the people to have a king, that they were willing to take Jesus by force. Yet, Jesus would have none of it. Instead, He withdrew from them. The other Gospel writers simply say that Jesus went away to pray.


Now, could Jesus have easily given in and become king? Of course, but instead He remained focused on the Father's will, which was first and foremost to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). In fact, Jesus would later tell Pilate that His kingship was not of this world (John 18:36). Although in due time, Jesus would come to be revered as the King of Kings, God's plan did not include nor would it be fulfilled by Jesus grasping for power and taking glory for Himself by obtaining an earthly kingdom. Thus, rather than short-circuiting the Father's plan, Jesus chose to go away before the people could force Him into kingship.


How unlike you and me. Although we may never be forced into a position of such high standing, how often are we presented with opportunities that are appealing - a better paying job, a chance for a little bit of limelight, a relationship that we've longed for or even something illicit in the form of "…the mild seductions of friends, the defiant pride of the rebellious heart." Whatever the case may be, when enticing opportunities are presented, how often do we withdraw to the mountain, so to speak, and pray?


No matter what we are faced with, whether good or evil, the question becomes, how will we respond? Do we even consider forgoing what we want if it is not in the Father's will for us or do we instead rationalize our choices until we convince ourselves we are acting in our best interest? Sometimes we even go so far as to speak for God: "I know this is God's will", when in fact we have either not consulted Him or waited for His response.

This is an age old dilemma. Recall the scene in the garden: Adam had been instructed that he was free to eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told him that if he did partake of this particular tree, he would die. Thus, God made His will known to Adam; it was for his protection that God admonished him about this particular tree. Yet, at the opportune moment, the serpent questioned Eve and led her astray: "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?... You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1, 4-5). After seeing how good the fruit looked and that it had a positive benefit (it was good for food), Eve took some, rationalizing that it couldn't possibly be bad for her. She then gave some to Adam who knew better than to eat it, and unfortunately, the rest is history.


If truth be told, we often do the same thing. Something is presented, and already knowing right from wrong, we decide that it wouldn't be so bad for us. Somehow we think we've found some loophole of which God is not aware. Like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we see what appears pleasing to the sight and potentially good for us. What we don't always see (or choose not to see) are the pitfalls and so we forge ahead throwing caution to the wind. Very seldom are we willing to give up that which seems so appealing in order to tread down a seemingly rougher road, or at the very least, one that is less alluring. Yet, this is exactly what our Savior did. Not only would Jesus pass up the chance at having an earthly kingdom, He did so knowing that He would face persecution and a horrible death on a cross.


In fact, more than once Jesus faced the temptation to chuck it all and bypass the cross. In the desert, Satan tempted Jesus with an offer of having all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would worship him (see Luke 4:1-13). However, for Jesus and His followers so much more glory awaited them on the other side of His agony, that He stayed the course. We, on the other hand, when in the heat of the moment, seldom think of long-term consequences and benefits. We simply live for immediate gratification and for that which appeals to our baser instincts, rather than living for that which is far greater - an eternal reward that far outweighs any earthly treasure we might obtain. This reward however, is not just reserved for the hereafter. It's not just some pie in the sky theology, but instead it is a reward that can be enjoyed now if we would simply live for God rather than for ourselves.


As Christians, we must learn to look at things more from an eternal perspective or else we will find ourselves constantly making decisions that are temporal and fleeting at best. "Good times and bad times lose their power over us when we see life from an eternal perspective." Thus, rather than being controlled by our emotions, we allow ourselves to be controlled by the Spirit of God, in whom there is no change (James 1:13-17).

Let us purpose to observe Christ's life more closely and choose to emulate Him by becoming mountain people who withdraw to pray and discern God's will for our lives. As a result, we may pass up or postpone having earthly treasure, but how much better is that which is stored up in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). These are the things which are incorruptible and upon which no price tag can be placed.

© 2005 by Patricia M. Pope
All Scripture quotations are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.


Patricia M. Pope