John 6:1-13 describes a familiar story of a teacher, growing in popularity, who miraculously broke five loaves of bread and two fish, gave thanks, and fed thousands of people, with plenty of leftovers to boot. Jesus’ ministry had begun and people were beginning to see that He was clearly so much more than a man or a teacher. I don’t remember ever noticing the verses that conclude this scene, though, verses 14 and 15 of this chapter say:
“After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
What an interesting turn of events here in these verses, that the people wanted to make him their king “by force.” Jesus of Nazareth didn’t receive the acclaim He deserved, and instead chose to go away by himself. He perfectly obeyed the plan of the Father to save the human race without receiving glory and honor as the King. What a choice to make.
And to be clear, this is acclaim that Jesus DID deserve! He was and is the King, and yet still chose to retain some sense of anonymity on earth, no titles or acclaim to speak of.
Do I choose to refuse acclaim in this way? Do I choose to be seen as a “friend of God, rather than a friend of the world” as the book of James would put it? The answer is so often “no”, which brings so much conviction and reflection to consider.
I get a few cool devotionals in my email each morning, and this one by Greg Laurie came on the 7th –
If the apostle Paul had converted to Christianity in our day, he would be offered a book deal immediately. He would be discussing his unexpected conversion on all the talk shows and would be sharing his dramatic testimony in churches across the country. The problem is that sometimes when a person of some notoriety professes faith in Christ, we Christians immediately want to propel them to the front. But they may not be ready yet. The Bible tells us that we should not raise up a novice, or a new believer, “because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall” (1 Timothy 3:6). Sometimes a celebrity who professes faith in Christ is elevated to a place of leadership, only to crash and burn later. That is because they weren’t ready. They needed time to prepare. After Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road, he went on to get his degree: a B.D., or backside of the desert, in ministry. He was sent to the desert, in an exile of sorts, to be prepped for service. Paul didn’t need promotion; he needed seclusion.
In fact, God whipped a lot of His people into shape in the desert. That is where David got ready as he watched his little flock of sheep, never realizing that he was being groomed to be the greatest king in Israel’s history.
Moses spent time in the desert as well. He spent 40 years in Pharaoh’s court, finding out he was a somebody. Then he spent 40 years in the desert, finding he was a nobody.
Then he spent 40 years finding out what God can do with a somebody who realizes he is a nobody.
The same had to happen for Paul. And the same may happen for you as well.
I have to come to terms with who I am, and to trust my identity in the hands of God, not the world. That often seems so much easier said than done, but I believe that the hands that crafted my identity were sure and steady, trustworthy and full of honor.