Monday, April 28, 2014

I Won't Be Your King

Life of Christ 74

        In His effort to avoid provoking either a premature religious or political confrontation Jesus is spending substantial portions of time, in this the last summer and fall of His ministry, outside of Israel. The first of these trips was a short boat ride across the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee into the wild country outside of Bethsaida. There He intended to spend time with the Apostles, hearing reports of their last preaching trip, and getting in some quality training time in private.
          Meanwhile, the word had gotten out, somehow, in Capernaum, that Jesus and His Apostles had gone there, and many people thought this was their chance to be with Him, and so they walked around the top of the Sea of Galilee to get there. A compassionate Jesus, faced suddenly with a multitude in the middle of nowhere, shelved His own plans and ministered to them.
          As the day drew on there was no food to be had in this remote region for this great multitude of people. He took of the food He had set aside for His own, divided it up, and fed five thousand men, plus women and children.
          That part of the story is well known. The reaction to it, however, is not. 'Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed into a mountain himself alone' (John 6.14-15).
          On the surface this refusal doesn't seem to make sense. After all, didn't He come to offer Himself to Israel as her Messiah and King? Yes, but it wasn't a blanket offer. There were requirements involved, namely, a spiritual repentance. This is what both John the Baptist and Jesus preached. In this scenario there was no repentance. Instead we find only a desire for the good life obtained on the cheap. The multitude that watched Jesus turn five loaves and two fish into food for thousands saw the perfect politician who could provide everything for nothing. Their decision to throw a crown at Jesus' head had nothing to do with a spiritual acceptance of His claims and His message. No, it was simply selfishness writ large by a crowd. Of course, He couldn't accept it on these terms, and His response is to walk away further into the wild country in order to, I'm sure, commune with His Heavenly Father about this saddening turn of events.
          The heartbreaking lesson I find here is this: Jesus is less interested in what we do than He is in why we do it. He came offering Himself to Israel as her King. This group of thousands from a regionally important center in Galilee took Him up on it – for the wrong reasons. And since it was for the wrong reasons it wasn't acceptable to Him.

          I am convinced that many a 
Christian I've known, including myself on occasion, have done right things for wrong reasons, and we will find at the end that even these good actions were not acceptable with Him. In my opinion, it is precisely this to which Paul refers in I Corinthians 3:

11  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13  Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

          God will take all the of the works I have done, ostensibly for Him, pile 'em up, light 'em on fire, and see what can stand the test. Sadly, I'm sure that some of what I've built through the years is nothing more than wood, hay, and stubble. I speak of things done, perhaps, for the praise of man, or for self-glory. As I understand Scripture, the motivation with which I do things for God is actually more important than the things themselves.
          Jeremiah said it this way, 'I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings' (17.10). Five times Scripture specifically links the reins and the heart. Reins are what controls an animal, turning it one way or another. The motives and desires of the heart (Jeremiah 17.9) are what control us, turning us one way or another. God looks at those reins, at the heart, into the motivations of why we did what we did more than He actually does at the thing itself.
          It always comes back to the heart, doesn't it? Finally, the crown is served up to Christ on a silver platter, bestrewn with bread crumbs. Yet He cannot accept.
          He commands you and I to offer Him all sorts of things. The question before us is not are you offering these things, but are they actually acceptable to Him. What is your motivation behind what you are offering Christ? The answer to that is absolutely critical in His eyes. 

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