(3 of 8 in a series)
Based on the testimony of the Old Testament prophets, the promised coming of the Messiah was to have a distinctive King aspect to it. The Messiah was to “destroy the world powers in an act of judgment, deliver Israel from her enemies, and restore her as a nation.”¹ Just as Jesus appeared to set aside the judgment aspect of the expected Messiah’s rule, He downplayed His king identity as well. If He was a king at all, He appeared to keep it a secret. Jesus often instructed those He had healed to keep it under wraps as if He didn’t want His popularity to get too big. An odd instruction from a would-be king.
As it was, Jesus’ fame did eventually reach king-like heights. But when the people were ready to embrace Him as king, Jesus fled the scene. Look at what happened just after the feeding of the five thousand. “And so they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” (Jn 6:13-15). If Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah King, why did Jesus refuse their coronation?
A similar story is recorded by John in the next chapter. “Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Tabernacles, was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, ‘Depart from here, and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may behold Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If you do these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For not even His brothers were believing in Him. Jesus therefore said to them, ‘My time is not yet at hand; but your time is always opportune.’ ” (Jn 7:2-6).
Jesus brothers were essentially saying, “You are doing all these miracles here in the backwater of Galilee. If publicity is what you are after, go to the big city, Jerusalem, and put on a show there in front of the big crowds.” Of course, publicity was not what Jesus was after and He initially passed on their suggestion for the same reason He did not accept the crowd’s attempt to make Him king; His time to be revealed was not yet at hand. But it is coming.
Jesus did end up going to the feast in Jerusalem shortly after, and while there, announced Himself to the crowd. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” ‘ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Some of the multitude therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, ‘This certainly is the Prophet.’ Others were saying, ‘This is the Christ (i.e. the Messiah).’ “ (Jn 7:37:41).
Something is stirring. Could it be that the promised Messiah King has finally arrived? Could Jesus of Nazareth fit the bill? Is Jesus about to go public with His kingdom? All questions for next time.
¹ Tenney, M. C., ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.