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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, January 11, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 6:15–27

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” (NRSV)

It is the first line that gets me every time. “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king . . .” This passage is situated right after the story we know as the Feeding of the Five Thousand, in which Jesus is able to transform a few loaves and fish into a bountiful feast for all. But how do the people respond to his generosity and goodness? They want to make him into what they want him to be—their king. Regardless of how Jesus felt about it, regardless of whether that was what he felt God was calling him to do, the people made the decision as to what he would be for them.

I often wonder how many times I act like those in the crowd. How many times in my life do I try to make God into who I want God to be? Anne Lamott has that great quotation that you know you have made God into your image when God hates all the same people you do. Indeed. Many of us probably have moments or whole seasons of our lives during which we try in vain to make God into our image, try to tell God what to do and whom to love and how to save, rather than remember that God has made us in God’s image. This passage can serve as a kind of warning against that idolatry. For what does Jesus do when Jesus figures out what is on their hearts? He withdraws until he can once again engage the crowd on his own terms.

God, I know that I often see in you only what I want to see. I box you into my plans or into my expectations and then do not notice you calling me into something different. Forgive me, O God. Forgive me and remind me who is the Potter and who is the clay. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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