John 16:1-15 and Hope

As you and I do what we do each week, we often hear people say something like: Things are not as they used to be. These people then either go off on what is wrong, or then give a prescription for how to make culture or individual life better. So thinking about these people and those scenarios, how would you answer this question: WHAT DO PEOPLE PUT THEIR HOPE IN? I see folks putting their hope in Politics and the upcoming Election, in different aspects of Health or Diet or fitness, or in Society and greater Social credibility or standing. Folks may say: If only x-y-z happen, then all will be well again.

For all of us, we put a portion of our hope in things like this. We, like our neighbors, stand on our opinions for better living or how the world would be better. And even among faithful Christians, those opinions vary. If we are honest we could say that we have our own savior in mind. Its always amazing to me how JC agrees w/ my politics and parenting style and also cheers only for the Denver Broncos, like me. Whether we are Christians or not, we have our savior in mind. And this relates to the question we are asking this fall: What happens when this God becomes king? If our version of JC met the person of JC how would our version change?

 

Text

And I wonder how the version of messiah that the people in JCs day had matched w/ the messiah in flesh. Knowing we, b/c of time and culture, cannot never truly get in the heads of a 1st century Jew, I would like us to imagine together. What were people in JCs day hoping for? I want us to look at 3 passages and answer the question: WHAT QUALITIES WAS THE MESSIAH PROPHESIED TO HAVE? Deuteronomy 18:15-18:

15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die. 17 The Lord said to me: What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.

Here we see that Messiah will be raised up from the people, and Messiah will speak from/for God the Father. Next, Isaiah 11:1-5:

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him -the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord- 3and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist

Here we see that Messiah holds the Holy Spirit, that Messiah delights in the fear of God, and Messiah judges w/ righteousness/justice. Lastly, Malachi 4:5-6:

5 See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.

Here we see that Messiah turns hearts. In all of this, I wonder how these observations from prophetic texts affected the view of Messiah in JCs day. So w/ our presumptions in mind lets look at John 6:1-15.

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip: Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat? 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him: It would take more than half a years wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite! 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up: 9 Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?

10 Jesus said: Have the people sit down. There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples: Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say: Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world. 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

So to give a quick summary of the text, JC crosses sea and huge crowd follows Him, b/c of His miracles. JC sees the crowd coming. He then turns to Philip and the disciples and asks the educational question: How will we feed all the people? Philip does not know, while Andrew offers a little food he found. JC has the crowd sit. He thanks God for small amount of food, and then feeds 5,000 men w/ it. 12 baskets full of scraps are collected afterward. And here is the verse I want us to focus on, v. 14. In v. 14, the people are amazed by the miracle of JC. They knew what was happening. Unlike Silas coming to the dinner table and suddenly being surprised by the food on his plate, the crowd knew where it came from. They knew that JC made a feast from the loaves of bread. And so the crowd says: Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting. They say: This is the one, the Messiah, we have been expecting. Perhaps they are drawing upon popular expectations of messiah, or perhaps they were thinking of passages that point to messiah, like the ones we looked at earlier. But whatever combination was true, the crowd believed JC was the one they had been expecting to come and save their nation. And so in v. 15 we are told that the crowd is ready to crown JC.

So here is a hypothetical question: IF THE CROWDS PERCEPTION OF JC WAS ACTUALLY 100% TRUE, WHAT WOULD THAT KING JC BE AND LOOK LIKE? In other words, WHAT DID THE CROWD EXPECT THE MESSIAH TO BE? It seems to me that they saw Messiah as a political leader who cared for the poor and all people, simply a king of justice. JC is not ready to narrow His mission to this constricted perception and slips away to the mountains. They wanted JC to be a different sort of king than what He is and would be.

 

Today

And that brings us back to today. Like the crowd, we have our own savior in mind. So WHAT SORT OF JC or KING DO WE WANT? To stereotype, a Liberal Christian might lift up the idea that JC was simply a man like us, and is here to give us a good example to help us get through. They might say that JC gave us a picture of what His kingdom could be, and now it is up to us to create it. Whereas an Orthodox Christian might speak of a JC who resides in the creeds, detached from reality but waiting to welcome us into the spiritual heaven. They might say that the kingdom on earth JC speaks of is simply our spiritual fellowship w/ Him. We have our perceptions of JC that would be challenged by the actual person of JC.

What is cool to see in our passage is a JC who cared about the here and now, but also gave us a picture of the fulfillment. He feeds the literal hunger of people, and does not allow them to settle for their own expectations of Messiah. The crowd got a taste of the Kingdom of God and His care and justice. And this correlates w/ what we looked at in those OT passages, where we see the Messiah: Speaking from the authority of God the Father, possessing the Holy Spirit, Delighting in the fear of God, Judging w/ righteousness and justice, and turning hearts.

As we study the life of JC and live in His Holy Spirit we too get a taste of His Kingdom. We see that JC is a compassionate king for all people, a king who laid His own life down so that we could live into the fulfilled feast to come. And so today as we face of uncertainty, and are tempted to put our hope in various things, we now know where to hope. The hope of JC today, is the only hope that will be fulfilled. We do not have to settle for our own perceptions of who JC is, but can continue to walk w/ Him toward fulfillment.

Amen.

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