Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
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.
This phrase catches my eyes: “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”
Think about that. This one sentence sums it up. It summarizes what kind of leader we have, and I’m very proud of the kind of leader that we have. Jesus Christ showed what true leadership, what a true life should be like. Our leader is not easily influenced by other people’s reactions about him. He did not seek other people’s attention. And I like that strength. I like that in people. People who seek attention, they show the weakness of people, but our leader, Jesus Christ did not seek attention from people. And that showed confidence and strength. Little kids, they like attention. But as you grow and mature, as you get older, you don’t need that attention anymore. You’re so confident with yourself that you don’t need to seek attention from people and our lord, Jesus Christ, showed that strength so well.
There is an ordination prayer that is used for ministers. So whenever we ordain people to enter into ministry, there is a prayer that we always use. My favourite part, says: “Let him or her not easily be puffed up by the praise of others, nor easily, too depressed by the blame of others.” I love that part. In ministry, you’re always working with people, and you try to lift up yourself. And then with your charisma and with your popularity, you try to do ministry. And when you get blamed for ministry sometimes get easily depressed or we get easily popped up, but instead of doing that, you do your own thing. And I like that part of the prayer, and that prayer shouldn’t only be for ministers, but for all of us.
A Humble God
When I studied Jesus, being humble is a very strong trait. Jesus was always surrounded by people, but he was not easily influenced by them. Whenever he did something, he didn’t use it to bring attention to himself. I think people are crazy about Jesus. I think people were really mesmerized by his charisma of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even into today’s story where Jesus manipulated the boys’ lunch of with five loaves of bread and two fish. I don’t know exactly how he did it, but somehow he fed 5,000 people. During that time, they only counted men in that number, so that 5,000 people meant about 10,000-15,000, it could even have been 20,000 people there. And then he fed that many people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Wouldn’t you be crazy about Jesus after experiencing that? “Wow, what a miracle!” And Jesus drove them into a frenzy. They were in a fantasy when they were with Jesus! Jesus-mania. You remember Beatlemania, right? Some women even fainted. These people were crazy about the Beatles. People were like, “I love Ringo Starr, please stay with us forever!” I think Jesus-mania was 10,000 times better than that. He just fed 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. But amazingly, Jesus was not affected by people’s reaction. I think the greater miracle is not to feed 5,000 people. The greater miracle was that Jesus was not affected by the people.
When people were crazy about him and wanted to force him to be their king. Jesus decided to be by himself in the mountains, most likely to pray. He didn’t really care about what people showed him. He simply retreated into the mountains.
That shows me the character of Jesus. He wanted to be alone. He didn’t want to be influenced by other people’s reactions. And the next day, he went about doing the same thing as usual: teaching, healing and guiding them. The people were looking for Jesus because Jesus went to the mountain, and they were looking for Jesus, but they couldn’t find Jesus anywhere! So they spent all night looking for Jesus, and finally the next day, they found Jesus. They came to Jesus and the same crowd gathered together again. They wanted more miracles. They wanted more excitement. They wanted more from him, and then, Jesus teaching them about the meaning of the miracle he just performed the day before. In teaching, Jesus said this; “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” It is very difficult to understand. Even now, it’s hard to listen to, however we have the sacrament so we know its message is not literally, but think about the first time people heard this message. Eat the flesh and drink blood? Unless you do that, you have no life in you? The people did not expect that kind of message at all. They wanted more miracles. They wanted more exciting messages, but Jesus’ teaching was weird. Eating flesh? Drinking blood? They didn’t get it, so this is what they said: “This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?” I think Jesus already knew their reaction before he said it. He knew that they will respond to him in this way when they hear the message. If Jesus was looking for popularity, fame, then he would not have said these kinds of things. He would have toned down the message so that he could get more attention from people, and with the people’s power, he could do whatever he wanted to do. But when he said this, he knew that people will not like it, but he said it anyways. Immediately, the people lost their appetite for Jesus. They were deeply disappointed with Jesus, and this is what John said: “What happened after Jesus said this message, because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”
Leader for the People
They did not want to go. They did not want to follow Jesus any longer. They all left. Think about the energy and power. Let’s say 10,000 people are here, and they are mesmerized with Jesus’ message and Jesus’ miracle. They all decide to follow him and they think that he is the greatest. “You have to be king!”. “You have to lead us and guide us!”. But Jesus said just one word, and everybody left. He was all alone with 12 disciples. Sounds like only 12 disciples were there. And then Jesus asks, “Do you want to leave too?” And then Peter said: “You have some words of life, where can we go?” And Peter always says the right thing at the right moment. I think Jesus must have loved Peter. That’s what Jesus wanted to hear! I think it would be very easy to do ministry with Peter. I think Jesus knew the crowd very well. He was not fooled by the crowd. Just because people left him. He did not let that into his head. I like that.
What if Jesus really entertained the idea of people wanting to make him king and all that? What if Jesus actually took that seriously? The next day he would’ve been a king without his people. If Jesus said the same thing, they all would have left. What kind of a king is that? A king without anyone who follows him?
In the Gospel of John, is there a temptation story? Matthew, Mark and Luke have temptation story, three temptations stories we know. But in John, we don’t have a temptation story. But this particular story is different, John describes three temptations and this is the last temptation. The last temptation is Satan took Jesus up on the mountain and showed the whole world, and said “I will give you this”. In other words, I’ll make you a king. “If you follow, if you bow to me, I’ll give you everything.” Jesus resisted that temptation, the temptation to be the greatest. Jesus was not fooled by the people’s reaction towards him. When people shouted “Hosanna”, Jesus let them but he was not pleased. He was not happy with the praise. He knew that soon, they will desert him. When people said, “Crucify him! Crucify!”, Jesus just let them, but he was not overly disappointed or angry. In that sense, Jesus was truly free, Jesus was free from people’s evaluations, people’s expectations, people’s reclamation, and people’s attention. True righteousness is not something we achieve.
He didn’t get his identity from people. He knew his own identity. Jesus is our king, but Jesus did not become our king because WE made him our king. Jesus did not beg them to make him their king. Jesus did not perform miracles so that he could become a superstar and people might desire and admire him. Jesus did not want to be a hero. Jesus did not come to this world to become a hero. So in Mark, whenever he did a miracle, he said not to tell anyone. We don’t need to be important people in other people’s eyes. We are already precious as we are. Jesus was rejected, abandoned and ridiculed by people, but it was okay to him. They did not want to make him king anymore. They mocked him. They wanted the powerless king to be arrested, punished and executed. It was alright for Jesus, because he knew very well that preciousness would not change. He knew that people cannot make a king nor can the people make him a criminal. That is what the crowd does.
One day they will make you a king, the very next day they leave you and make you a criminal. Jesus did not become our king because we chose him. Jesus became our king because of his sacrificial love for us. Jesus, our leader, is the King of love. People are hungry for attention and recognition. They will sacrifice many things just so they can get praise from people and become an important person. Our Lord Jesus did not seek attention. Our Lord Jesus did not rule by the power, our Lord Jesus ruled our hearts by his love, and Jesus wants us to follow in his footsteps. Instead of going out to receive people’s praise and admiration, we withdraw to the mountain by ourselves as did our Lord Jesus. There in that mountain, we will meet God. That’s our journey. Our journey, is a journey into our own mountain where we meet God alone. That should be our lifestyle. Instead of seeking attention from people and enjoying the power of people’s admiration, we see God alone in our own mountain of prayer and that is the confidence. When you’re free from people, you can be quite creative.
All the artists, all the great people in history, they were different than the people of their generation and they would not conform to people’s expectations. They did their own thing, overcoming people’s admiration and recognition. So during that time, they might have suffered, but they created tremendous artistic work because they went their own way. Instead of always trying to get attention and recognition from people, we go our own way. In that way, we can do what God wants us to do. Be creative in your own mountain. Find your own calling. What you wanna do with your lives? Do not worry about what people say about you. Do your own thing. Find your own calling and live that. That is courage and strength, and that is what Jesus Christ, our Lord, showed us what a true authentic life is all about. We don’t want to just copy other people’s lives just because people accept and approve of it. We want to live our own lives; our own authentic life that gives you true happiness, joy and meaningfulness. That is a stronger life, and that is a spiritual life.
Do you find yourself conforming to the expectations of others, or doing things to gain the approval of others? What can we learn from the example of Jesus, who withdrew himself to the mountains at the peak of his fame?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!