“Human Wisdom and Divine Sovereignty”

John 6:14-24
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on January 28th, 2007

“We see how dangerous it is in divine matters to neglect God’s word and invent anything that comes from our own minds. The perfect cunning of our minds corrupts everything. What good is a show of zeal when through our perverted worship we are insulting God more than if someone were specifically and deliberately attacking His glory?
John Calvin

What if everything you thought about Jesus was wrong? While that most likely is not the case, everything we think about Him is probably not all true either. Whether we like it or not, our nature is to co-opt Jesus to be who we want Him to be. Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative; Marxist/Capitalist, feminist/misogynist, etc. Humanity has done terrible things in the name of Christ, and whether or not we are conservative or liberal, we use Him for our own personal agenda, while we excoriate the gospel in the mean time. The irony is that both sides of the spectrum accuse the other side of the same thing. In our narrative today we see the people desiring to “help” Jesus by making Him “King by force,” which is another way of saying making Jesus their political prisoner. Not only is this act ignorant of God’s will for Christ, it is appalling and dangerous. It’s an act that places our own agendas in the way of God’s. It is no different than when Peter was “protecting” Jesus by valiantly “Rebuking” Christ by telling Jesus He would not suffer! After all, his concept of the messiah didn’t allow that sort of thing. He was supposed to be a national king to release them from their political bondage. What was Jesus’ response? “Get behind me Satan! (see Matthew 16:21-23). Pretty much every heresy in the history of he Christian church has been the result of myopic theologians trying to “help” Jesus. The book of john has helped us destroy our idols, and depict a biblical Jesus, and our passage today is no different. John follows up verse fourteen and fifteen with a seemingly out of place story that once again shows His people who He really is, and what His agenda contains. The fact is, Jesus is not the king of your agenda, but He is the God of the storms!

From the Head…
As the people saw what Christ could do, they wanted to make Him king by force. Ever since the Israelites demanded a king, while rejecting God as their king, man has not changed. We have needs that are urgent, and we are always looking for earthly solutions to heavenly problems. Their immediate earthly issues concerned their captivity to Roman rule, so their apparent needs were to find a “better” king to suit their needs. How different is that than our own attempts to put the “right” person in political office to serve our political/social needs? “If we only had ____ in office life would then be better!” Jesus looked good, after all, He was feeding the people and taking care of business, but His motives and plans were completely contrary to the people’s agenda. He wasn’t using his “power” for political gain. He used His power to show who he was. That didn’t matter to the people and just like Simon the magi, they wanted to market this power, and “make Him king by force” (‘harpazein,’ literally to “Seize or carry away by force”), but as Calvin writes, “they made a flagrant mistake in giving themselves the freedom to make Him king.” This is God’s prerogative only (Psalm 2:6) and Jesus made that clear during His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:. In fairness to the people, they were only trying to expedite what they believed about God’s promise of sending another prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). In some ways their theology was not wrong in fact, but in scope. In reality the people’s theology was right, but their understanding of its application was poor. They honestly wanted to honor God with this act of worship, without seeing their motives were impure. Jesus was truly the “king of the Jews” (Luke 23:3; Mark 15:2; Matthew 27:11 cf. John 19:33-37) but His kingdom was “Not of this world”(John 18:36). We are controllers by nature. In trying to control God, we can truly destroy His witness. We make Him something he never intended to be.

John attaches the following verses regarding Jesus walking on water to establish two truths. The first is the reality that storms come no matter how high your high is. These disciples are riding along on Jesus’ string of miracles, and possibly enjoying the attention. They’re not however completely sure yet themselves of who He was, and according to other accounts their hearts were hardened, and they hadn’t learned from Jesus’ miracle of the feeding of 5000 (Mark 6:52). Life is still hard and even when God blesses us we still have hardened hearts. The disciples had failed to trust in God, and they were frightened. No matter what God does, when we place our eyes in this kingdom, we will see only storm and disaster. The second and more important truth John is teaching us is who Jesus really is. He tells them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” The phrase ‘It is I” (eigo eimi) is literally “I Am,” which is in concert with the many “I Am” passages found in John, reminding the Jew that this was the name that God called Himself when asked by Moses who is it who speaks (see Exodus 3:14 cf. John 8:58). What John is teaching us is Jesus is not a king made by humans, but he is the king. He is not a king forced by human will, or a king controlled by human agenda, He is sovereign God Himself. Jesus is God in human flesh, born to die to fulfill God’s plan, and establish His kingdom in this fallen world. If man had it his way, Jesus would have been an earthly king for Israel, done some positive things politically (And most likely some things that wouldn’t be positive since politics are in the hands of those of this kingdom), and then left without carrying out His Father’s will, which was to die so that we could live. The kingdom that Jesus established is more than spiritual. It is a both/and, an already/not yet. He inaugurated a kingdom that His people are supposed to inhabit. We are to live like Him, and act like Him with love doing His Father’s will.

…to the Heart
Do we “Know” Christ? Has our witness been hampered by presenting a god that reflects more of our white middle class values than it does the gospel? What box are we trying to ‘force’ Christ to live in? Are you upset that God is not going along with your agenda? All of these things are easy to fall in to. Our darkened minds want so badly to see justice accomplished, but in our fallen state we inevitably create more chaos than we do solution. We want to know Christ and serve Him, but His kingdom values are often in conflict with our own. Ours are bound by location and time, while His are eternal and infinite. We are called to live and act like Him. Our hearts are changed so that we can live here on earth like Christ is our king. It is more than a spiritual kingdom because a spiritual kingdom would ignore this world, but God has called us to live now, with the hope of the future.

4 comments so far

  1. Rachelle on

    Up until a few years ago, I was busy trying to make God fit into my little box. Then terrible tragedy occured, in my own home. Wow, was I angry with God. It took about a year for me to realize the truth. Now I understand that I cannot control anything-let alone God. Whenever we have to go thru the storms of life, God uses the opportunity to grow us. I can’t say yet that I am grateful for what happened, but I can say that I know God is in control. We may have storms to go thru, but I will ‘get in the boat’ and ride them out. For what he has for us is better than anything we can imagine. If I have to wait several lifetimes to see it come to fruition, so be it.

    Thank you Mike, for your take on the scriptures. A few years ago I probably would not have been ready to hear it. I know now that it is absolutely true.

  2. Jalene on

    This sermon hits on what seems to be a recurrent theme that God is pounding into my wee little brain. I had this revelation after I broke my arm that God permitted the arm to be broken which delayed so many things from happening. I realized I had this picture in my mind of God and Satan playing some game, Risk for example. Satan wins die roll and God is surprised, but says, “that is OK, I will find a way to use it for My glory.” Yet somehow at the same time I also believed that God controlled the universe. After starting to read “Desiring God” by Piper I realized those two views of God contradicted each other. It was far more comforting to know that God isn’t surprised by stuff, that he really does control the universe, the storms too! After this really tough month of weather, illness and resultant lack of money, this sermon was quite the timely reminder. Thank You God for your soverignty!

  3. Rachelle on

    Amen, Sistah!

  4. mike g. on

    Thanks Jalene and Rachelle for your input and honesty. I think we all are surprised by God in many ways, but hopefully we become (Like C.S. Lewis)more “surprised by Joy,” since He really is a God that loves us and disciplines us so that we’d be overcome with joy and peace in the midst of our storms. Thanks again for your input!

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