“Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (John 6:15, ESV)
Yesterday I included this verse in the consideration of the events surrounding the feeding of 5,000. It was a reasonable thing to do considering the context. But this morning I attended Sunday school where I was blessed to be able to present the message at a church without a senior pastor. The individual leading this study time started by bringing us to Isaiah 9:1-7 and a prophetic look at the end times. As I read along with him, and he got to verses 6 and 7, I was immediately reminded of John 16:15 where we ended yesterday.
Isaiah wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7, ESV)
And as the teacher continued he took us to Isaiah 11 with the picture of these Jews here in John who were anticipating a coming king continuing to grow in my mind such that I knew I needed to revisit John 16:15.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:1–4, ESV)
I could not help but think as we read these verses of those who were amazed that Jesus had fed so many of them with so little and their resulting desire to take Him away and make Him king. Isaiah had spoken in such a glorious way of Him coming, and many surely knew his words. We even know them today as these words from Isaiah have become traditional ones that Christians read year after year as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior. But for the Jews these verses were mistakenly seen as a prophecy that spoke of a coming king who would take up His reign right then and there. They were not seeing that He would come for a time, leave, and then return. His leaving was not in their concept of how He would come, and consequently many were looking forward to being freed from foreign rule and once again having their own true king who would bring peace and justice forevermore. This hope came from their understanding of the words of Isaiah, and in thinking to take Jesus away they were prepared to put Him in place as this anticipated king.
The hard part is that while the people were right about Him being that king, they missed the prophecies that spoke of the suffering that He must go through before He would establish this kingdom. While there are numerous prophecies pointing to the coming of Christ, the Jews had missed or misunderstood the others speaking of His death and resurrection, of which Isaiah 53 is one of the most pointed and graphic. Including only a few verses here, it is worthy of stopping to read the entire chapter.
“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:1–6, ESV)
What an incredible description of what Jesus would come to do for us! Humbling Himself as a man He did not even take on a super-man form but assumed a body and role that would not point to Him for who He really is. But this is what He did for us, and the Scriptures foretold this hundreds of years in advance. Though it is much, much easier to see after the fact, another passage which accurately portrays what Christ would go through is Psalm 22. Jesus even says the first words of this psalm while on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1a, ESV) And we find other portions of this psalm accurately being played out in passages like Luke 23:35 and Matthew 27:35. While they may have missed it, Jesus death was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures.
In addition to His death and crucifixion there are also prophecies about His resurrection. David wrote in Psalm 16:8-10, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption.” (Psalm 16:8–10, ESV) Sure, they may have seen this as David possibly referring to Himself, but again New Testament quotes of this by Peter in Acts 2:29-32 point to the subject being Christ.
Needless to say, to the Jews who were seeking to put Jesus in place as their king, these Old Testament prophecies were a mystery to them and subsequently they misunderstood the process which Jesus must go through before finally establishing Himself as King. Jesus, on the other hand, had this end clearly in mind and removed Himself so that the plan of the Father might not be thwarted in any way. (Having said this it is helpful to be reminded that this did not mean Jesus hid Himself from them, but that He was careful to do what the Father had intended. Throughout all of His encounters we continue to read of those who believed and received eternal life.)
Jesus knew that one day all of these things would truly be completed and He would return for His people and on that day they would recognize Him for who He truly is. In Revelation 19 we read a description of Him mounted on a white horse ready to deliver Israel and to establish His millennial (1,000 year) reign when He will sit on that throne in their midst which they had been promised from ages past.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11–16, ESV)
After that thousand year reign we read of a further judgment and the once and final casting of Satan into the lake of fire and sulfur to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Following this the scene shifts to Him sitting on a great white throne where He will sit in final judgment as the books are opened to reveal the lives of men, with only one book containing those who are granted eternal life (Revelation 20:11-15). Then in Revelation 21 and 22 we get an incredible description of the new Jerusalem where God and the Lamb reign forever. As the Revelation concludes Jesus states several times that He indeed is coming soon to which the concluding words are, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! …” (Revelation 22:20-21, ESV)
God will fulfill His promise to the Jews and He will complete in all of us that which He starts. He is indeed faithful and He will bring it all to pass in His perfect timing.