New Expectation: New Directions
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
Who is the best Christian you have ever known? Who would you joyfully yet nervously greet if they came to your front door?
Who is the person who you constantly hear yourself repeating, wishing they would be with you to sort things out? Who is the Christian leader you would love to see making his or her presence felt in this troubled world – someone, who if they were allowed, would give clear guidance to everyone, challenge all the bad stuff you see, make us a better church, community and country?
Who in your estimation is worthy of your following? Or don’t you follow anyone?
This little account of a dark stormy night on the sea is not about the boat or the sea or even the loaves and fish that miraculously fed 5000 people just before this night in the boat. This little scene is about our expectation of what it is to God’s people blown across the water.
The 5000 people on the grassy slopes eating their fill and those twelve people out in the boat on the churning sea had their own clear expectations of who Jesus was supposed to be. And all those expectations centred on were fueled by what day it was when this event happened – Passover
“The Passover, the festival of the Jews was near” (John 6:4).
This is the day when great moments of how God made them who they are, are retold in detail in ritual meal in homes all over the country. Passover is about Moses and the great ‘I AM’ working in Moses that made them all chosen people, gave them their law, their worship life, their hope of blessing and long life, their sense of justice for the world.
I think John is recalling Moses and the Passover as a reference point to show how much more Jesus is even than that Great Man and great moment.
As a crowd followed Moses, so a crowd follows Jesus; both crowds follow because of the signs they have seen.
And the sea-side crowd were on “the other side of the Sea of Galilee…..” says John (John 6:1). That is vague. The spot would be hard to pinpoint on a GPS. You could almost say they are in the ‘wilderness’.
As the people of God spent so long following Moses in the wilderness, now the people following Jesus are in the ‘wilderness’.
We have miraculous food (like that manna and quail), we have wilderness and even a mountain – just like Moses, “Jesus went up the mountain” (v.3).
John is saying that Jesus is mightier than any Moses or Passover. He is saying that Jesus is more than your ‘Moses’.
What is your “Moses’? Your expectations of God, yourself, other people, leaders, church….. Your Moses is what you believe a Christian person should be; what you expect yourself to be; what others should be; what leaders in church and community and country should be; what a local church community should be; what justice in the world should be and so on…..
John is saying that Jesus is more than your expectations; Jesus is more than those you consider the most or the best.
That is really saying something to these people. After all, Moses spoke face to face with the Almighty. Moses received God’s holy Name and saw God’s behind. Moses brought Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and led the people through the wilderness to the Land of Promise.
John is unapologetically making the claim that Jesus is more than your most; better than your best, and very worthy of your following.
“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’” (John 6:14).
A prophet’? Too small. All their ideas and expectations of what God should be and do on their terms blind them to God being and doing on his terms in this man Jesus who is way more than even the greatest prophet.
Like when you judge a person to be this, only to find out they are actually nothing like you thought they were.
Their expectations are not God’s direction. Yours might not be either?
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, ‘withdrew’ again to a mountain by himself.
They want Jesus to be what they want him to be rather than allow him to be who is really is. Jesus “flees’ up the mountain….. He flees the expectations we have of political influence, religious force, clever power play.
Why? Because the moment he enters our human expectations he becomes just another puppet king we establish to make sure we get our way…..
He just cannot allow that. There is the life of the whole world at stake. He will give his all for that, not our hometown expectations.
Do you want Jesus on your terms in the shape of who you deem to be a ‘good Christian”? I suspect we all have shades of that running through our heart.
We want Jesus to meet OUR expectations of what a great religious leader should be – powerful, influential, rich, in control, on our side, morally upright, tough enough to beef up punishment for crimes, able to be perfect in providing safety for the people, instantly able to get everything right (as we see right) – get a million vaccines out tomorrow, be ahead of the COVID virus so that it does not disrupt us…..! We tend to want Jesus to meet OUR expectations but get a bit cranky when he calls on us to instead, willingly and joyfully meet his.
John now drives the truth home. Jesus is greater than you and all you know and even than those who have loved you and mentored you.
When the disciples got into a boat and had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified” (v. 19).
Everything they wanted him to be, expected him to be, saw him to be is off course.
Out on the churning sea, maybe it finally occurs to them that Jesus is mightier than even the mighty one – Moses or even Passover.
Moses needed the Lord to part the sea so he and the people could cross the sea. Not Jesus. He tramples all over the sea. He comes walking all over the churning dark sea. And then, the clincher …
‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ Jesus says.
Actually not quite strong enough in English. It is,
“I AM; don’t be afraid”
“I AM”. That is the holy name of God first spoken by God to Moses from the burning bush up on the mountain in the wilderness. It is the personal name God.
Jesus is ‘I AM’. That is John’s repeated claim throughout his gospel. I AM the bread of life. I AM the gate for the sheep. I AM the good shepherd……
Jesus is beyond your expectations and will not bow to expectations.
Jesus is the Great I AM who came to Moses is now coming to scared disciples in the boat with their boat load of human expectations and needs.
As he does, he blows their expectations of who God is, who they are and what we are called to be across the windy sea.
And he does it all without judgement or shame, but with a ‘don’t be afraid’.
I AM is with them in his terms but in grace – with them in full, willingly for them, not against them. He does not blame them for their expectations that are off course. He simply sets a whole new course for them to follow.
Truth is that whoever your ‘Moses’ is – your version of who you and we are and what we need and what we should be and do according to you, is not big enough.
Jesus is mightier than that ‘Moses’. Jesus is Moses’ more. He brings what Moses could only bring in part.
What does he bring you? Paul will tell you …
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now surely that is the One who worthy of your following.
Maybe you would even kneel before him in your kitchen as you receive his gifts today:
- Wide, long, deep constant, consistent, compassionate love for you each day in any storm.
- Spirit power in your inner being so you can truly forgive, truly love and be loved as the storms continue.
- Deeply connected to fellow followers never alone in the churning sea.
- Spiritual knowledge and wisdom for decisions and living.
Jesus is Moses’ more, friend. Jesus is just more than you and yours.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)