Tis' the season! I was recently invited to support and sponsor a political event. Being totally transparent here, I agreed with a good bit of what the people stood for, but I felt a little like Jesus must have felt when the people around him wanted to push him into the political arena. Like they were searching for the wrong kingdom. Jesus was a hopeful sign to many. The world he worked and walked in was chaotic; the entire region was under the thumb of the Roman Empire, which cruelly and forcefully taxed them to fund their occupation.
To make matters worse, the religious leaders of the day were somewhat complicit in controlling the people in exchange for a sense of power bestowed on them by the oppressing government. Then along came this man who spoke up against the religious leaders, befuddled the occupying Romans, and went from town-to-town healing people of blindness and physical infirmity while attracting crowds as he taught about peace with God and man. Because of the signs he performed, the crowds grew larger. And as the crowds grew, those who followed him decided that he should have a place in power — that he should be king!
To them, it seemed natural and fitting that Jesus should be revered and honored among the masses. Why shouldn't he be worshiped on earth like he is in heaven? But Jesus wasn't interested in gaining glory and fame. He had no interest in the kingdoms of this world, just the people who lived within them.
"Now, when the people saw the sign that he performed, they began to say, 'This one is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world!' Then Jesus, because he knew that they were about to come and seize him in order to make him king, withdrew again up the mountain by himself alone" (John 6:14–15).
This all reveals something about human nature. Although the crowds wanted to make Jesus king, they weren't necessarily looking to revere him. They were looking out for themselves. They wanted to install a new kingdom—one brought on by force and political revolution. They wanted their immediate physical needs met, but they didn't necessarily consider the great spiritual revolution that needed to take place within.
In short, they didn't consider the cost of change. Following Jesus isn't something we do because it's somehow convenient for us. Following Jesus requires everything of us—and it will probably look more like a life of sacrifice than a life of power or ease. Jews who followed Jesus were challenged to accept him, not as a prophet or a Messiah, but as the son of God. The same crowd that followed Jesus obsessively, looking for signs, was eventually confronted by teaching that shook their understanding of this Messiah and what God expected from them.
Here's a challenge as we head into a season where we're asked to (and should) offer a vote for people vying for political titles: Be careful where you place your trust. People come and go from public office, but human nature hasn't changed much all of history. Let your hope rest in things eternal.