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.
Let me begin this reflection by asking you a question. If you had worked a mighty miracle, multiplying a few loaves of bread and a few pieces of fish to feed a crowd of thousands, and the people then wanted to make you a king, what would you have done? Probably said, "Bring it on!" Right?
So, why would Jesus retreat from a crowd that wanted to make him King? Unlike their leaders, they recognized him as the awaited prophet that Moses had prophesied about (Deuteronomy 18:15)? Why would Jesus not seize this moment to establish his kingship? As always, there is much to mine here, so let's get digging.
First, Jesus' kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). The crowd's understanding of kingship was probably political and militaristic, especially given the Roman occupation of Judea. They might have envisioned a king who would lead a revolt against Rome. But Jesus' mission was to establish a spiritual kingdom, not a worldly one.
Next, his time had not yet come. Throughout John's Gospel, there's a recurring theme of Jesus' "hour" or "time" (John 2:4, 7:30, 8:20). Jesus was very conscious of the divine timeline for his mission. The forceful establishment of his kingship by the crowd did not align with this divine timing.
Finally, the crowd's method of recognizing Jesus was wrong. They recognized him by the sign that he performed. True recognition of Jesus requires understanding his teachings, his sacrifice, and his resurrection. A faith built solely on miracles can be fickle, as I have seen many, many times.
Before I conclude, why does John mention Jesus withdrawing to a mountain? Everything John writes is loaded with symbolism and deeper meaning, so perhaps he wished to remind us of other biblical figures, like Moses and Elijah, who also retreated to mountains for divine encounters and clarity.
Or, perhaps, he wanted to teach us how to respond to adulation. The adulation of the crowds can quickly sweep away Christian leaders. We must take a page from Jesus' book and choose the path of humility, discernment, and alignment with God's will rather than pander to our egos.
God bless you.