Organising Jesus – part 1

Come February each year, many churches around the country encourage their people to take the month to pray and fast (albeit a partial fast). One year, when we came to this time, I’d had a bit of a tough few months and was set to get into the prayer and fasting, almost as if I was going to sort God out. It was like he’d lost focus and I was about to get him back on track. Needless to say, I had a bit of a revelation about this, and hence this chapter came into being.

Organising Jesus isn’t a new concept

One particular day, as I was reading along in John 6, I wasn’t thinking too deeply when a couple of verses jumped out at me and began to confirm some things I’d been hearing. In this passage was the story where Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 people. The crowd saw the miracle, and they believed he was the prophesied messiah (the prophet who is to come).

John 6:14-15 (NIV) “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.”

They intended to come and make him king BY FORCE. What? I looked up the word ‘king’ in the Greek dictionary and it was Barsileus, meaning, leader of the people, prince-commander.

 To get what was going on here, we need to have a bit of an idea of what was going on in Palestine at the time. Palestine and Judea were under the colonial rule of the Roman Empire. The Jews didn’t much like the Romans who had overrun their land, and oppressed them with endless taxes. If you paid your taxes and kept out of trouble, you might survive all right, but if you put up any fuss, the Romans had an effective method of keeping the troublemakers under control—they would nail them to trees and crosses. There was a political group among the first-century Judean Jews called the Zealots. They had a reputation for being forceful and aggressive agitators, and their agenda was to overthrow the occupying Roman government. [1]

When the people saw the miracles that Jesus did, it seemed to confirm that he was the prophesied Messiah. This Scripture seems to indicate that they had begun to make plans to put Jesus in charge.

He’s here. He can lead our forces and we can finally get rid of these pesky Romans.

 But it was an aggressive political charge to take control, and win back their own country and their own lives. The Jews hated the gentiles, and they believed violence was the way to root them out and destroy them.

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force…”

He understood their thinking and withdrew. He simply disappeared so they couldn’t find him, and one might ask the question, why? They were all behind him as the leader of the movement. This was a good opportunity if you want to get stuff done, to have a following who will support you.

The thing is, Jesus was already the King of kings. He knew that the job would be done as the Father had planned. The victory would be won and the authority given just how his Father had designed.

Jesus was already the King of kings. He knew the job would be done as the Father had planned.

The Jews of the day wanted to deal with the Roman oppressors—they wanted Jesus to do what they wanted done. But if they had succeeded and that had been the sum total of what Jesus the Messiah had come to do, then who would then deal with the oppressors that followed in history: The Barbarians, the Nordic invaders, the Saxon invaders, the Norman invaders, the slave traders, the colonial invaders, the Nazis, Joseph Kony, Idi Amin, the Khmar Rouge, Isis and the list continues to grow?

The problem Jesus Christ came to deal with was not a political or social oppressor. He came to deal with the lost and sinful hearts of humankind—not just for that time period, but FOREVER. His Kingdom was not ever going to be a throne in Jerusalem or Rome. It was always about him setting up His throne in your heart, and mine, across the ages.

For this, he didn’t need to become part of an aggressive, violent political movement. For this, he needed to yield to the plan of the Father.

The problem Jesus came to deal with was not a political or social oppressor. He came to deal with the lost and sinful hearts of humankind – not just for that time period, but FOREVER

This was a useful revelation to me—to realise that I’m not the only one who believes in the authority and power of Jesus Christ, and then goes ahead and makes plans for him to lead my mission.

Even Jesus brothers were not too bright when it came to understanding what his plans and purpose was.  The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles had come around and Jesus’ brothers encouraged him to go. Of course things were a bit tense in Judea for Jesus, and he was aware the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him. Still his brothers said to him to leave Galilee and go so that ‘…your disciples there may see the works you do.’ John 7:3b (NIV) At first, it seems as if his brothers have taken on the role of marketing and promotion. ‘No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret … show yourself to the world.’ V4 (NIV) Of course, when we read further, we see that they didn’t actually believe in him.

The sentiments and ideas that Jesus’ brothers expressed here are alarming, not just because they were mocking their brother, but because we see some of this sort of attitude in the church today.

This is what I call organising Jesus.

  • He’s the man with the power and authority so:
  • Let’s do an advertising campaign
  • Let’s sort out an itinerary
  • Let’s work out a program

All Jesus has to do is show up and do his thing. Simple!

For the crowds who were following Jesus, for his brothers and for us, despite our best intentions, Jesus seems to have plans of his own, and they don’t always match up with ours.

 Back a number of years ago, there was a slogan amongst youth groups that said, ‘Let’s make God famous.’ There is nothing wrong with the slogan and yet everything wrong with the slogan. Sometimes we do make God famous for all the wrong reasons. Historically, and even sometimes today, we have seen wars that are conducted in the name of the Lord, whether they be intellectual wars or politically aggressive and violent wars. This has made God famous, and is often thrown back into the face of the church. Religion, it appears, is what fuels all the wars across history. But this is yet another example of what the Zealots were about—mobilising forces to root out the evil (as they perceived it) from their society, when really, the King of kings was about rooting out the evil in our hearts. Jesus doesn’t need to be famous on a billboard or in the top 100 lists. He needs to be famous in the hearts of those who are touched by Him and the kingdom of God established in their lives. This is on a heart level. This is about us following the consistent instruction throughout Scripture – finding the least of these, going to the dark places and the gutters, and ministering the love of Christ. There is a saying: preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.

So let’s bring this discussion back to an individual level. Do you know anyone who is obsessed with fixing things—someone who hates for things to be out of order or in conflict, and just wants peace in our time. Well, that’s me. I like to try to fix things. I have an extended family that now numbers nearly fifty people, and within that one group of people there is enough drama to write a complete daytime soap series.  Being the loving  daughter/sister/aunt/wife/mother/grandmother that I am, I often make a careful plan for the Messiah to follow so that he can sort everybody out, and then look around for him to get busy, and nine times out of ten, he’s nowhere to be seen. I am almost certain I am not the only person like this.

I will continue this topic next time when I publish part 2 of Organising Jesus

[1] “Who were the Zealots in the Bible?”, 2017, Got Questions? Org,  accessed 18th Jan 2017

Sticky Notes photo credit Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Sally Poyzer
    Mar 11, 2022

    Great blog post, Meredith! A great insight into something I think most Christians (definitely including me!) do. We plan what we want and then get annoyed when Jesus doesn’t fit into our plans. Very convicting!