11th Sunday after Pentecost - John 6:35-51 - August 8th and 9th
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Another Sunday in John, another round of problems. To refresh your memory - this section of John's Gospel happens the day after the feeding of the 5000, and a bunch of those who were fed come up to Jesus, and Jesus has a conversation with them. Last week, Jesus called them on their greed, their desire for control, their desire for an "on demand" sort of Jesus where when they said Jump He would ask how high. And so last week Jesus taught and focused upon how God provides material blessings as He sees fit, but more importantly, God provides for eternal salvation. And it should be great, right? No - there is another problem, one we see arise this week. Pride. Ego. Let's see how this plays out.
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I say to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe." Now, you might have missed it, but there was a change from last week. Last week folks were clamoring for a sign - show us a sign. That's how manna in the wilderness first got brought up. And Jesus finally says that He Himself is the bread of life... BUT you have seen ME and yet do not believe. Not you've seen the signs and don't believe - you've seen Me and don't believe. What's more important - a sign, or what the sign points to? If I'm driving home one night, and I see the sign that says "turn here for Herscher" I don't stop the car and say, "Honey, I'm home." The sign is good, it means I'm almost there - but it's not the destination. Likewise, with Jesus - all the miracles and such that He did - these were signs pointing out who He was, what He would do for the salvation of mankind - but they aren't interested.
Now, for us in the Church - this is one of the great frustrations - that folks don't get it. That even though they have heard, even though they know, they don't believe. And scripturally speaking, the Old Testament was clear on what this is - it's idoltry. It's following false gods. That line about seeing but not getting it - that's Old Testament idol talk. The way the prophets loved to describe the idols was "seeing they do not see; hearing they do not hear." Think about an idol - it's got eyes, it's got ears -- but it doesn't really see or hear. And the folks bound up in idols of their own creation - they no longer see the things of God, they don't hear the Word of God. This is why Jesus so often says, "He who has ears, let him hear." It's a call away from idolatry.
And there Jesus is, and He sees a whole heap of idolatry, and for a moment He speaks to us - He speaks to the believers with comfort. It's depressing being around folks who don't believe, who just don't get the faith. So listen to the comfort Jesus speaks to Himself, to you. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day." Do you hear it? Even as He is being rejected and despised by folks who should believe, folks He has done miracles for - Jesus puts things in perspective. Even though there is rejection - the Father's plan of salvation will not be thwarted. I'm not going to lose any that are Mine. Those who will believe will come around in their proper time. In fact, He plays off of an Old Testament example - "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." There was a great story from the time in the wilderness about people seeing and then living. The fiery serpents came and bit Israel - then Moses put the snake on a pole, if they looked upon it they were healed, otherwise they died. Yeah, some died - but many lived. Likewise - yes, some do not believe - so be it. My Father will give life to many through My death and resurrection, and so I will be content there.
And do you see how this is a comfort to us as well? We are stuck in life, in time - we don't see the end, how things work out. God does - and guess what - it's all going to work out well. It's all going to come out in the wash - and come the last day the confusion, the sorrow we face now - that won't be there. Everyone whom the Father has given to Christ will be there. It will be good - God is in control.
But before we get to the Last Day, we will face some rough sailing here in this sinful world. And that's what Jesus runs into. So the Jews grumbled about Him because He said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say 'I have come down from heaven'?" Well, here's your problem. Pride and ego kick in. When Jesus says, "Everything hinges on Me, it's about Me and what *I* do for you" - that's when people grumble. Well, who are You, Jesus, what makes You so important? Because, in these folks' minds, it's not Jesus who is important -- they themselves are the important ones. They didn't want a focus upon Jesus, they wanted a focus upon their own desires, upon what they thought they needed, what they thought was good. They preferred a good meal on earthly bread to all this chit-chat about bread from heaven. After all, they assumed that they were just as good as Jesus, and if He isn't going to bring home the goods, what good is He?
Now, here is where we must pause, because while we may not be as outwardly and obviously coarse as these folks are, let me ask the question. Christ Jesus has just said that everything, when it boils down to it, is about about Jesus Himself and the salvation He brings. And yet, how often, in this very place, in God's own house - do our discussions, our plans, and especially our complaints have very little to do with Jesus? With the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified? Is our discussion centered upon what best declares Christ... or is there another little word that often takes the foreground? *I*? I think. I like this. I don't like that. I wish we would do this... and why? Because it points to Christ, Because it confesses the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done... or because *I* like it, or *I* don't like it? Now, do bear in mind, this is not me giving direct commentary on any specific thing or event - I haven't been here long enough, I don't know the history well enough - so I'm going to have to have you folks examine yourselves, because you know yourselves. How often are complaints and grumblings, or even ideas and dreams, not centered around proclaiming Christ, but rather our own wants, whims, and desires? It's something I know I have to constantly watch out for myself, that I have to guard against. We are taught and trained by the world from a young age to judge everything by how it suits our own taste - that's how we shop, that's how we vote, that's how we eat. What's in it for me; what do I like. But that's not the focus here - it's not about what any of us like - It's about Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus who knows what we need. And just as the folks in the text didn't need another belly full of bread, in spite of what we will tell ourselves, we don't really need to have our wide-eyed dreams for this congregation met or to have our every quibble fixed according to our specification - that's all incidental, that's not the truly important thing. We need the forgiveness won by Christ's death and resurrection. We need the promise of the resurrection of the body, the life of the world to come.
And so Jesus responds to the grumblers, responds to us in our grumbling. He says, "Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to the Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him. And I will raise Him up on the last day." Again, it's not about what you do, your wants, your whims - God will call His people to Christ, God will call His people here to His House. And it is here where we will be taught by God, taught by His Word, taught to be focused ever more upon Christ. Here we will be taught that right now, this moment, in Christ we have eternal life. Jesus continues and says, "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, He will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." To be honest - it would be a lot easier to preach this part of the text if we had communion today. Bread of heaven works really well as a theme when I can point to the Supper that we will have in just a few moments - it kind of hits a fullness there. And frankly, we really probably should have the Supper every time we get together on a weekend here - but the point of this text isn't me being able to wag a finger about every Sunday communion - if any of you want to know I can tell the history of how we went from communion every Sunday to where we foolishly stopped - but that's for another time. The focus here is not the folly of history, but rather the truth of what Christ Jesus does for you.
This is the thing - Jesus keeps His focus upon the real problem. We have a sin and death problem - and so Jesus comes down to be the bread of life. The real bread of life. The first time bread is mentioned in the Scriptures - it's the lousy substitute that Adam gets to eat after the fall. No more fruit from the garden; now Adam having sinned gets to work the fields by the sweat of His brow and then eat bread. Our earthly bread, it's the bread of death. You can have a slice of wonder bread every day of your life, and you will still end up dead. Even manna, the best earthly bread ever - still dead. And so Jesus comes down as the bread from heaven, the living bread, the bread of life. Bread was a consequence and punishment for sin -- and so Jesus Himself comes down from heaven to take up upon Himself all the consequence and punishment for sin. By faith, that gift we have received from God working through the Word and the Holy Spirit, we have been called and drawn to Christ, and we trust Him, we receive the Bread of Life - we are baptized into Him, we hear Him proclaimed, and even feed on Him - and thus we have everlasting life now - even though we should die, yet we shall live (that's a few chapters down the line). Why? Because it's not about our wants, our whim, our ego. Jesus is far better than we are - whereas we are sinners who deserve to die - He is the living bread from Heaven who goes unto death so that we have life in Him - all praise to Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. In the Name of the Father...