Full Service Wednesday Lent, 3-25-2020

This sermon continues the theme for the season: “The Son of God Goes Forth to War”

John 6:66-68 New International Version (NIV)

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

 

(Quick note, the first minute of the service is cut-off)

The Hidden Warrior

Second Wednesday Service, Lent 2020

John 11:33-37 New International Version (NIV)

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind manhave kept this man from dying?”

We are beggars; this is true

As sons and daughters of the Lutheran Reformation, today we celebrate the fact that the truth of the Gospel has set us free.  The truth is the saving grace of Christ Jesus our Savior.  He has pierced the darkness of law-based work righteous religion.  It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the scriptures alone that we see that salvation is found in Christ Alone!

Water into Wine, Water into Blood

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany
John 2:1-11

We all have times in our lives when the “wine runs out.”  And we are tempted to ask, Where in the world is God?  What could he possibly be trying to show or teach me by such a hardship?  When the Lord doesn’t answer on our terms we often get impatient, we are tempted to question his graciousness when we face sickness, financial problems or loss.  Even when things are good, and we’ve got plenty of wine, so to speak.  Do we always remember to thank our God?  Or how often doesn’t the humdrum mundane rhythm of life often drown out our need for Jesus.

The truth is, no matter the situation God is always there and he’s using the good times, the bad times, the mundane, and even the things we don’t understand – for our eternal good.  In every situation God wants to direct our attention to our Savior Jesus.  He doesn’t leave us directionless in this, rather he gives us signs.  This morning let’s ponder those signs have a God that turns water to wine, and wine into blood. 

  1. Water into Wine

The part of God’s word for our meditation this morning begins with Jesus and his disciples being invited to this wedding feast in the backwater town of Cana.  Now, Jewish weddings traditionally lasted for seven days.  We don’t know which day of the feast they were on, but seemingly it was pretty early on in the celebration, since they were about to run out of wine and that was a serious problem.

Right away, we meet Mary, Jesus mother, and can you picture her?  Running about as the hostess, making sure everything is just right.  We can be fairly confidant that she had some kind of leadership role at this wedding because she’s commanding the servants and she’s also one of the first to notice that the wine is gone.

A happy wedding feast is about to end in shame.  A wedding couple is about to begin their marriage on a sour note.  A joyful moment is about to be overshadowed by the depression of having to send everyone home early.  What should have been a day to celebrate new life is to be cut off prematurely.  Nothing except a miracle could save it now.

And Mary turns to Jesus.  She knew her son.  She remembered all the things people told her, angels included, about the things that he would do.  She knows that Jesus could do something about this situation!  She knows that nothing, save a miracle could save the wedding feast, the reputation of the hosts, and perhaps her own reputation might be bolstered – She’s thinking, “where are you at Jesus!” – swoop in and save the day.

But what is Jesus response to his mother? “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

Some might think this response of Jesus is harsh or even disrespectful.  Jesus calling his mother “woman” is not a term of disrespect.  In those days, one might address a queen in such a way.  But that said, this is a rebuke none the less.  By these words Jesus is saying, “Mom, I love you, but your maternal authority, does not extend over me and my call as Messiah, as savior – My hour has not yet come!

APP:

The hour has not yet come.  That’s not a response that we like to hear when we our wine has ran out.  When we are fervently praying and hoping that God would act.  That’s not the response we want when we hear of the young couple on the verge of their 5th wedding anniversary – and they’re filing for divorce.  That’s not the response we want when awaiting medical results and the fear is that the disease is terminal.  This isn’t the response we want to hear when we want God to act on our terms, in a way that’s right now – in a way I can see and touch and smell.

Why does God permit hardship and pain in our lives?  Ponder the Sign that John gives to Mary and the disciples at the wedding.  This is his FIRST miracle and what does Jesus do?  Does he act how we’d expect or how Mary expected?  Does he move a mountain? Does he cause the sun, moon and stars to stand still? Does he calm a storm or raise the dead? Does he even stand up on a table and say, “Hey look what I can do!”  No, at a wedding, in a humble house hold in back woods Cana population a few dozen people some sheep and some camels.   And he quietly, almost secretly changes water into wine.

The Lord quietly reveals his Glory. Jesus is indeed with you, with us when we face the hardships of this world.  When our cup is dry, when our wine is gone – when earthly pleasure is turned to pain or joy to sadness – he wants us to remember the quiet ways in which the Lord reveals his glory in our lives.  It’s the reading of Psalm 23 at the death bed, reminding the person of the hope of heaven.  It’s a Christian family that rallies around a person during and after a painful divorce, to remind them that “Here stands your Christian Family, who you’ll be with forever!  Even when your earthly one has failed.  It’s a sinner, who in time of doubt turns to the Lord and finds peace and a full cup of forgiveness for all their sins.  The Lord will indeed graciously provide.  Our Jesus speaks to us, in his word with the voice of the creator God.  He reminds us that we can turn to him in every need.  There is nothing beyond his care.  Not even a little wedding, in  backwater Cana where they ran out of wine.

 

  1. Wine into Blood

Such a seemingly simple thing for Jesus to provide wine for his first miracle.  The first sign as John calls it.  And make no mistake about it, Jesus provided abundantly.  He answers the prayer for help from his Mother, he provides for the need of the wedding party.  Don’t miss this bit either, Jesus here is providing the wedding gift for his disciples!  They were poor fishermen who couldn’t afford to bring a good and appropriate gift to this wedding.  Had they come ate and drank and had their fill, wouldn’t Jesus and his disciples have looked like freeloaders or wedding crashers?  Yet, there were six stone water jars and six disciples present – one for each of them.  Jesus provides the gift for them.  And it’s not a cheap wedding gift.  He provides the best wine, as the head of the banquet noticed.  Two hundred and forty liters of wine, excellent wine, today would have a cash value upward of twenty thousand dollars.

Think of who Jesus and those six men are.  They were the first New Testament Church!  Those six men were the first who put their trust, their hope and their belief in Jesus as the Savior.  And what does this miracle do for them?   As John says in v. 11.  What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The first of the signs – that is to imply that many more would follow.  And what do signs do?  They give information.  They point the way.  Every time Jesus performs a miracle in John’s gospel, this is what John calls it, a “Sign.”  Whether it’s raising the dead, feeding the five thousand, healing the sick, walking on water – they are all signs.   Signs as John says later in his gospel, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in his name!”

APP:

Those miracles do not come cheaply.  Each and every one of them in their own way pointed to Jesus who would shed his blood on the cross for the sins of the world.  And wouldn’t you know it, our gracious Lord still provides for his little church, a sign for us that points to our highest good.  He gave to his Church the Lord’s Supper.  Where body is in with and under the bread, and blood is in with and under the wine.  That we might literally taste and see that our Lord is good.  Jesus tells you, no matter the sin, have no doubt – I gave my body and my blood for you.

And this sign, Holy communion, the Lord’s Supper – it still comes to us in a quiet way.  There’s no fan fare or thrill of a magic trick.  It’s quiet and peaceful assurance grasped by faith.  It’s just simple sign between sinner and Jesus. A reminder that the Lord is with us, that he provides for us, when we have plenty – or when our cup is almost empty.  He is there when we have the strength to stand or kneel at the altar, and in the quiet moments when the number of breaths we take is in the single digits.  Ponder the signs Jesus gives you the Lord who turned water into wine, is the same Lord that turns wine into blood.  Amen.

Behold Your King

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Last Sunday of End Time
John 18:33-37

The last few days had been a blur.  He hadn’t slept much, he caught a few winks under a tree in Gethsemane the night before, but that’s it.  And he was emotionally strung out as well as being physically tired.  The last week had seen many highs and lows.  Six days ago, he beheld his king, as Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph with the adoration of the crowd as they cheered Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!  But that was the end of the laughter and mirth.

Last night was one of confusion, anxiety, and fear.  Not at all how he expected to spend the end of this Passover week.  Last night at supper, Jesus again spoke plainly of betrayal and death and going away.  How could Jesus be the long-awaited king if he was going to die, or go away?  Yet, just as it always happened, what Jesus said came true.

While he was nodding his head trying to fight off sleep, he was suddenly more awake than he wanted to be.  He heard the murmur of many voices, the stomp and clanking of many feet and armor and weapons jostling and the ominous light of a bunch of torches.

And fear won the night. As he heard the ring of steel and a scream of pain. He heard Jesus yell at Peter to put his sword away. “Shall I not drink the cup my Father has given me!” Then they took him.  They bound Jesus hands and lead him off.  He was supposed to be the king!  He was supposed to be the anointed one!   And so fear won the night as all at once the disciples turned and fled.

But John, may have been one of the youngest, but certainly not the least courageous or faithful.  He must have gathered his wits more quickly than his brothers.  He must have realized quicker than the rest – I have followed my king for three years and he has never let me down.  He is the Christ! The Messiah!  The anointed one, king David’s heir, the rightful king of all Israel.  He’s not only my king, but my dearest and closest friend.  And now, he gets taken how can I abandon him now?  No matter what, all fear, and anxiety or confusion aside – I have to know the truth about Jesus – the Christ, the King.

And so again, John followed his king, not leading soldiers to battle, but being led by soldiers.  First to the high priest Annas, and a sham of a trial in front of the Jewish leaders.  If he is the king, how can he stand for this?  Then they made for the Roman Praetorium or judgment hall.  They were going to see Pilate, the Roman governor!

And then Pilate came out, looking every bit a leader, surrounded by his guard.  And the Jewish leaders presented Jesus.  They said things like, “He claims to be a king – there is no king but Caesar.  He is stirring up a rebellion against you and Rome, Pilate.  He opposes the paying of taxes to the Roman Government!”

John probably couldn’t believe his ears. The last thing was a flat out lie.  The Pharisees saying there is no king but Caesar?  The pharisees saying that Jesus was the one stirring up the rebellion???  What? It was the pharisees and zealous Jews who hated the Romans with a passion!  It was they who opposed the paying of taxes, it was they who spoke of rebellion against Rome!  Come to think of it, Jesus had never said such things.  And these Jewish leaders who hated their Roman overlords were now feigning loyalty!

And to top it all off, Pilate has Jesus brought into the Judgment hall, and the Jews don’t follow!  Why? Because it would’ve made them ceremonially unclean.  If they were so cozy with Rome all of a sudden, and this Jesus such a heinous criminal as they claimed then why didn’t they follow???  When the judgment hall was a public place.

Anyway, John didn’t care.  This was his friend, he had to see what would become of his king.  Ceremonial uncleanness was the farthest thing from his mind right now.  Jew or not, his friend, his king was seemingly in trouble.

See, John and the other disciples had known that there was going to be a confrontation between Jesus and Rome at some point.  They had hoped that they would behold him riding into battle against Rome, banners unfurled.  Peter tried to make it happen the other night when he cut off the ear of the High Priests ear, but Jesus rebuked him!

And now this, Israel’s hope, Israel’s king is standing before Pilate – the Roman governor.  John tired as he was, paid careful attention to what was happening.

Was all lost? There stood Jesus.  He didn’t look like a king.  He looked exhausted.  He bore all the signs of a full night of mistreatment.  He was beaten and bruised. One could hardly say, “BEHOLD THE KING.”  So, Pilate asks him sarcastically, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 

And do you think that John didn’t wonder, if he wasn’t pleading in his heart.  “Lord break forth in all your glory!”  You could crush Pilate!  You could heal your own wounds.  You could take this palace and make it yours!  Send down 10,000 legions of Angels! Why don’t you show your power like you did on the mountain.  Where your clothes and hair were white, where God the Father spoke from Heaven, when Moses and Elijah appeared with you!  Come on Jesus!  Make your self known!  Once and for all, and leave no doubt in the minds of the Romans and the Jews or anyone else in the world that YOU are the king.  I’m sick of all the godlessness, and hypocrisy and doubters and naysayers in this country!  Show them Lord, make them BEHOLD THE KING.  I would fight for you, like Peter tried to!!! Show them!  Prove me right!

Then Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

From another place.  And the memories of what Jesus said at the last supper the night before come flooding back to John.

I am going to him who sent me.

In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 

From another place.  And that place is heaven.  It’s not just a different location, but the weapons of the world will not avail.  An earthly victory carved out in blood, is no victory for the heavenly kingdom.  Real truth, standing up for God’s truth, the Gospel truth, cannot be delivered by the end of a blade.  Rather, it’s delivered by humility. It might mean being persecuted or killed for it.

This must have been a hard fact to swallow for John.  Everything his Lord, his friend, his king said was true and came true and now he was standing for the truth of what he came to do.  As Jesus said to Pilate here:

“The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

In few short hours, John would behold his king testify to the ultimate truth.   When the world would behold it’s king, not in glory but nailed to a cross.  And the truth is, Jesus is not the king the world wanted.  The pharisees accused and the Romans killed him.  John doubted and fled from him.  Peter in weakness denied him.  Judas betrayed him. Jesus is not the king the world wanted.

The truth is Jesus is the king the world needed.  To save us from the real enemy, not the Pharisees, not the Romans, not the doubters and the naysayers, not even the Godless people of the world – but Satan, the father of lies.  He’s the one who’d have us all see a child in a manger in Bethlehem and say, “That’s a king?”  He’s the one who’d have us see a brutal death on the cross and say, “That’s the victory of your king?”  He’s the one who’d make us look at the world and see naysayers and the godless and say, “Is your great king ever coming back?”

See, St. John beheld the king in humility, he saw the king bloody and beaten. He had the same doubts and struggles that you and I have. But before John left this world, he also saw the king in glory and he records it for us.  When John himself was beaten, and exiled as an old man stuck on an Island by himself.  In the book of Revelation John records this:

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lamp stands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars ,and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! 

This is the same Jesus who John saw in humility, now in Glory!  We will behold the king.  He is the sun that goes not down.  Though he was humbled for our sake, he was killed but now he lives forever. This is the Jesus that you and I will behold.  Amen

Believe the Hard Teaching

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14th Sunday after Pentecost
John 6:60-69

Upset equilibrium

How many prospect members, or new members have we reached out too, who came to church for a while but no longer sit in the pews next to us? How many Students have gone to our school yet no longer come to church?  How many kids have gone through conformation class yet abandon the faith?  How many people have gone through BIC yet do not attend?  You know who they are!  They’re the people you’ve spoken to about Christ.  You’ve prayed about their spiritual welfare in some cases for weeks, months, maybe even years and there seems to be no change of heart.  When we offer them the bread of life, they turned up their nose as though you offered them rotting meat.  Does this mean we are failing as a church?  Does it cause us to doubt the power of God’s Word?  Does it cause us to doubt the “Hard teaching” of Scripture?

The situation that we find Jesus and the 12 in for today is not so very different.  This portion of Scripture from John 6 is the aftermath of the bread of life discourse, which I preached on last Sunday.  There we were reminded that Jesus spoke to his followers, not of physical things, but rather the greater Spiritual things – the concerns and hungers of the soul.  Jesus wanted them to take him in to follow him, to hear his word and grow in their knowledge of who he was and what he came to do.

But these crowds that followed Jesus rejected what he was saying.  As John writes, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Expose the problem

They had been born bread and law fed.  Earlier, in v. 28 St. John records, “Then they (that same group of people) asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

If they were going to accept Jesus, they were going to do it on their own terms. Terms that they knew and understood. They were stunned by what Jesus said.  He claimed to be greater than Moses!  He claimed that if they ate his flesh and drink his blood that they’d live forever.  He said that he was the messiah, but he was a person of flesh and blood!  This person standing before them was able to give eternal life?  That was too hard a teaching for them!  Christ was too hard a teaching!

They wanted something that they could rationalize, something that they could wrap their human minds around.  They wanted that “feel good” message that the pharisee’s, and teachers of the Law had given them.  A message that made sense to them, that you work for God’s love, that if you really try it’s possible to keep the ten commandments. So, when Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” This was a hard teaching for them.

So how do you think Jesus core group, the 12 disciples felt as they watched that crowd of hundreds, perhaps thousands, dwindle down?  Jesus even asked them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” As many of their other friends, acquaintances, family members began to leave, were they dismayed?  I mean, Jesus had been at the height of his popularity here!  This is what they all wanted right – crowds of thousands of people flocking to the messiah?

Did they expect Jesus to chase them down?  Did they expect him to change his tune or apologize for speaking the way he had? Did they expect him to “soften” his hard teaching?  Do you think they too were tempted to leave?   I mean all that was left in the end were some fishermen, sinners, a tax collector and a guy who would eventually betray Jesus.  It must have been difficult to watch these crowds abandon Jesus and turn away from the hard teaching.

DEEPEN THE ISSUE

For Christians in the 21st century, it’s not difficult to identify with the 12 here is it?  I think of situations like this – A kid who was brought up in the Church goes off to college and joins the working world.  He runs into many different ideas and ways of thinking.  People from different backgrounds, religions, lack of religion, or different faith traditions confront him on a daily basis.

Not just that sort of thing, but also the concerns of life begin to creep in – finances, romance, a house, a car, a job – those things begin to take precedence in his life.  The importance of Jesus slowly but surely begins to take a back seat to the point that this young man asks, “what in the world does a MAN who died 2000 years ago have anything to do with me?”

Just like the disciples watching that crowd slowly dwindle away, this young man’s parents watch him turn away from Jesus – because Christ is the hard teaching!  There isn’t an earthly way to rationalize him.

So, what are parents to do?  Are they tempted to soften the message because now every time religion comes up in conversation it causes an argument – saying, “Well he’s a grown man, he can decide what’s best for himself.  We don’t really need to interfere.”  Do they sit there confounded and perplexed not knowing what to say to him.  Especially, when he brings up arguments against organized religion, when he questions the validity of Scripture as a whole, when he says, “look at the world!  How many different people of how many different faiths are out there!  What makes you so sure that you are right!”

Are mom and dad dismayed?  They pray for their son, they ask God to help him.  They thought that they did the right thing and brought him up in the right way – is God’s word not effective?  Is it not powerful?

DISCLOSE SOLUTION:

In all of John chapter 6, Jesus too is questioned by this crowd of people who were following him.  They asked him 6 hard questions. 1.  What must we do to be saved? 2. What sign will you give to prove you are who you say you are? 3. Wait!  Aren’t you Joseph and Mary’s son?  4. How can you say “I came from heaven?” 5. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 6.This is a hard teaching who can accept it!?

In every circumstance – Jesus answers the hard question with the hard teaching.  For example, in the case of the last question, “who can accept this hard teaching?”  Jesus replies, What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e]and life.

He confronts them with THE hard teaching.  The reality of who he is.  The reality of his Gospel message.

He says, “I am the Son of God!”  What if you saw me ascend back into heaven?  I am most certainly capable of it!  Mark that I say it now because you will hear of it, and what will you think then?

He says, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. – stop thinking about your physical needs only and what you get wrapped up in in the here and now!  This “reality” that you think is so stable, that you think is so important now – what will it be to you when you die?

The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e]and life. I have not come to gain popularity, or political power.  I have come to reveal the Father’s Love for the World, his love for you!

The crazy thing is, Jesus knew that the people in this crowd didn’t believe.  He knew that they rejected the hard teaching of who he is.  Yet, does that stop him from telling them about him? NO!  He didn’t try to argue or debate with them philosophically as to why they should follow him.  He simply told them what he’d been telling them all along.  He kept trying to gift them with faith!

GOSPEL

This is what was different about those 12 disciples.  This is why they stay when the others left and why they able to accept the “hard teaching.”  The Father gave them faith through the Gospel, through that hard teaching.  When Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” “We have come to believe and know…”  This doesn’t contradict Jesus saying, “No one can come to me unless the Father enables them.”  Peter’s confession simply emphasizes HOW! These men walked and talked with Jesus on a daily basis!  They were literally in the catechism class of Jesus himself for 3 years.  And those 3 short years had a profound effect on the rest of their lives.  Peter confesses here that Jesus’ Words were the thing sustaining them – and those same words sustained each of them to the end!  Think of the lives they lived and the death’s they died of the sake of the Hard teaching – Jesus.  Beheading, torture, persecution, burning at the stake, in Peter’s case he was crucified upside down.  Death was no object!  Jesus had the Word’s of eternal life!  Their attitude because they knew and believed that Gospel message that our sins are forgiven, we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb – was – to live is Christ to die is gain!

And we might be tempted to think, “Well it was easy for them because they actually lived with Jesus. They ate and drank/walked and talked with Jesus and heard his words – experienced the living breathing “Hard teaching” first hand!

But you walk with Jesus too!  You hear the Word right from his mouth too don’t you? We have his unchanging Word in Scripture.  We talk with him when we spend time in prayer. You eat and drink with him at communion.  We have that same Hard Teaching that they had.  We believe that same Gospel that they did.

Melissa, as a teacher this is the same message that you get to share with Jesus little lambs.  Daily, you and your class will walk with Jesus as you teach them his Words, the same words, the same Gospel the same Hard Teaching that Jesus himself shared with his little class of 12 students.  As you instruct them to believe the Hard Teaching think of the blessing of sharing Jesus with those with a child like faith that simply trusts the Hard teaching.

ANTICIPATE THE CONCEQUENCES

Let it be our prayer that we all could be like that!  Simply believing the Hard Teaching with a child like faith that doesn’t try to rationalize it all.  A faith that ever seeks to grow in the knowledge of the one who gifted it to us.  A faith that trusts that Jesus will walk, and has walked with us through every phase of life.  A faith that believes the hard teaching – like as certainly as the sky is blue and the grass is green.  A faith like the 12 apostles, that says Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the Word’s of eternal life!  God grant this for Jesus sake.  Amen.

Eat and Live!

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13th Sunday after Pentecost
John 6:51-58

INTRO:

You are what you eat.  I’m sure that you’ve all heard that before.  It’s very true! Have you ever seen that movie “Super-Size me?”  The guy eats McDonalds for a month straight and his health just goes right down the tube.  This guy willingly ate tons of garbage food, he gained weight, his blood pressure went through the roof, he had troubles sleeping from all the sugar and caffeine.  It’s sad to watch what that guy went through for the sake of “science.”

While, “you are what you eat” clearly applies to our physical health it also applies to our spiritual health as well.  As psalm 42 says, “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you oh, God.”  Our creator has endowed us with an inborn desire to crave him. Our souls need to be fed and nourished otherwise they starve or become malnourished.  If we neglect our spiritual health and let it starve, just like anything else it will wither and die.  Just as we need to eat right physically, so we need to eat right spiritually.  Today, in the Gospel according to John, our Savior tells what to eat.  He says we need the living bread from heaven.  He encourages us to “Eat and Live!”  He tells us that it matters what we eat, and when to eat.  

 

Context:

Jesus gives this bread of life discourse when he’s back in a familiar place, the town of Capernaum.  The same place where he did his first miracle of changing water into wine.  Just prior to this bread of life sermon, Jesus gave the people of that area an object lesson, he fed 5000 with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish.  There the people ate and had their fill!  But when Jesus saw that after that the people were going to make him their new king by force, he left.  Yet, they followed him around the lake, chased him down.  When they caught up to Jesus, he basically said, “You followed me not because you wish to know who I am, but rather you filled your stomach!”

 

PART I: It Matters what you eat

EXPOSITION

This whole incident drives Jesus to get the Jews to question what they had been eating spiritually.  Just 2 verses before the text for today, Jesus says, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.”  See, the Jewish religious leaders had been teaching their people for years that when the Messiah came, he would be greater than Moses.  Meaning, he would do signs and wonders that were greater than the ones Moses was permitted by God to perform.  So, when Jesus fed the 5000 they thought, “Well that’s pretty good, but a drop in the bucket compared to the nation of Israel 2 million strong that were fed DAILY when Moses led our ancestors in the desert.”

Yet, as Jesus points out – they died!  Jesus is driving them to look beyond the physical.  He wanted them to stop thinking only ever about their earthly needs, that they had eaten and had their fill when he fed the 5000, that they wanted a leader, a king, who would revive Israel’s armies and drive out the Romans who occupied their land.  This is the sort of thing that their religious leaders and politicians were feeding them – peace, prosperity, a new golden age of Jerusalem – right now.   Christ Jesus offered them something greater.  He wanted them to focus on their spiritual welfare.  In so many words he says, “I am greater than Moses!”  When he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

But they didn’t want to hear it.  This sort of thing was literally disgusting to them.  They were still thinking of the physical when they said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  But then Jesus goes even a step further!  When he says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

Drink his BLOOD?  That thought would have been abhorrent and revolting to them!  Just as it would be revolting and abhorrent if someone told you that! “He wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood – this is what we have to do to eat and live – PREPOSTEROUS!”

APPLICATION

On physical level, preposterous indeed! But that’s the point.  Jesus leaves no room to remain thinking about the physical.  He’s directing us to look not at the physical but to the spiritual.  That our greatest need lies not with the flesh and blood that we see with our eyes.  But in the Spiritual, the needs and the hungers of the soul that which we cannot see – yet surely exist.

I think Christians are tempted in the same way, to seek after answers for their “best life now.”  It’s almost inevitable for Christians in America at least.  Our lives are pretty cushy.  We have homes, cars, and the nearest meal is a microwave away.  Most of the technology out there today is based around creature comforts.  Not that I’m even necessarily opposed to those things, many of them are extremely helpful to us – even in the case of Gospel ministry.  However, to maintain that standard of living the world around us is driven by a desire to take in knowledge.  All that we might improve our lives right now, that we might be comfortable and well fed right now.  Our culture worships the physical.  It worships things that seem imperishable.  I mean that’s pretty obvious when we have a culture that worships youth.  And that is an easy thing to get caught up in, it’s sweet and it tastes good, but it’s spiritual junk food.  Because reality tastes quite bitter.  Who isn’t afraid of dying, who isn’t afraid of that box in the ground six feet down, who doesn’t want to live forever?

But this is what Jesus answers here isn’t it!  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 

Jesus is the bread of life, the genuine article! He said, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  He implores us to make him a part of us, so then to eat, is to believe. Believe that he is who he says he is, God made manifest, the Savior, the one sent to take away our sins and remove the power of death.  This is what he wanted those Jews of his day to see, and this is what he wants us to see. He is far better than manna from heaven, that satisfies for a day but then leaves a person hungry again.  This bread from heaven was given for the life of the world.

PART II: When we eat

EXPOSITION

When Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  This is not altogether different than what he had preached and taught on various other occasions.  It’s similar to what he told the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  It’s reminiscent of when Jesus tells his disciples that he is the vine and they are the branches – if they remain in him he remains in them.

For the Jews who heard Jesus on that day, Jesus illustrates the idea of “remaining” in him in a unique way.  As St. John recalled this bread of life discourse, and wrote it down, the word that he chose for “eat” is rather graphic.  It’s not like “eat a light snack.”  Literally, the word that John chooses here is gnaw.  Chew on continuously, like a dog gnawing on a bone!  He wanted them to ponder him, to follow him, to listen to his words daily, to grow in their knowledge of who he was.

APPLICATION:

It’s really for that reason that this bread of life discourse isn’t expressly talking about holy communion.  Sadly, we know that there are some who partake of the Lord’s Supper and take it not to their benefit, but to their condemnation as Paul says in Corinthians.  Jesus is talking about a continuous eating – like the psalm talked about – a tree planted by a stream of water whose leaves don’t wither or fade.

Jesus wants us to come to him continually and often.  Part of the reason that Jesus uses such extreme language here – eating flesh, drinking blood, gnawing on him – is because this is a matter of spiritual life and death.

One of you, just the other day was telling me that you were talking to someone about their lack of regular church attendance.  The phrase that was used was, “If you don’t water the grass, it’s going to die.”  How true that is!  The believer plants his or her self in the Word.  We feed on the Word of Jesus.  We have an everlasting source of spiritual nourishment, this living bread from heaven.  This is what coming to church is all about.  It’s about feeding our souls.

I’m reminded of a lady that I used to visit while she was in hospice care.  I remember her telling me that she had many regrets about how she’d spent her time in life, as a mom, a wife, even as a daughter.  But one thing she said she never regretted, even on her death bed as she looked back on her life, was bringing her children, her family to church with her.  Even when she felt it would be too hard to come that Sunday for whatever reason.  Even when she thought that she probably didn’t need to go that week – she realized that when she got there that she needed it more than ever.  Her soul was starved during the week.  Spiritually her strength was sapped and she needed to come to the bread of life.

At the end of the day, that is what church is about.  It’s not all the meetings, activities and programs.  It’s regularly sitting at the feet of our Savior Jesus and feeding on his Word.  Meditating and believing on that message that his flesh, and his blood were given and poured out for us, for the forgiveness of all of our sins.  And his flesh and blood rose again!  Proving that he was LIFE, the main ingredient in him was eternal life.

CONCLUSION

This is why as Christians we eat this bread often because even as this mortal shell fails, even when all the food and drink in the world would avail us nothing and we have hours to live; not even the bitter taste of death can take away the effects of eating this bread.  The Gospel is the bread of life, given to us that we might have eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Remember you are what you eat – so eat and live!  Amen.