Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
August 7-8, 2021
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Do you have a favorite chapter in the Bible? Some people do. Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not (be) in want.” Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Romans 8, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Each of those chapters are food for the soul. Read them often. Memorize their words. Believe them. Trust them. Live by them.
Do the same with John 6, our reading for today. Do you want to know what Jesus has done for you? Do you want the clear and understandable word that will bring you the comfort of your eternal salvation? Then John 6 is your chapter. John 6 will present Jesus to you. It will call you to faith. It will deepen your life. I’m glad that God, in His wisdom, in just one chapter, opened up to us His saving truth.
Jesus, just shortly before our reading, had made many friends. He had filled the bellies of over 5,000 people with the miracle of multiplying the two small fish and the five loaves of bread. Jesus, to them, was going to be the new Moses, feeding them daily. But Jesus wasn’t interested in being a new Moses. Earlier in the chapter it says, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:15)
But he wasn’t going to be by Himself for very long. They came looking for Him. But Jesus tells them that He wants to do more than feed their bellies. He was not just interested in the temporary but the permanent and eternal. He said to those who had found Him, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:26-27)
Too often we expect far too little of God. That is what Jesus saw in them. All they wanted was bread – earthly bread for their bellies. He wanted to give them so much more. Our prayers, so often, ask God to heal the bodies of our friends, our family and our self. God wants to do more than give bodies health. Recently one of our members asked for this church to pray that the heart of their friend would be open to the truth of Jesus. How good! Jesus wants all to know the truth of His salvation and hope. When the crowd asked for Jesus to be the new Moses He told them He would give them much more than physical bread. “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:49-51)
John 6, and its lesson, is very similar to John 4 and the account of the woman at the well. Jesus comes to Samaria and asks a woman there for some water. And then He adds, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) He wanted to take his temporary disciples, and this woman, and you and me, deeper, further. In Isaiah the prophet says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2) He wants us to be fed and be quenched fully.
My mail has become quite predictable lately. About once a month I have a realtor write telling me that they have a buyer who can’t wait to move in. I get another offer from an insurance agent that guarantees that they can save me at least $752.00 from my current insurer. And, regularly, I , or the old lady I live with, are invited to a retirement workshop at some fancy restaurant. But this Wednesday I got a personally addressed letter, with a first-class stamp, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. DeAnna, the person who sent the letter, invited me to their conference titled “Powerful by Faith”. The invitation was nicely done, it even told me that there was no cost and no offering would be collected. But I know enough about the Jehovah’s Witnesses that theirs is a faith without the fullness of Jesus, and along with all the other offers, I’m not going to attend.
John 6, is one of the great chapters in the Bible because Jesus will tell you about who He is and what He can do. Listen to this:
- I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (6:32-33)
- I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (6:35)
- My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (6:40)
Do you get it? It is understandable? Jesus tells us that faith in Him, and Him alone, will bring us everlasting life. You might be aware of this – 7 times Jesus uses the Divine phrase “I AM” to tell us who He is and what He will do for us. John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 10:9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Those 6, plus our “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty”, tell us of Jesus.
No substitutes in life will ever fill our soul. No looking deep inside ourself for life’s answer will work. No pleasures that we seek can ever give us what will last. John 6 is clear, Jesus satisfies the hungry soul. When the virus began and when we only offered on-line services and could not meet together as a church, I would look into the camera and say, “Trust in Jesus.” That is the same word I give to you. Why? Because that is what Jesus tells us to do. Trust Him. We do not have a Christless religion, but a Christ-filled faith.
With a little bit of crassness Jesus gets His point across in John 6, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:53-55)
I will tell you why this chapter is such a great chapter – Jesus lays out, clearly, who He is and how He wants to give us the fullness of life through His life and actions. And He asks – where do you stand? Do you believe this? Are you for Me, or not? None of this “Spiritual but not Religious” drivel. Not everyone believed the pointed words of Jesus. They heard Him. They understood what He was saying. But they didn’t believe Him. “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” (John 6:60) A few verses later these sad verses are recorded, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66) To this flight of folks Jesus asks the apostle’s, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) And then, the great response, the knowledge that faith in Jesus takes conviction is given, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
Where do you stand? What do you believe? Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus gives us life now and forever. Amen!!