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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

John 6:22–35

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 10, Proper 13, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Aug 2, 2015 

It has been a long time without any rest for Jesus and His disciples.  Jesus spent the previous day ministering to people in the wilderness.  He even multiplied a boys lunch of bread and fish and used it to feed 5,000 men and their families.  Then the disciples spent all night trying to get across the sea against a strong wind and werent able to cross until Jesus walked to them on the sea.  As the day dawned they arrived at the other side of the sea and the people ran all over the countryside to bring the sick and injured to Jesus for healing.  There was no stop no letup.

The crowd that Jesus left on the far side of the sea showed up for breakfast, but quickly figured out that Jesus was no longer there.  When some more boats came along, they also came across the water and found Jesus.  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, Rabbi, when did you come here? (John 6:25) They were trying to figure out how Jesus got across the water and back to Capernaum.  This seems like a fairly innocent question.

Never the less, Jesus can look at the heart.  He understood that the motive of the crowd was not as innocent as it might seem.  Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. (John 6:2627) Jesus understood that they were just interested in another free meal.  They did not understand that Jesus came to give eternal life, not just a free breakfast or lunch.

The question and answer session they have with Jesus demonstrates that they dont understand.  Eventually the crowd asked a question that clearly demonstrated their unbelief.  Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (John 6:3031) Jesus has been healing the sick, curing the lame, causing the deaf to hear and the blind to see.  He has been casting out demons and raising people from the dead.  This very crowd had eaten bread and fish multiplied from His hand and they asked for a sign.  The stubborn, unbelieving heart is never satisfied.  It will always ask for more signs.

Not much has changed down through the centuries.  We might not believe in Jesus for free food, but how many T.V. preachers do you hear that will promise you monetary wealth if you will simply send a seed offering their way?  How many preachers will tell you that a life with Jesus means prosperity, success, victory, and so forth?  Some preachers will tell you that if you get your life right, you will get a better job with more pay and fewer responsibilities your children will start to get better grades in school your spouse will find you more attractive and on and on and on.

Here are just a few of the quotes I found on the Internet: God can cause opportunity to find you. He has unexpected blessings where you suddenly meet the right person, or suddenly your health improves, or suddenly you're able to pay off your house. That's God shifting things in your favor. (Joel Osteen) Obedience to God is the pathway to the life you really want to live. (Joyce Meyer) Poverty is from the devil and that God wants all Christians prosperous. (Benny Hinn) Poverty is caused by sin and disobeying the word of god. (John Hagee) These are just a few of the popular T.V. preachers who teach that worldly wealth and success is the reward for those who obey God.

These very popular people teach about a god who is like a great big vending machine in the sky.  You do your part and then God will give you what you want.  The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that we can do nothing, but God, in His grace, freely gives us, not what we want, but what we need.  These teachers make promises for life here and now, and, when their promises fail, they teach that you just havent done it right.  God, on the other hand, makes eternal promises, and His promises never fail.

If these teachers are such liars, and their promises fail so often, why are they all so wealthy?  Why do they fly in their own private planes and ride in limousines?  Why do they live in mansions?

These scam artists are wealthy because the sinful nature is never satisfied with the simplicity of Gods perfect gifts.  Adam and Eve were not satisfied in Eden.  The Israelites in todays Old Testament reading were not satisfied even though God fed them every day.  The crowds in todays Gospel wanted just one more sign.  The Bible is full of people who were not satisfied by Gods promise to them.  Our sinful human nature has not changed and many scam artists make their fortune from those who are not satisfied with the gifts God gives in His promises.

What about you?  God has promised to care for you and provide all you need.  He has promised eternal salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.  He has opened up rivers of forgiveness in word, water, bread and wine.  Is Gods forgiveness not enough for you?

Think about it.  Each and every one of us deserves to suffer in eternal hell.  Never the less, God sent His Son to take up your humanity and take that eternal hell into Himself as He hung on a cross.  He has poured out His righteousness upon you.  You have eternal life for the sake of the perfect life, suffering, and death of the Son of God!  Furthermore, you have the assurance of all of this by virtue of the immortal, bodily resurrection of that very same Son!

Yet what do faithful pastors hear?  Could you do something to make your message a little more exciting? Could you make things a little peppier? Could you make things a little more self-affirming? The eternal Father sent the eternal Son to suffer eternal punishment on the cross so that you could have eternal life, and you arent satisfied!  You want what you want instead of what God wants to give you!  It is like God is a chef who wants to serve you a seven course feast, but you sit down and tell Him that you dont want it because you are used to rancid bologna on moldy bread and prefer that.

The devil is more than happy to provide a wide variety of con-artists to give you exactly what you want.  He is happy to do this because when he gives you what you want, it will draw you away from what you need.  It will draw you away from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and poison your soul instead.  So it is that those who preach lies rake in billions, while those who preach the truth find themselves gathering shopping carts, re-stocking shelves, and doing cleanup in aisle 9 in order to feed their families.  We are willing to pay big bucks to people who tell us the lies even though those lies lead to eternal destruction because those lies make us feel good about ourselves.  At the same time, we drive out those who tell us the truth we need for our salvation.  It is exactly as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write to Timothy.  The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:34)

In spite of the fact that the crowds resisted His message Jesus continued teaching them, Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. (John 6:32) Here Jesus corrected them.  The manna from heaven came from God.  Moses was merely Gods servant at the time.  In fact, all of the signs that Moses did began with God.  Moses was a great prophet of God, not because he was anything great, but because God chose him and called him.

Jesus continued, For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (John 6:33) Here Jesus taught that He Himself is the bread who comes down from heaven.  Just as God sent manna to give temporary life to the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness, so also He sent His Son to give eternal life to all people by His perfect life and sacrificial death on a cross.  This is how Jesus is the bread of God who gives life to the world.

The poor crowds are still thinking of their stomachs when they respond, Sir, give us this bread always. (John 6:34) Martin Luther preached about these people and said, This announcement that the Gospel would fill their bellies, that it would provide plentifully for this life and afford a good living, pleases them. They say, as it were: This would be the man for us. Who would not like him? We, too, would like such a preacher. They pay no attention to Christs words to learn where He wants to lead them, but they are happy over the prospect that He will fill their bellies and give them only earthly goods and money. But that is not the point. The Gospel does not fill the belly; it has something different to do. Times have not changed. When the Gospel is preached, everyone is eager to reap a sufficient store of earthly goods from it. (Luthers Works, Vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John)

But then 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. (John 6:35) With these words Jesus made it clear that He is speaking of a different kind of bread for a different kind of life.  When it comes to the things of this world Jesus said, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20) Never the less, when it comes to the things of eternity, He said, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

These are words that we can never truly understand, but, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can believe in them.  Through the gift of faith given by the Holy Spirit, we can believe in them and in the Christ who said them.  By that gift of faith, we can believe that Jesus is eternal food and drink who will keep us alive with Him in eternity.  For just as Jesus rose from the dead, so also will the Holy Spirit raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

God, in His infinite knowledge and perfect wisdom, will give us, not what we want, but exactly what He knows we need both here in time and forever in eternity.  If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:3132) Amen

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