Monday, August 10, 2015

Sermon on John 6:35-51, for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, "The Marvelous Disturbance"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today is part 2 of Jesus’ Bread of Life sermon, where He taught that He is the Bread of Life, and whoever comes to Him will not hunger or thirst. Last week He urged us not to labor for bread that perishes, but the bread that endures to eternal life—namely, Himself! He is the imperishable bread and eternal life. 
Do you ever ask to “be disturbed?” Feel like you need to be shaken up a little, wakened from a drowsy slumber? Or is the “do not disturb” sign permanently hung on your doorknob, or even on your forehead? On Sunday mornings, do we hope only to be lulled into a peaceful calm? Of course, not all disturbances are good ones—but then again others are. Sometimes we need a jolt to get us thinking and doing, or to surprise us with good news.
The crowds that followed Jesus to hear this great sermon, were disturbed to be sure. They didn’t know what to make of Jesus’ words, and the further into His message He got, the more unsettling and disturbing it became to them. It was disturbing because they thought they had Jesus all boxed up and figured out. He was the neighborhood carpenter’s boy, and they thought that pretty much explained Him. But now He was saying He’s the Bread of Life, come down from heaven. He promises that if you come to Him, you’ll never hunger or thirst again. That they will have eternal life if they believe in Him. And perhaps most disturbing yet, He says the bread He gives for the life of the world is His flesh.
Now, coming from just a carpenter’s boy, these words might be disturbing or even just laughable, as they scoffed at Him. But coming from the Son of God—they are simply marvelous.  This could be the disturbance of a lifetime! Waking up from a spiritual lethargy and slumber, to a hope and satisfaction that is everlasting and real. This is the kind of good news worth the good jolt! The challenge the crowd was wrestling with, is who is this Jesus? If He is who He claims to be, then this is truly the best news ever! No one can make promises like these, unless its God Himself. So disturbing or marvelous, all depends on who Jesus is.
Now there have always been charlatans and skilled imposters, who could deceive the masses, or make outlandish promises they could never keep. They might be exposed for the frauds that they are when their own words are found false, empty, or foolish. Or, they might be exposed by crooked deeds that put the lie to their words, or failure to keep their promises. But Jesus passes both tests. Not only were His words wise and compelling—He also spoke the hard truth that they were not ready to hear. Further, He proved by His miracles and especially later, by His resurrection, that He was no imposter, but the real deal. He lived an exemplary life without sin, so that no one could accuse Him, except for the very thing He claimed to be—God’s Son.
Skilled imposters cannot be crucified and rise from the dead. They cannot multiply 5 loaves and 2 fishes into a meal for a multitude. They cannot able to walk on water and calm the stormy seas. But Jesus does all of this, and His opponents could not deny His miracles. This pushed them closer to the disturbing and uncomfortable conclusion, that Jesus really was who He said He was. This crowd, at least, did not yet have the benefit of knowing Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. But they had the teachings of Jesus and other signs and miracles in hand, working away on their hearts. But we have all of the above.
Jesus was no stranger to unbelief, even in the face of compelling words and evidence. He is no stranger to unbelief of the ancient or the modern sort. Skeptics today are of no more concern to Jesus than those of His day. But Jesus speaks a precious insight into God’s plan and character. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Then a few verses later, He expands by saying that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” So all of our unbelief can only be overcome by God the Father’s will and His drawing or pulling us to Jesus. God alone changes our hearts and brings us to His Son.
“Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Just consider the hope and joy those words can bring to any person who doubts themselves before God. Many feel drawn by God to believe in Jesus, yet still fear that God cannot accept them, or that they are not good enough to be saved. One of the most paralyzing fears that anyone can have, is the fear of rejection. And how terrible to fear that one would come to Jesus, and be rejected? But Jesus promises that “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” None of us is “good enough” to be saved—which is the whole reason Jesus had to come! So that He would do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Remember Jesus has already equated coming to Him and believing in Him. The one who believes in Jesus, He will never cast out. Many may fail to receive God’s gift of salvation, because they do not have faith (Heb. 4:2), but it’s not for failure on God’s part to give. And it’s never that Jesus turns away those who come to Him. And again these verses are a total reminder that everything depends completely on God’s grace—undeserved gift—for us. The drawing of us to faith in Jesus, the work of God which is to believe in Him, His invitation, and our receiving it, are all by God’s gracious working in us. So completely are we thrown upon His grace, that all the credit and glory goes to Him alone.
Jesus goes on to reveal more about God’s ways. Jesus tells us plainly what the will of God is. Have you ever worried that the will of God was a mystery, and you were trying to sort out God’s will for your life? Well Jesus removes the mystery, and states “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. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day.” God’s will, plain and simple, made known to us all, is that we would believe in Jesus and have eternal life in God’s Son. God wants us to believe in Jesus and live eternally! Paul echoes this description of God’s will in 1 Timothy 2, that “God desires all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Foremost in God’s mind, is our rescue, our salvation from everlasting death, and deliverance into eternal life through His Son Jesus. This is what God has His heart set on!
To achieve this, God has to overcome the obstacles of our hard and stubborn hearts, and to overcome the terrible divide of our sins, which separate us from His holy presence, and make us guilty and punishable by eternal death. But Jesus has done both. First God overcomes our hard hearts by drawing us to Himself by faith, as we just mentioned. He gives us new hearts, by His Holy Spirit. And secondly, Jesus has overcome the divide of our sins by His death on the cross. This gets to the meaning of His last phrase in this weeks’ passage, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” His body given into death, was for the life of the world. Jesus gave Himself to be broken, to heal the divide we had created.
So when God’s will is realized in His drawing us to Jesus Christ, believing in Him, we come to Jesus with a new and transformed heart, and we receive God’s promises intended for us. We are taught by God and we are raised up by Christ Jesus on the last day. We eat of Jesus Christ, the living bread of heaven, and we live forever. God is eager to fill us with His generous portion, to be filled and satisfied with everlasting life in Jesus. We awaken to the marvelous disturbance of His Words, to believe and receive His gifts. And eternal life is not just a distant gift only to be realized in the future, but it brings us present comfort and hope right now. It frees us to live in joy and hope before Jesus, because the fear of death, rejection, or even lesser fears of hunger, need, or loss, do not need to frighten us any longer.
Our life changes from an endless pursuit to accumulate things that perish, to a generous stewardship of what God has temporarily entrusted us, and a passionate pursuit of the things that are of eternal value. We can freely give and receive from what God has given us, sharing with others who have need, knowing that God will supply us. In other words, the promise of eternal life hereafter transforms our attitude and purpose in the here and now. Jesus, our living bread, feeds us now and forever, so that we never again hunger or thirst.
Realizing God’s will in our lives, by believing in Jesus Christ, and obtaining the promise of eternal life, is more than worth the marvelous disturbance that Jesus’ words creates in our lives. It shakes off our hardened and stubborn hearts. It blows a hole in our selfish pursuit of things that can’t last or save us. It sinks our pride under the greatness of God’s grace and free gift. It wonderfully enlarges our narrow expectations of what a carpenter’s boy from Nazareth can do, and opens our eyes to the humble, lowly, and approachable person of Jesus, who is God come into the world. And it empties our complaints, objections, and unbelief of any credibility, and leaves us faced with rejecting what God freely gives us, to our own hurt and loss, or receiving the incredible gift, of Eternal Life in His Son Jesus. So come, by God’s will, look on Jesus, believe and receive! In His Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. What are the reasons you find in John 6:35-51, why the crowd might have been “disturbed” by Jesus’ words? Why did they think they had Him “figured out?” John 6:42; Mark 3:20-21; Matthew 13:53-58.
  2. What is the only way to come to believe in Jesus? John 6:37-40, 44; 15:16; John 1:11-13. Though God is the only One drawing and pulling us to Jesus, does that mean that we don’t often put up a fight? Matthew 23:37; Romans 3:10-18.
  3. How has Jesus made God’s will explicit (perfectly clear) to us? John 6:38-40. How does this show us God’s heart and desire for the world? Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4.
  4. What fear can potentially “paralyze” people coming before God, and how does John 6:37 answer that fear? What is the great comfort in those words? What does it mean to “come to Jesus?” John 6:35; 40
  5. How do some miss out on, or lose the gift of salvation, freely given? Hebrews 4:2
  6. What great obstacles to our salvation did Jesus overcome? Matthew 15:19; Ephesians 2:12-17.
  7. How does the promise of eternal life to come change for the better how we live in the present? What does it free us from? How does it change our attitudes or fears?

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