September 14, 2003: Will You Also Go Away?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You alone gave Your life on the cross to save us. You alone rose from our graves to assure us of heavenly life through faith in You. And You alone have put that gift of faith into our hearts via baptism and the inner-working of the Holy Spirit. For these blessings we thank You. And we also ask that when temptation comes calling, when inner sin tries to pull us away from Your mercy, we ask that Your power be made perfect in our weakness. Amen

TEXT: John 6: 60-69

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I haven’t preached on this text in 23 years. You see, this portion of John’s Gospel was the 1st lesson I was ever assigned to preach on in the seminary. And the sainted Prof. Otto sliced and diced my many sermon drafts until I finally crafted a useable sermon. For the past 23 years I haven’t felt I had anything new to say on this text.—Until now.

I don’t remember the various themes I tried out—all of which Prof. Otto rejected. But I do recall the theme he finally gave me. It was the words of Christ taken from the King James version: Do You Also Want to Go Away? In retrospect, that is still the best summary of this entire lesson. And since after 23 years I cannot improve on it, today I also ask you that same question:


What do King Saul, Demas, and these unnamed disciples in our lesson all have in common? All were believers who for varying reasons lost their faith, rejected Christ as their Savior, and walked away from Christianity. In every case, they started out as bright lights in God’s constellation. Each was active in their faith. Each was a role model for their fellow believers. King Saul was hand-picked by God to lead His people. Saul was greatly blest, too, until one day he decided that he’d rather do things his way than God’s way. And then the downward spiral of unbelief ensued until Saul finally dabbled in the occult and committed suicide. Demas was a fellow disciple with St. Paul in Rome. He is mentioned in two of Paul’s letters as sending greetings to fellow believers. And then, suddenly, in 2 Tim. 4:10 we read this saddest of comments: “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me.”

That brings us to our lesson. Jesus has fed the 5000. He has rejected the crowds appeal to become their welfare King. Instead, Jesus pointed out to them that He was living Bread from heaven and that by embracing Him alone through faith they would be saved eternally. “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh (mere human flesh) counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. (meaning Judas) He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

Right here Jesus is reminding them, and us, that faith isn’t something we do on our own, or that we can take credit for. “It is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” In other words, Jesus was deflating their egos. He was stripping them of their pride at their having followed Christ and done great things for Him. He was bluntly reminding them that all our “holy” efforts amount to zilch before God. But that His efforts on our behalf—His cross, His grave, His empty tomb—that those efforts are God’s free gift to us and that they alone uplift us toward glory. In short, Jesus was telling them that all glory belongs to Him, alone, and they cannot take some of that glory for themselves. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

Over the past 23 years I’ve met a few people who turned their backs on Jesus, as well. I recall the woman who quit the Church because in her own words: “God has made me a sexual creature, and obeying the 6th commandment is just too hard.” I remember the young man who viewed God as his lucky charm, but when his research project imploded and his ph.d work was cut off, concluded: “God is powerless to help me, so why follow Him?” And later that young man committed suicide. I recall various people who simply quit coming to church—any church—because they were unwilling to submerge their ego and their selfishness to Christ alone.


“Do you also want to go away?” That’s what Jesus asked the 12 and that’s what He asks us today. Let’s face it, God’s way is tough on the conscience. It’s tough to resist the lying, cheating, gossiping, let’s-cut-corners, way of this world. In an era of sex without consequences, it’s hard to be monogamous. In an era where we’re told—even by supposedly “Christian” clergy that it doesn’t matter what we believe, or which God we follow, all roads lead to glory—in such times it’s tough to stand up for the exclusivity of our faith.

And yet, to that question: “Do you also want to go away?” Simon Peter answered: “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.”

Let me ask you this: Who but Christ has done miracles including raising 3 people from the dead? Who but Christ foretold His death and resurrection? Who but Christ has fulfilled all those Old Testament Messianic prophecies? Who but Christ never sinned? Who but Christ visibly ascended into heaven—other than the great prophet Elijah who road that fiery chariot? Who but Christ promised the gift of the Holy Spirit and than on Pentecost delivered on that promise? Who but Christ appeared during a vision to St. Paul on the road to Damascus? Who but Christ ever said “Today you will be with Me in paradise?” Who’s death, but Christ’s, was accompanied by other-worldly darkness? Who, but Christ, totally transformed hearts and minds by His sacrificial love? And who, but Christ, has proclaimed that we need do nothing, nothing, to be saved because He has done it all for us and He outstretches His hand to us with that gift and begs us to accept it through faith?

Peter had it right. Jesus is the Holy One of God! Eternal comfort in the face of every trouble, eternal love in the face of every type of hate, eternal life in the face of death—Christ has it all. Do you also want to go away? Well, there is no other place to go, is there? And for that we thank God! Amen