August 26, 2018: 14th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, all humans want to meet You on their own terms. All humans want to define Who You are and what You’re all about to ultimately control the relationship between You and us. Lord, that is a direct violation of the 1st commandment, and today we all repent of our misguided attempts to engage in it. We ask Your forgiveness—on Your terms, not ours—and pledge our allegiance to You, knowing You’re good and gracious. Amen
TEXT: John 6: 60-69
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Capernaum was an up-and-coming modern city in northern Galilee. It was situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and had an idyllic setting. During Christ’s ministry it was also His adopted hometown. Jesus preached in the local synagogue on numerous occasions. John chapter 6 outlines one of His sermons, specifically where He talked at length about being the spiritual bread of eternal life. Mind you, this came directly after He fed the 5000 and walked on water thereby saving His disciples. At the end of His sermon He declared that no one would possess eternal life unless that person spiritually ate Christ’s flesh, just like the Israelites ate the manna in the desert so long before. In other words, belief in Jesus is an all or nothing proposition. Then, as our lesson picks up: “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
The word “disciples” used here, doesn’t necessarily mean the 12, but has a broader sense of: followers of Christ. Jesus had many followers who clung to Him for many reasons. Some were intrigued, others wanted a political Messiah Who would free them from the Romans, still others wanted the miracle worker to make their lives easier by giving them free bread—Jesus the Bread King—as we read about earlier in John 6 when they tried to elevate Him into that position. Most externalized His ministry and made it about physical blessings. But a few realized that their souls were more important than their bodies and that Christ came to save their souls by giving up His life on a cross to make them right before God Almighty.
Jesus answers their “hard teaching” thoughts. “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 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. He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.’ From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
What’s the reason behind this sad tale? Why did many turn their backs on Him and His ministry? Well, my friends, it was all about control. They wanted Christ on their terms. They wanted a Savior Who would dance to their tune. They wanted to define His work in terms of what they thought they needed. The creature wanted to control the Creator.
Isn’t this the exact same problem faced by Christianity today? Isn’t this sometimes us, even though we don’t like to admit it? Scenario 1: Person A has been a Lutheran for many years. They occasionally go to church and try to be a reasonably good person. Then they develop cancer. They pray for help. They dictate to God the terms of what they expect from Him, but the cancer advances. So, they get angry with God and turn away from Him because they aren’t cured. God’s plan for their life didn’t match their wishes, so they concluded: “God is impotent and not worth my time.” Our prayers don’t control God. They influence Him, but ultimately they should also end with: “Thy will be done.” Scenario 2: Person B has attended church faithfully for years and years. Outwardly they appear very blest: good job, nice family, a secure future. Inwardly they consider these blessings a product of their own achievement and feel God owes such blessings to them because they were moral and exemplary in their life. Come Thanksgiving time they murmur thanks to God with their lips, but actually spend the bulk of their time in self-congratulations! They are living under the Law instead of under the Gospel. Their external blessings and actions have become more important to them than reliance upon God’s grace. They are holding up their life as the impetus for their blessings instead of Christ’s life in their stead. They forget that “the flesh counts for nothing.” Scenario 3: Person C was baptized as a child and then let their faith lapse, especially when they became a teen and a young adult. They saw unbelievers advance in their careers more quickly than their Christian friends. They soon discovered that university people who mocked Christianity seemed just as happy, or more, than the backward, pious folk of their youth. They once read: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” But, their life experience seemed otherwise. So, they, too, walked away and didn’t look back. Christianity?—Why do I need that? I’ve got myself to rely on…..But ask yourself this: “How often have your ideas of right and your prideful controlling spirit been wrong?” What’s wrong with surrendering your life, your pride, your all over to a God Who is wise, loving, and self-giving? After all, if He exists, He obviously controls the future—not you. And since His Son gave up His life to save your soul, obviously He has plans for you that are far beyond your understanding and far better, too.
“You do not want to leave, too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘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!’”
Christianity is an all-or-nothing proposition. When it comes to saving faith you cannot hedge your bets, you cannot be wishy-washy, and you must give up your prideful arrogance. You must accept that God controls all things, including my life, and He’ll meet me on His terms, not mine. And that’s exactly what the Holy One of God, the Messiah, did! We didn’t ask for Him to save us, but He has! We haven’t been perfect in thought, word, and deed, but He was—for us! We define our lives by external success and external looks, brains, and ability—none of which matter in the long run because death stalks everyone. However, Jesus defines our lives by our souls which He created and which He wants to save to be with Him eternally! So, He is the One Who enriches us and gives our lives meaning which lasts far beyond our achievements or our understanding. Peter had it right. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” except You! So, by faith embrace the gift of grace He has extended to you! Walking away is a fool’s errand. Amen