Pentecost 1218 (PR 14) – “Jesus is Eternal Life.” John 6:41-51

Pentecost 1218 – “Jesus is Eternal Life.” John 6:41-51

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

The text for our sermon meditation is from the Gospel account of St John, the 6th Chapter.

“41So the Jews grumbled about [Jesus], because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

How many parents heard grumbling this week? I was walking around the neighborhood Wednesday morning and encountered an EVSC student waiting for the bus. It was the first day of school. You would expect there to be some excitement in the air as students are returning for another year of study. So I asked her if she was excited. Her response was a firm no.

A day earlier I attended the opening chapel for Evansville Lutheran School.  The church sanctuary was filled with excitement. Children filed in and joined in the worship service. After the service I caught the eye of one student and gave them a thumbs up. The student’s response was a thumbs down. I guess it is only the parents who are excited for the school year to begin.

What is the cause of grumbling?  What is the cause of murmuring against someone? Why are we unhappy with what we hear?  What is the reason we balk at the truth when it runs contrary to our thinking?  These are a few of the questions that run through the minds of those gathered around Jesus in this beautiful text as Jesus teaches about eternal life and the resurrection to eternal life on the last day.

We continue Jesus’ discourse on the living bread from heaven in the 6th Chapter of John’s gospel account.  Having heard Jesus call himself the bread that came down from heaven the Jews begin to grumble against Jesus.  They grumble because of unbelief.  They will not let their minds consider the possibility that Jesus is truly eternal life.

The Jews are thinking only of life on this earth.  They have been disciplined by Jesus already concerning their desire only for earthly food.  They have searched Jesus out to receive more of the same loaves and fishes which he fed them a day earlier.  They fail to understand or believe what Jesus is truly bringing them and offering them.  Three times in this passage Jesus speaks of eternal life given by the Bread of Heaven and four times referring to the resurrection to life eternal by faith in the Bread of Heaven.

The hearts of those around Jesus are not set on the things from above.  They are not willing to hear Jesus offer to them the very gifts of God.  For, they think they know who Jesus is.  “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  However, did the people actually know Jesus’ Father?  From their unbelief and rejection of Jesus it is quite apparent they did not know Jesus’ Father.

Jesus is patient with these people in front of him.  He does not return their rejection by casting them aside.  Rather, Jesus persists in seeking to bring them to faith in the Bread of Life.  He takes them back to the very promises given by the Father of Israel, the true and eternal God.  Did the prophets not say, “And they will all be taught by God”?  Jesus is telling the people He is God.  He is God incarnate who comes to His people to lead them to eternal life and to usher in the promised Kingdom of Heaven.

If that is not enough, Jesus reminds the people of the great miracle Moses is credited with by them.  The exodus meal, given by God through Moses, was manna each morning for forty years, with the exception of the Sabbath.  This was the bread from heaven with which the people were familiar.  Could there possibly be a greater miracle than this?  Moses was the greatest of the servants of God.  Through Moses, God worked the ten plagues on Egypt and brought to pass the freedom promised to the children of Abraham.

As did the people in Jesus’ time struggle with unbelief, so do we in our time struggle with unbelief.    Things that we would consider obvious are rejected out of hand.  We even go so far as to justify our sins by pointing to the good we do while ignoring the depravity of what we do.

One such organization puts forth that they are proponents of women’s health needs. This organization was the final iteration of Margaret Higgins Sanger promotion of birth control. At first she was forcefully opposed to abortion of children in the womb. Her desire was for preservation of life and responsible parenting. Yet, in her final years she promoted the revision of abortion laws in the United Stated. This was carried out through her presidency of Planned Parenthood. This continues to be the focus of the organization as a means to address and justify termination of an unplanned pregnancy.

I went through a theological interview in order to be considered a candidate for the Office of the Holy Ministry.  The question concerning taking the life of unborn children was one question among many which my professors asked me.  My response to this question was we cannot cover up a sin by committing another sin.  The life of unborn children is dear and precious in the sight of God.  We are required to defend those who cannot defend themselves and speak for those who have no voice.  They are redeemed of God no less than any other person.

They are redeemed of God.  This is the point of Jesus discussion with the Jews.  Jesus came down from heaven for this purpose, the redemption of the world.  The Father gave Jesus this task and He gave Jesus all that was in the world to save, redeem, restore, and gather them to himself that they may have eternal life.

When Jesus speaks of this work, he likens it to eating bread.  His body is the bread of life.  To receive life one must eat of the bread of life.  What this means is that you look upon the body of Jesus as your redemption from sin and death.  You believe that in Jesus God is working the greatest miracle of all time for all people in every age, time and place.  Jesus refers to this when he says, “And the bread I give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus invites the Jews to eat of his body by believing that there is a promise attached to his life.  “Trust me,” Jesus says.  He does not force feed these people to receive his body by faith.  What happens when someone is force-fed food?  The food becomes lodged in the throat or the person rejects the food.  The person being force-fed tries to turn their head away and close their mouth so the food does not enter.  Like a child who is fed the green beans they don’t like instead of the ice cream they do like.

The work of God is not reasonable to man.  Man’s reason cannot grasp God’s grace and mercy.  Man’s reason cannot understand a God who would substitute Himself for the one who is guilty of sin and deserving of death.  Man’s reason cannot accept a free gift without the suspicion that there is something hidden in the wings.  Yet, this work of God is truly a free gift of grace and mercy.  God would have all sinners come to receive the benefits of this gift.

Dr. Luther writes of this in a sermon preached on these verses.  “The living bread, of which the Lord here speaks, is Christ himself, of whom we partake.  If in our hearts we lay hold of only a morsel of this bread, we shall have forever enough and never be separated from God.  The partaking of this bread is nothing but faith in Christ our Lord, that he is, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”  He who eats this food lives forever. … The bread from heaven the fathers ate in the wilderness, as Christ here says, was powerless to keep them from dying; but this bread makes immortal.  If we believe on Christ, death cannot harm us; yea, it is no longer death.” [Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 2.1, pg 401. ©2000 Baker Book House Company.]

 

To this end God calls to sinners through Word and Sacrament saying, “Here is your gift of life and salvation.  I have wrapped this gift in common wrappings for an uncommon purpose.  The common wrappings are water, bread and wine.  I will bathe you in baptism and wash away the stain of your sins.  Then I will feed you on the bread and wine of the Sacrament that you may eat and drink my Son who is the Bread of Life.”  Through these mean of grace, God brings the penitent sinner into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.  God overcomes doubt and unbelief, idolatry and rebellion, grumbling and discontent, fear and death.  God restores faith, obedience, righteousness, confidence, true praise, contentment and eternal life.

 

Are you baptized?  Have you heard the Word of God?  Are you sitting in the sanctuary of God’s House?  Have you sat at the feet of God’s faithful pastors and teachers?  In these means of grace you have been invited by God to eat Jesus’ body by faith in the promise given through the Son of Man.  This gift is sealed to you by God in Baptism.  It is nourished in the blessed meal of thanksgiving.  It will be consummated to you when the Lord raises you to eternal life in the Day of Jesus Christ.  God keep you for that day in true faith.

 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen