Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: John 6:51–6:69
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray KeithText: John 6:51-69
Date: August 19th, 2018; Pentecost 13; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
- Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54).
- When many of his disciples heard these words from Jesus, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).
- I can understand why the disciples reacted like this. These are difficult words to hear.
- But Jesus’ words aren’t quite as difficult and strange as they might first sound.
- To eat his flesh and to drink his blood is simply to believe.
- We learned this in last week’s gospel lesson when Jesus taught us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, those who believe have eternal life” (John 6:47).
- The Jews who heard Jesus’ words misunderstood what he was saying.
- They disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).
- They were scandalized by what Jesus said – they misunderstood him to mean that he was promising eternal life if they took part in some cannibalism.
- But again, Jesus equates eating his flesh and drinking his blood with believing.
- “…those who believe have eternal life” (John 6:47).
- An important question to ask ourselves is, “What are we to believe?”
- There sure are a lot of answers to this question, aren’t there?
- Some tell you to believe in the prophet Mohammad and in his teachings.
- The Jehovah Witnesses who knock on your door tell you to focus only on Jehovah and they say that Jesus is not God.
- The Buddhists tell you to start walking on the eight-fold path of enlightenment.
- Many tell you that God doesn’t exist – that you should only believe in what you see. Science is all we need.
- Our culture tells you to believe in yourself.
- Believe in fulfilling all of your desires - don’t let anyone or anything get in your way.
- Believe in reaching your full-potential.
- Believe in achieving “self-fulfillment” and “happiness” – usually meaning achieving wealth, and power, and nice stuff.
- So in the midst of all of these many answers – what are we to believe?
- In what, or in whom, are we to place our trust?
- The Apostle John answers this question for us in his first epistle where he declares that, “Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we may live through him” (1 John 4:2).
- We are to believe and place our trust in Jesus Christ. This is what God has revealed to us through his Word.
- To believe in Jesus Christ is to believe that he came in the flesh – that the Christ, the Messiah, came down from heaven and became man, taking on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary that we may live through him.
- It is to believe that God incarnate, in the flesh, was crucified and shed his blood for the sin of the entire world – including yours personally.
- It is to believe that Jesus defeated sin and death as he rose victorious from his grave on that first Easter Sunday.
- It is to believe that Jesus’ victory is your victory – that you too will rise victorious over sin and death to life everlasting.
- When Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” he was speaking of our belief in these truths.
- And unlike all other claims to religious truth, Christianity provides good reasons and evidence to believe.
- Our belief in all that Christ accomplished for us does not require us to simply turn of our brains and blindly trust in some fairy tale.
- God’s action of salvation through Jesus Christ happened in history. It is testable. It is verifiable.
- We have a reliable written testimony of these historical events in the Bible - and it can be trusted.
- We have reliable testimony from eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.
- These eyewitnesses were willing to die for what they knew to be true and this really gets to the heart of everything we believe.
- Mohammad can claim to be a prophet of God. Buddha can share his personal religious experiences and tell you that you should follow his lead.
- But only God can rise victorious over sin and death.
- This true fact, this event that happened in history, is so important that St. Paul states that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then we are nothing but a bunch of liars, our faith is worthless, and we should be pitied.
- But the evidence that supports the reliability of the Bible and Jesus resurrection is overwhelming and I encourage you to dig into it so that you have the facts in the midst of the constant attacks against it.
- Friends in Christ, God’s act of love and mercy through Jesus Christ is ours when we believe in his promise of eternal life.
- And although there are good reasons to believe, in the end, “It is the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63).
- In our Gospel lesson, we heard that many of Jesus’ disciples who had been with him, who had likely witnessed his miracles, who had seen a lot of evidence showing that Jesus is God – “turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66).
- Why? Because they resisted the Spirit who gives life. They remained in their sin. Their hearts were hardened.
- Facts and evidence can remove obstacles to belief, but only the Holy Spirit can lead us to see how desperately we need God’s mercy and forgiveness.
- Only the Holy Spirit leads us to repent of our many sins and failures and find comfort and hope in the salvation Christ Jesus has won for us.
- Only the Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds to know, to believe, to trust in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
- The Holy Spirit does this through the reading and preaching of the Word and through the Holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- In Baptism God takes everything he accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and applies it to you.
- You are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you and brings you to believe beyond just the historical facts of Jesus, but to believe and trust that the salvation he won is yours.
- Through bread and wine, Jesus gives us his true body and true blood that we may believe and receive everything he has won for us.
- We do feed on the flesh of the One who is the Bread of Life and we do drink the blood of the One who is the True Vine to receive life in a concrete and tangible way.
- It is the Spirit who gives life through these means of grace.
- Some reject Jesus. Some deny him. Some turn back and no longer walk with him.
- When Jesus asks, “Do you want to go away as well?” we answer with St. Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68). Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.