Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 14)
August 9, 2009
Text: John 6:35-51

In our Gospel lesson this morning, the Jews suddenly change their tune in their attitude toward Jesus. Remember, these same Jews followed our Lord across the Lake with the taste of the miraculously multiplied loaves and fishes still on their tongues. Last week, when we began our consideration of this account, we heard them say of the Living Bread Jesus promised, “Sir, give us this bread always” (John 6:34; ESV). Now we see them grumbling about Jesus. What is it that so offends them? John tells us it is “because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’” (v. 41). What’s so offensive about that? Listen to the statement with Jewish ears, if you can. Jesus says, “I AM.” Jesus points to Himself and says “YHWH.” “I AM the One who came down from heaven. I AM God in the flesh. I AM the bread broken for the life of the world.” To the Jews, this is blasphemy. God cannot be a man! Or so the Jews think. The Jews do not even speak the Name of God, YHWH, much less ascribe it to a human being. Who is this Jesus? Who does He think He is, anyway? We know His mom and dad! We know where this kid’s from! And so begins the fall into rank unbelief, unbelief that is hostile against Jesus. “I AM,” says Jesus. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (v. 35). Jesus makes demands on His hearers. He demands to be believed. He demands to be believed despite all your piety. He demands to be believed despite your logic. He demands to be believed despite how you feel about what He says. He demands your very self, the loss of your very self in Jesus, YHWH, God in the flesh, that you might find yourself, renewed and made whole in Him.

We shouldn’t be so hard on the Jews for grumbling against Jesus, because you and I are in the same boat. We are of the same corrupt, sinful flesh. We are descended from the same sinful parents, Adam and Eve. We’ve inherited the same original sin. And so we are born in hostility to God. We are born, as we learn in Catechism class, spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. This is to say that we have no free will in spiritual matters. We have free will to decide what shirt we’ll put on in the morning, what we’ll eat for breakfast, where we’ll go, and what we’ll do, but we have no free will to make any sort of decision for Jesus. St. Paul writes, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). We are, in fact, born in the spiritual possession of the devil. That doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Precious little babies born in the spiritual possession of the devil? But the truth hurts. Babies have no ability to make their decision for Jesus, and by the way, you don’t either. Because we’re bound. That’s why we baptize babies. That’s also why we baptize adults. Because in Baptism, God rescues you from your bondage. Outside of Christ, you’re bound! Did you know that? You are in bondage. You are in bondage to sin. You cannot help but sin. You are in bondage to death. You are born spiritually dead. Unless the Lord returns first, you will die physically, and unless the Holy Spirit brings you to faith, you will die eternally in hell. And you are in bondage to the devil. Fresh meat! You cannot resist him outside of Christ, and outside of Christ, you will finally be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his evil angels.

But in Baptism, God drowns your old sinful nature, the nature that is bound, along with all its sins and evil desires, and raises you to new life in Christ. In Baptism, God unites you to Christ, unites you to His death and resurrection, unites you to His righteousness so that it counts as your own. And in Baptism, God gives you His Holy Spirit, gives you faith in Christ as a gift, that you might be saved. “Baptism… now saves you,” writes St. Peter (1 Peter 3:21). God makes you His own child, that you might receive the Bread of Life come down from heaven that is His Son, Jesus Christ.

You cannot make your decision for Jesus. The Father must draw you to Him. You don’t make your decision for Jesus. He makes His decision for you! Thus it is all by grace! The Father has given His Son for the life of the world. The Father has given His Son into death on the cross to pay for your sins, the whole debt you owe to God for your transgressions. The Father has given His Son to do for you what you could not do, namely, fulfill the Law and pay the penalty of your iniquity. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses all sin! And God has raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand where He ever lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. But make no mistake, this is an offense to our Old Adam, our old sinful flesh! God dies! That’s even more offensive than that God becomes flesh! God can’t die, can He? Only in Christ. It had to be so. Our Savior had to be both God and man, inseparably united in one person, to make satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

The Father draws you to this Jesus, God and man, your Savior. He draws you because He has chosen you. This is the doctrine of election, that God chose you in Christ Jesus before the very foundation of the world. Jesus speaks of you when He says, “this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (v. 39). God has not only provided for your salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ, but He has provided for your preservation in the faith by continually drawing you to Christ. Christ keeps you in that one true faith. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (v. 44). How does the Father draw you? By His Spirit, through His Word, by whom and by which He also preserves you in the faith. This is what Jesus means when He says, “It 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” (v. 45). Those who learn the Word of God learn directly from God, and thus come to Jesus. You learn the Word of God. You learn from the Father. You learn of Jesus Christ His Son. So come to church, hear the sermon, come to Bible class and Sunday School, read your Bibles, do family devotions every day. Because in any and every contact you have with the Word of God, the Father is teaching you, and so drawing you to Jesus. And so also, Jesus, who alone has seen the Father, is revealing Him to you as the gracious God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life. After all, what is the promise for the one chosen by God, drawn by the Father, given to Jesus? “I will raise him up on the last day.” As death could not hold Jesus Christ, into whom you have been baptized, death will not be able to hold you! By drawing you to Jesus, by uniting you to Christ, God gives you the sure and certain hope of eternal life: not only that your soul goes to heaven when you die, but that your body, made perfect in the image of the risen Christ, will be raised from the grave.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. Eat of this Bread, and you will never die. Wow! What a spectacular promise. And God swears by Himself that it’s true. If you doubt it, just look at Jesus on the cross, dead, and then listen to Him in His Word. Having died, He speaks! He’s alive! He’s risen, just as He said. He’s the Bread! He’s the One who, if you eat Him, you’ll live forever! The Hebrews ate another bread from heaven, the manna from God, and they still died. The Jews in our text ate the miraculously multiplied loaves broken by the hands of Jesus, and they still died. But if you eat this Bread, Jesus Christ, broken for the life of the world, you will live forever. Oh, you still will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death unless Jesus returns first. You’ll still have to physically die. But Christ is risen! So you know that grave can’t hold you. And you know what physical death is: just the temporary separation of your soul from your body. You’ll go on living, in heaven, with Jesus, while your body sleeps. And then Jesus will reunite you with your body in the resurrection of all flesh.

So how do you eat this Bread? How do you eat Jesus? You certainly partake of this Bread in the Word. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). But the answer to how you eat the Bread that is Jesus’ flesh, given for the life of the world, is hopefully obvious to Lutherans. You eat this Bread in the Lord’s Supper, the bread that is His body, the wine that is His blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins. And that leads us to next week’s meditation on John chapter 6, where Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). Talk about something the sinful flesh can’t swallow. Jesus’ audience couldn’t believe it! As we’ll see, even many of Jesus’ disciples at this point throw up their hands. This is a hard saying, they say. And they leave Him. Only God can give the faith that believes Jesus gives His flesh for us to eat, and His blood for us to drink. It is beyond all human reason. It is an article of faith, not sight. And so next week we will consider this mystery in depth. But the Lord does not withhold this banquet from us this morning. Come, dear Christians, and feast on the Bread of Life. Jesus Himself bids you. Jesus Himself invites you to His own Table. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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