Choose to Follow Christ!
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Choose to Follow Christ!
1. A decision enabled by God
2. A decision that flows from faith
Text: John 6:60-69
This is not easy. This is difficult. This is controversial. This is a hard teaching . . . The silence was deafening. Jaws were dropped. Eyes were darting. Brows were furled. Heads were scratched. This didn’t make sense!
Jesus had fed thousands of them with a few loaves of bread and two fish. Maybe Jesus could give them some more food. And if Jesus could give them food, maybe Jesus could give them some other things they needed, too. They had diseases to be cured. They had Roman taxes to be paid. They needed to refinance the loans on their donkeys.
But then Jesus told them that they shouldn’t work so hard for bread. They shouldn’t chase after things that spoil. Instead they should work for bread that comes from heaven. What did that mean? Then Jesus said that he was bread from heaven. How could Jesus of Nazareth be from heaven?
OK. Heaven. So how could they achieve heaven then? Jesus told them there wasn’t any work involved. Just believe in the one who came from heaven. Believe in him? Jesus of Nazareth? What could he do? How could he lead to heaven? But Jesus told them again that he gave life. In fact, if you didn’t eat his flesh and drink his blood, you would never have life. What? What did that mean? Eat his flesh and drink his blood? Death without Jesus? What does this all mean? We pick up today: “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’”
This is not easy. This is difficult. This is controversial. Indeed, this is a hard teaching. So we also stand today with similar dumbfounded looks. What do you mean, Jesus, that you didn’t come to put bread on my table? I have an empty refrigerator and hungry mouths to feed!
What do you mean, Jesus, that you aren’t going to heal all my sicknesses? School started up again. Colds and the flu are spreading like wildfire. Don’t you know how much my loved one is suffering from cancer? Why don’t you help?
What do you mean, Jesus, that you aren’t going to make me successful? I’m struggling. I’m scratching and clawing and battling to stay above water. I have credit cards maxed out. I have a horrible interest rate. I don’t have insurance. Why can’t you help with that?
This doesn’t make sense. Why won’t you help me, Jesus? Why won’t you make things better? Why can’t life be easier? Why can’t you take my problems away? Yes, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Jesus responds to his disciples today like he did years ago: “Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?”
Deep down inside, in the recesses of our hearts, we think, “Yes! This does offend me! I’m not so sure I like this!” Jesus responds to us again in verse 63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” The flesh counts for nothing. This world isn’t most important. Jesus offers to us words that are not about flesh—the world and our lives—he offers to us words that are spiritual and about a different life.
After all these things Jesus said that day in his sermon about the Bread of life, this was finally the last straw. Yes, many of those who called themselves disciples were very offended by his words that day. So verse 66 tells us: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
I’m reminded of a man who used to go to this church years ago. From the beginning he had gone to church regularly. Then the recession hit. And being in Flagler County, it hit him really bad. He was struggling to find work and pay bills and make ends meet. Things weren’t going well. But those difficult circumstances then triggered memories about how upset he was with God that his first wife died from cancer over a decade before.
Why did God let that happen? Why was God letting all this happen now? How could God do that? He even went to church! So why was he struggling? Why were things so bad? Why wouldn’t Jesus do anything about it? Finally, he was so offended and so angry with God that he left the church a couple years ago and hasn’t been back since.
By nature, every fiber of our being wants what benefits “me.” Our inner-self is offended by Jesus. These worldly things are important to us! Why aren’t they important to Jesus? It’s offensive that Jesus won’t fix my worldly problems. This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?
Jesus explains, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” Because our sinful-selves naturally want nothing to do with God and everything to do with me, it’s impossible for us to follow Jesus on our own. His teaching is too offensive! Our sinful-self pulls us too hard in the opposite direction, and it will keep pulling until it pulls us right down to hell.
Yet in those same words of Jesus we find the depths of our heavenly Father’s love. We are unable to come to God on our own, so the Father enables us and draws us to himself.
Look at all of you here today. All of you have vastly unique and different stories. You grew up in different parts of the world. Many of you moved from place to place. You all have different economic and racial backgrounds. Many of you have had a tough life. More of you have had a really tough life—too many tears to count. But all of you have this in common—you are here right now today listening to the words of Jesus and feeding on the Bread of life.
God the Father has enabled this to happen. Lovingly and patiently he has worked in different ways in all of your lives to put you in touch with his mighty Word and his Son Jesus. Some of you were drawn by God and brought to faith long ago, even from infancy. Others of you just now are starting to learn about Jesus, the living Bread from heaven, who takes away all our sin and gives us eternal life.
That is the mercy and grace of God—mercy and grace that overcomes and forgives our worldly me-focus. Such great love! Such amazing grace! We once were lost but now we’re found! We were blind but now we see! Our God enables us to follow Christ.
As the dust was settling from the mass exodus of disciples leaving in disgust and disappointment with Jesus, he directed his attention to the 12 disciples he taught personally. Though he knew Judas was going to reject and betray him, he asked the Twelve: “You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus knew what was in their hearts. He was giving them an opportunity to express their faith in him.
Peter jumped at the opportunity. Typically the one to jump to action and blurt something out first, Peter’s heart swelled with faith and joy and these words burst from his lips: “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.”
God had drawn Peter into his family and given him faith in Jesus. Peter’s faith was at this point so convinced that the choice seemed beyond obvious to him. Where else would they go? Who else would they listen to? Jesus had the words of eternal life! Jesus is the Holy One that God had promised! This decision was not a choice that flowed from his sinful, personal desires for this world. This decision was a choice that flowed from faith.
This is how God changes our lives and changes our hearts. We chase our tails throughout this life trying to make money and put food on the table and provide for our families and live comfortably and save for retirement. But then we hear Jesus tell us, “No, no. This is bread that spoils. This is bread that perishes. The flesh counts for nothing. Work for bread that does not spoil. Eat living bread. Feast on me, the Bread of life. I died for you. I took away your sin. I give eternal life.”
Suddenly our life perspective shifts and changes. Yes! Where else would we go? Who else would we listen to? Jesus has the words of eternal life! Jesus is the Holy One of God! Jesus is my Savior!
Where else would I go on Sunday morning? Where else would I go on Wednesday night? What else would I do? What other book would I read more frequently? Who else would I listen to when I’m sad? When I’m frustrated? When I’m depressed? When I’m guilty? Jesus has the words of eternal life!
What else would I teach my children? What else would I want them to know or to do? What else would I spend time on? What else would I spend money on? What else would matter so much? What else would be more important? Jesus has the words of eternal life!
When we understand how sinful we are; when we understand how great God’s love and forgiveness are; when we understand that the things of this life are temporary but the joys of heaven are eternal, suddenly the choice becomes simple. Like Peter, we follow Christ, a decision that flows from faith.
This is not easy. This is difficult. This is controversial. This is a hard teaching. It didn’t just divide the disciples 2,000 years ago. It has divided the entire world.
Some have said there are really only two religions of the world—those who follow Christ and those who don’t. If you look at all the other religions of the world, they all boil down to the same thing. They serve “me” first. They promise “me” nirvana. They promise “me” that “I” can earn heaven. They promise “me” that “I” will have a better life here in this world. To these billions of unbelievers, what Jesus says is a hard teaching.
But God has enabled and enlightened us to know the truth. To whom else shall we go? He has the words of eternal life! He is the Holy One of God! With these new hearts of faith, the teaching is not difficult. The decision is easy. The choice is simple. Follow Christ.
Posted on September 2, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Bread of Life, Church, Decision Theology, Following Jesus, I AM Statements, I Am the Bread of Life, John, John 6, Judas, Peter, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.