Where Else Would We Go?
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Where Else Would We Go?
Text: John 6:60-69
Have you been there before? You’ve had enough. You can’t take it anymore. You don’t know what to do or where to go. Only one thing seems right to you—to leave.
You tried everything else. You tried listening. You tried praying. You tried waiting. You tried trusting. But Jesus fails to deliver over and over and over again.
What does Jesus tell you? He tells you not to put your trust in worldly things. He tells you not to worry. He tells you to rely on him, to take him, to eat him—the bread of life. But how is that going to help? What’s that going to do? You at least see results when you do Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. A diet of the bread of life hasn’t produced any results for you.
You’re confused. You’re frustrated. You’re angry. You’re hurt. There’s only one thing that seems right to you—to leave Jesus. So you do. You leave him closed inside your Bible gathering dust on the shelf. You leave him and his house of worship. You leave him as you discontinue your prayer life. You’ve had enough, so you leave.
Have you been there before? You wouldn’t be the only one. Millions have done the same. We heard about some today. The idea of following Jesus had sounded so nice to them at first. They even called themselves disciples of Christ. Today we would say they called themselves Christians. To them, following Jesus was like being a groupie for the Beatles. You got to see and hear a lot of neat things, and you had some incredible experiences along the way. These people got to hear Jesus preach and teach about righteousness and morality and the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. They saw Jesus heal and help. And the day before, many of them even got a free meal and some fireworks out of Jesus when he fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish. Like with the Beatles, the chaotic crowds grew by the minute and following Jesus seemed like the cool and logical thing to do.
Until that next day, that is. That’s when Jesus told the crowds that they were following him for the wrong reasons. They wanted a bread king, someone who could fill their bellies and wallets and someone to rule and reign with endless blessings to give out. But Jesus told them that these worldly things, like bread for example, they don’t last. They should look for bread that does last and that gives life. That’s when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” and that’s when the problems started.
To these so called disciples of Jesus, this was confusing and weird. And quite frankly, this was not what they wanted from Jesus. They wanted worldly help from him. So they began to grumble and complain. Jesus taught them further about what this all means. He told them they need eat his flesh and drink his blood, not talking about Communion but meaning that they need to take him in and believe in him whole heartedly. Again, confusing, weird, and not what they expected from Jesus.
Now we cut in today with verse 60: “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” Many in the crowd were in that place you have been before—confused, frustrated, angry, hurt. They wanted one thing from Jesus but were hearing another. This was hard for them to accept.
Here’s what happened next: “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!” Did they really need Jesus to do bigger miracles than he already had done or even what he had done yesterday? What if they saw him ascend to the heavens where he said he came from? Would they believe then? (By the way, if they had stuck around, of course they actually would have seen him ascend into heaven.)
But here was the problem. Jesus continued 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. 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 be tray him.” These people wanted fleshy / worldly / earthly things from Jesus. But like a splash of cold water in the face, Jesus said that the flesh counts for nothing. What counts is your spiritual life, and the words he was speaking to them were of the Spirit and about life! “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 was the deal with this? This was not what they had signed up for. They thought Jesus was going to help them. They almost thought that following Jesus was going to be like riding off into the sunset in a fairy tale ending with Jesus as their own personal genie-in-a-bottle to fix all their little worldly problems. And now Jesus tells them he actually came for something completely different than this . . . but they should simply believe and trust in him? What?
Many were confused. They were frustrated. They were angry. They were hurt. There was only one thing that seemed right to them—to leave Jesus. So they did.
Isn’t it pathetically sad what a stubborn and sinful heart can convince you to do? We have trauma and troubles in life and sometimes we are so arrogantly audacious that we actually blame God for those problems. Other times we have hurt and we need healing or we need help and we actually convince ourselves that we would probably be better off leaving Jesus and staying away.
This is Satan working with our stubborn and sinful hearts. The devil would love nothing more than for you to become obsessed with worldly pains and problems. If he can convince you to do that, then you’re also going to get mad at Jesus that he isn’t your worldly king and you will want to leave him too. Nothing would make Satan happier than for you to leave Jesus because nothing would make you more dead for all eternity than to leave Jesus.
With so many in that crazy crowd leaving Jesus that day, Jesus had a test question for his 12 closest disciples. It’s a question we also need to listen to and chew on. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Sometimes the knee-jerk reaction, the hurt, the pain, the laziness, the sin inside of us wants to scream out, “Yes, Jesus! I’m out of here too!” But God grant that he fill us with the faith and the strength of Peter in this moment to join in his beautiful and powerful response: “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.”
There are so many days of this wearied worldly journey that we are weak. We have hurt. We have pain. We suffer. We’re sad. But Where Else Would We Go? Friends and family can only do so much. Drugs and alcohol won’t make it better. Money can’t buy you happiness. Self-help books. Meditation. Yoga. Exercise. Excursions and vacations. Those are bandaids. That won’t fix the real problem. Only Jesus can help with that.
So Where Else Would We Go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. Jesus has the words that tell us all our hurt and pain and problems come from sin—your sin and my sin in a sinful world. But Jesus has the words that also tell us about the way out. There is a way out of all of it, a place you can go where there is no hurt or pain or problem or sadness or sorrow. It’s called heaven. Sinners can’t go there. They don’t belong because they aren’t holy like God. But Jesus has the words of eternal life that tell us there is a solution. He is the solution.
Jesus is holy. He is the Holy One of God who came down to this unholy world. He is the Holy One of God who offered up his holy life as a sacrifice and payment for unholy sinners. He is the Holy One of God who rose in triumph from the dead. Jesus has the words of eternal life that tell you this incredible news—because of his holy life and death and because of his resurrection to life, you can be in heaven. That place that is perfect and pain and problem free—you can be there too.
Isn’t that amazing! It’s the very thing we are looking for! It’s the very thing we have wanted this whole time! We want Jesus to heal us and help us. We want Jesus to take away all that hurt buried down deep inside. We want Jesus to make everything better. And amazingly he says, “Yes, I will . . . just not here in this world. I have something even better for you than this life. I have an eternal life of joy waiting for you.”
The many who left Jesus were right. This is a hard teaching. It is hard to get it through our thick skulls and stubborn, sinful hearts that Jesus is not a worldly king. And actually, if he were, he wouldn’t be very useful to us. But when we understand that Jesus is Christ the King, our eternal King of kings and Lord of lords who gives us every lasting life—when we understand that, the lightbulb finally goes on. In bursting faith and bubbling joy we say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
There is no one—no one—who helps us like Jesus. No one is so loving. No one is so forgiving. No one is so patient. And absolutely no one can offer us so great a solution to our problems as a perfect life in heaven. When we know that, or perspective changes.
Where Else Would We Go in the morning or at night or during lunch breaks but to the Bible where we hear the words of eternal life? Where Else Would We Go but to church, where Jesus comes to meet with us, his people, in both Word and Sacrament to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation? Where Else Would We Go when we have problems or hurt or troubles but to our dear friend and Good Shepherd Jesus in prayer?
I am a sinner. You are a sinner. This world is sinful. There will be times when you’ve had enough. You will feel like you can’t take it anymore. You will almost feel like you don’t know where to go or what to do. That’s when you can stand firm with the resolve of Peter and say boldly in faith, “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.”
Don’t leave Jesus. Love Jesus. Don’t give up on Jesus. Go to Jesus. He’s your King, your Lord, and your Savior who has the words of eternal life. When you are confused, frustrated, angry, or hurt, go to Jesus and you will find life and peace and joy.
Posted on August 31, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged Bread of Life, Church, Disciples, Heaven, Hurt, Jesus, John, John 6, Leave, Leave Jesus, Pain, Sadness, Sermons, Sorrow. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.