“I AM the Bread of LIFE”
August 16, Pentecost 12
“I Am The Bread OF LIFE”
I am not much of a baseball fan anymore. I gave up on baseball after they went on strike twice while I was in college. But when I was a kid I was a big baseball fan. It was a common thing on a Sunday in the mid 1970’s for my dad to give my brothers Scott, Jim and myself a twenty dollar bill to go to Milwaukee County Stadium and get three seats, parking, Pepsi’s, hot dogs AND pizza after the game. (Shakey’s, if you are wondering) The Milwaukee Brewers were not very good then, just like now, and usually by the end of the seventh inning stretch people were on their way to the parking lot to bug out before the end of a losing game. And every time we saw this, my brother Jim would say, “The rats desert first.” In the Gospel for today, we see something similar. Jesus had been very popular but now some of what He is saying and teaching was not going over so well. And people were leaving Him in bunches. Today as we shift our focus to the Gospel of John, Jesus reminds us He is the only source of salvation when He tells us, “I am the Bread OF LIFE.”
I have been preaching from the Old Testament the last few Sundays, and while I have been doing that the Gospel readings have been from John Chapter Six. This is the chapter where Jesus says He is the Bread of Life and people must eat His flesh for eternal life. He is obviously talking about communion here, but a lot of His listeners were freaked out. When we get to the middle of today’s Gospel reading, we see that many followers of Jesus did not want to hear Him saying that we must eat and drink of Him. They were saying to themselves, “This is a hard teaching.” You and I are well aware that there are things in the Bible that are hard for our minds to fully sort out. The concept of God as the Trinity. Jesus being God and a person at the same time. And the teaching of Jesus’ body and blood being present in, with, and under the bread and wine in Communion. The correct response to something that God says in the Bible which we may find difficult to understand is to try and understand it, is to know that God has said this to us and therefore we should believe it, not just ignore it, forget it, or give up on it entirely. For those in Pastor Jesus’ congregation listening to His sermon that day, many of them heard that sermon and said, “Peace out!”
They decided that what Jesus was teaching was nuts, and they walked away. Obviously there are a lot of people running around these days who think that what we believe, teach and confess is nuts. So many people want to stay in their sins. So many people who think they are good enough and don’t need a Savior. They have a stubborn, hard hearted refusal to listen to and hear the Word of God. That day they said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” The answer is only those to whom the Holy Spirit has given faith.
I am sure you are all aware of how our society and culture are becoming more and more intolerant of our beliefs and faith in Jesus. There is the kerfluffle at our capitol building and the Ten Commandments display there. There is the news that the chaplains in Kentucky correctional facilities will have their credentials revoked if they say homosexuality is a sin. There are many politicians, and the number is growing, who refer to our constitutional freedom of religion as a “freedom of worship.” This is a big deal, because it means we cannot practice our faith outside these walls. The minute there is any symbol or mention of God in the public sector, the lawyers and the ACLU are jumping in screaming how that is a violation of the constitutional provision of separation of Church and State.
Many of the people around us think that there is no heaven, or everybody gets to go no matter what you believe. There are those who think you get to paradise by killing Christian children. There are those who have thought Sun Nyung Moon was God. Or David Koresh. Or Do, the Hale/Bop guy in San Diego. Or Jim Jones. Or L. Ron Hubbard. None of these are the way to heaven.
Then there are those people who fail to see the real source of their problems being their own choices, and instead blame Jesus for being hard, or harsh, or unacceptable. There are many who only want to believe some of what Jesus says, who only want to believe some of what God says. God says no sex before marriage, or outside of marriage, but look at the all people who live together before marriage or who are sleeping around. God says do not steal but then we want to download stuff off the Internet without paying for it, or copy software since Bill Gates already has enough money. God says do not lie, but we cannot turn on the TV and see a news program or a commercial without hearing someone lie. Jesus told us very clearly that we are to love our enemies. How are we doing with that? A lot of people think, “What Jesus teaches is hard, so we’ll ignore it.”
And obviously it is not just people out there who have problems with what God says. We are guilty of these things, too. There is unbelief of God outside and inside the Church. In the text, the people we see leaving Jesus and complaining about Jesus are His followers! I love it how Jesus asked them, “Do you take offense at this?” “Do I offend you?” Unbelief within the church can result in arguing and bickering in the church, divisions in the church, or the church going in a direction or teaching a doctrine not in keeping with God’s will or plan. This has happened in our LCMS and it is happening in many denominations out there right now.
We also see in today’s text that the preaching of the pure, true Gospel does not always meet with numerical success. Remember last week when I told you that sometimes the church grows in ways only God can see? The height of Jesus’ popularity was when He was feeding thousands and changing water to wine and healing people left and right. But when He started talking about God’s ways and God’s plans, the crowd’s disappeared and Jesus was only left with His closest followers. Even when the Messiah Himself is preaching, the Gospel doesn’t always meet with numerical success. So it should not come as a surprise that churches all around who do not preach God’s Word, who teach what people want to hear instead of what God says, they are the churches that seem to be growing, while a denomination like ours which preaches the Law and the Gospel as it is written has a hard time growing statistically.
At the end of our text, after the crowd has dispersed, we see Jesus asking the very loaded question, “Do you want to go away as well?” Jesus expected them to say no. He is inviting them to a confession of faith. And He gets one, as Peter states boldly, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And that’s the deal. For the last few weeks the Gospel readings have been talking about Jesus being the Bread of Life. Jesus is God, He is real, He comes to us in Word and the Sacraments, and He is the only, ONLY, ONLY source of eternal life. You want to go to heaven? Allah won’t get you there, or Buddha, or L. Ron Hubbard. Only Jesus. Only in Jesus, and in His words, is there eternal life. Satan may try to distract us from this, as he has for so many. Satan may try to get us to doubt this, as he has for so many. But we know the truth. We know the facts. We know the Love, the Grace, the Blessings the ONE TRUE God offers: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that the only way to be saved is to believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins and rose again.
Because Jesus is our Savior, God blesses us with Faith, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. We rejoice in it, we glory in it, we live in it, and we know it, just like Peter. We know, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are THE (not a) Holy One of God.”