Preached: September 2, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word of God through which Jesus speaks to us is John 6
Then on hearing this many of his disciples said, “This teaching is hard. Who can keep listening to him?”
But since Jesus knew in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, he said to them, “Does this entrap you? Then what if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? The Spirit is the one who makes alive, the flesh has no value. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But some of you are those who don't believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who wouldn't believe and who would betray him.) He continued to say, “Because of this I have told you that no one can come to me unless it has been given to him by the Father.”
Because of this many of his disciples went back to what they'd left behind and no longer walked with him. Then Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don't wish to slip away as well, do you?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we still believe and know that you are the holy One of God.” (John 6:60-69).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
Do you believe in Jesus because your mother told you about him? That's fine for a little child, but I hope that's not the case for you anymore. Do you believe because of what a Sunday school teacher or pastor told you? I hope that's not so either. Do you believe because you belong to this church and that's what this church teaches, so you believe what the church says? That's not good either.
Why do you believe what you do? Is it because some trusted, beloved person like your mother or Sunday school teacher told it to you? Is it because some knowledgeable authority like a pastor or the church says it's true? If any of that is the case, isn't your faith somewhat built on the reliability of that person or institution? That's not good.
Or, dear Christian, is your faith built on the word of God alone?
“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63), Jesus says -- not your mother's words or my words or the church's words, but Jesus' words alone. That's what the Bible is, Old and New Testament. It's Jesus' words. For through the Holy Spirit Jesus gave the writers the words he wanted them to write. All of the Scriptures are Jesus' words. So, dear Christian friends, when it comes to what you believe, don't take my word for it. Take his word. That's the theme today.
Now Jesus' words don't fit well into our human mindset. That's the first part for our consideration. We're tempted not to take Jesus at his word because how contrary to our human way of thinking his words are.
That's how many who had been following Jesus felt. They had been his disciples, learning from him. But what Jesus had said in his Bread of Life sermon was too much for them. “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” John 6:60 NIV84), they object.
Sometimes we neglect the Bible saying it's too hard to understand. The Bible certainly brings us truths beyond human understanding. But isn't that all the more reason to dig deeper rather than avoid Bible study? There is much in this book for us to still learn, new treasures as well as old to uncover. How can we take Jesus at his word if we are not digging into it? What riches remain hidden in the Bible waiting for you, dear friend, to make them your very own!
Yet the people's objection here isn't that Jesus words are hard to understand. Jesus had made himself clear in a way that cut deeply into their hearts. They understood what he had said, and that's what troubled them. His message was hard to accept. It wasn't smooth and easy to swallow making them feel good about themselves and hopeful for a good life on earth. It was hard and rough like calloused hands or sandpaper grating against their way of thinking.
How could this man standing right in front of them -- this man who breathed the same air as they did, ate the same food, drank the same water, walked the same streets -- how could this man be the living Bread from heaven? How could he claim to have come down from heaven, sent by the Father? How could he claim that he alone could bring them eternal life? How could he claim that faith in his flesh and blood was absolutely necessary to have fellowship with God? Who did he think he was? How contrary to their way of thinking all this was!
Jesus tries to draw them to himself. “What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” (John 6:62 NIV84). If they would only take him at his word, they would see. They would see his sacrifice as he offered his flesh and blood for the sins of the world. They would see his resurrection and ascension, glorified at the Father's right hand, confirming all his words as the truth. But they resisted the Holy Spirit. They relied on their human wisdom. They refused to take him at his word because all this was too contrary to their way of thinking.
You, dear Christian, have seen it. With the eyes of faith you have seen Jesus offering himself on the cross for your sins. With the eyes of faith you have seen him conquer death to bring you eternal life in his resurrection victory. You have seen him ascending to the Father in glory. And with the eyes of faith you still see Jesus, your ascended Lord and Savior ruling over all for you, his people. Why wouldn't we take him at his word?
Yet what the Bible says still rubs so contrary to our natural way of thinking. Is that perhaps why we are reluctant to dig too deeply into God's Word? Are we afraid we will find something hard to swallow, grating against our self-esteem, upsetting our way of looking at life, challenging us to go beyond our comfort zone?
But, dear friends, the solution isn't to keep his word at a distance. It's all the more reason why we need to dig deeply into his word. Yes, you, dear Christian, need to dig deeply into God's Word so that you, yourself, can say with deep conviction and full confidence. “Yes, despite how contrary to our human way of thinking, this is what I believe. I believe it not because my mother or pastor or church says so, and not because it makes rational sense to me. I believe these truths because the Bible tells me so. And this book is God's Word, the words of my dear Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave his life for me. Don't take my word for it. Take his word.”
Next, we hear Simon Peter confess how necessary Jesus' words are for our life now and forever. That's the second part for us to consider.
Many who had been following Jesus stopped. They didn't like what ge was saying. Notice how popularity or numbers of attendees is not a gage of truth.
What about the Twelve, whom Jesus has chosen as Apostles. Would they follow the crowd and leave as well? Jesus knows what's in their hearts and what they'll do. But he wants to strengthen their conviction by giving them the opportunity to confess it. So he asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67 NIV84). Simon Peter answers for them all: “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” (John 6:68, 69 NIV84).
Once again we're pointed to Jesus' words. “You have the words of eternal life.” How necessary Jesus' words are for our life now and forever. Take him at his word.
And what do Jesus' words teach us to believe and know? That he is the Holy One of God. Holy means set apart from sin and set apart for God. Jesus is holy, sinless, for he is the holy God, the Son of the Father, so he is the Holy One of God. He is also holy as the One set apart for God's holy mission. What was that mission? To bring us, sinners, into God's holy presence by taking away our sins and freely crediting us with his righteousness. Through faith in his holy sacrifice in your place, you are designated as saints, holy ones in God's sight. How does that change the way you live now? How does that give you a real hope for eternity? Do you see how much there is for us to contemplate are even in these few words: “You are the Holy One of God”? How necessary his word is for our life now and forever. Take him at his word.
Our worship is centered around his word. We call it a divine service because our God serves us with his word and sacrament. Remember that the Lord's Supper is his word made visible. The liturgy and hymns echo the words of the Scriptures. The readings proclaim that word. The sermon digs deeper into the word. But even in the sermon, don't take my word for it. Take his word. For only Jesus' words bring eternal life.
But why limit God's Word to just an hour? Doesn't it have much more to offer us? Come to Bible class next week as we look at who Jesus says he is: the Christ, our Lord. If you want to just sit and listen in Bible class, that's fine. You don't have to find passages or read them aloud. If you want to ask questions, that's fine. If you want to contribute to the discussion, that's fine. But come and see that what we believe isn't because our synod or the Confessions or Luther said so, but because God's Word says so. Come, see how necessary his word is for our life now and forever. Don't take my word for it. Take his word.
And what a blessing that each of us can afford Bibles of our own. Make use of that in your home day-by-day. Set apart that time, not only to read the Scriptures, but to think about what you've read and to talk to your Savior about it. And what about the Christian books and study aids out there? They are beneficial only insofar as the bring you to grow deeper into God's truth, revealed in the Scriptures alone.
And finally what you hear in the service, what you learn in Bible class, and what you read in the Scriptures at home, contemplate and ponder those things throughout each day of the week. That's how God's truth takes root in our hearts. That's how the treasures of God's Word become our own. That's how Gods shapes our way of thinking so that it is no longer contrary to his word; rather, our hearts and minds match his word. That' how we experience how necessary his word is for our life now and forever. And dear Christian, that's how you can truly say, “I believe in Jesus not because my mother or pastor or church told me so, but because the Bible tells me so.” Don't take my word for it. Take his word.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.