Pentecost 12b

Preached: August 23, 2009

The Father Draws You to Eat the Living Bread
John 6:41-51

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus John 6.

Therefore, the Jews were grumbling about him [Jesus] because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Isn't this guy Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven?”

Jesus replied and said to them, “Stop grumbling among yourselves. No one is able to come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will raise him on the last day. It stands written in the prophets, 'And they all will be taught by God.' Everyone who hears the Father and learns comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the one who is from the Father, he has seen the Father. Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven in order that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread, he will live for eternity, and moreover the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:41-51)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

1) Agree/Disagree: It makes sense to believe in Jesus. Explain.

It just didn't make sense to Naaman. The prophet hadn't even come out to see him. He, Naaman, was commander of the armies of Aram, Israel's powerful neighbor. He had traveled to Israel hoping to be healed of his leprous. He had brought hundreds of pounds of silver and gold and tens sets of clothing, a handsome payment. And that prophet Elisha only sent a messenger saying, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (2 Kings 5:10 NIV).

It didn't make sense. Why didn't the prophet come out and call on the Lord, the God of Israel? Why didn't he wave his hand over the spot of leprosy? Why wash in the muddy Jordan? Weren't the rivers back home better? It just didn't make sense to Naaman.

So also to the people at Capernaum it didn't make sense. Jesus was standing there in front of them, obviously a human being. Many of them had known his parents Mary and Joseph. How could he claim to have come down from heaven? They saw him grow up as child. How could his flesh bring eternal life? It didn't make sense.

And what you believe, dear friends, doesn't make any sense either. Sometimes we want to rely on our powers of observation and reasoning to make sense of it all. But prove to me that Jesus is true God, come down from heaven. And don't think that quoting some Bible passages will prove it, because reason says you must first prove that the Bible is true, if you're going to rely on it. But you can't prove the Bible true to someone who doesn't already believe that Jesus is their God and Savior.

Do you see the hopeless circle, like a dog chasing its tail, when faith is said to be a decision or choice? It can't be a rational, reasonable choice since as we've seen natural, human reason can't make sense of it. And if it's an irrational choice, why not believe in one of the other religions out there. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Islam, Scientology? You have plenty to choose from.

We believe, dear Christians, not because we reasoned things out and came to a decision for Christ. We believe not because we figured that Jesus was the best choice. Our fallen, natural reasoning and thinking couldn't make any more sense of it than those people in Capernaum could make sense of Jesus coming down from heaven. Then we do we believe? Because the Father drew us to his Son. That's what Jesus told his hearers in order to overcome the stumbling block of their natural reasoning. He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 NIV). You, dear friend, you believe in Jesus only because the Father has drawn you to the Son. He has drawn you to eat the Bread of life. What a picture of faith in Jesus, who alone bring eternal life! The Father has drawn you to eat the Bread of Life, that is, to believe in Jesus. Take to heart that truth: The Father has drawn you to eat the Bread of life.

2. How does the Father draw you to Jesus?

How does he do that? How has he drawn you to Jesus? In Jesus day, a fisherman used a net to draw the fish to the boat. The Father draws you to Jesus by teaching you his word. Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” Now, isn't it words that we hear and listen to? Isn't it words that teach us so that we learn? Yes, it is words that the Father uses to draw us to Jesus. His words are the net. His words make us people taught by God.

But how can we hear the words of the Father? He is in heaven above; we are on earth below. He dwells in light inaccessible. We cannot see him. We cannot approach his presence, much less stand there and listen. He is transcendent separate from all, above all, for he is the holy Creator. We are sinful creatures. How can our polluted ears be taught by God?

How? Jesus answers that: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father” (John 6:46 NIV). We could not go to God, so he came to us. The Son, who is one God with the Father from all eternity, he came from the Father, sent by the Father. He makes the Father known, for he, the Son, is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”(John 1:1, 14 NIV). He, the Word, has brought the Father's words to us. The writer to the Hebrews says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1, 2 NIV).

So through the word revealed by the Son the Father has drawn you to the Son. Through the word, whether the word connected with water in Baptism or the proclaimed from the Scriptures, for they are the same message -- through the Word the Father has drawn you to believe in the Son, to believe that Jesus is the living Bread that has come done from heaven. That's what you've been taught by God. Jesus is the Bread that has come down from heaven. Those people thought they knew Jesus mother and father. They knew his mother, Mary. But Joseph had not begotten him. For Jesus came from above. He is the eternal Son of the Father.

Do we daily stand in amazement at this great and might wonder, taught to you by God himself in his Word? Or do we just think about it around Christmas time, and even then it gets buried under all the boxes and wrapping paper, under the busyness and sentimentality of the season? Do we let the deck-the-halls-with-bows-of-holly-fa-la-las drown out the contemplation of the mystery as we stand at the manger singing in joy “He whom the sea And wind obey Comes down to serve the sinner in great meekness. Now God's own Son With us is one And joins us and our children in our weakness” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, “O Jesus Christ, Your Manger Is” 40:2)? And if we neglect this mystery even at the appointed time of celebration, how guilty are we of neglecting it throughout the year!

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for failing to stand in continual wonder at how you came down from heaven and laid aside your glory. Strengthen our faith to honor you aright. For not only are you the Bread that came down from heaven, but you are the Bread of life. Strengthen my faith in you, for only in you, the living Bread, do I have eternal life, O Jesus.”

3. Why is Jesus the Bread of life?

Yes, dear Christian, Jesus is your life. The Father draws you to eat the Bread of life, that is, to believe in Jesus, to believe that you have eternal life in him. Jesus promises you with all truthfulness and verity -- so do not doubt it -- he promises you and he cannot lie, he promises: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life” (John 6:57, 48 NIV). Hold on to that promise, dear friend, hold on. For the Father draws you to eat the Bread of life.

How much greater Jesus is and the life he brings! How much greater than earthly bread. Earthly bread and anything else this world offers no matter how needful or gratifying can only keep us alive for a while due to God's gracious providence. Even the most scientifically advanced bread, even all of medical technology, cannot prevent death. Even the bread that God himself gave the Israelites in the dessert, which they called manna, did not prevent death. “Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died” (John 6:49 NIV). How much less will anything we human beings discover and invent ever defeat death!

“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die” (John 6:50 NIV), Jesus graciously promises you. He invites you, saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51 NIV). Believe his promise, for he speaks it to you, dear friend. For the Father is drawing you to eat the living Bread.

Jesus is the living bread, for not only defeats death for you but he also makes you alive in the first place. No earthly bread can bring even physically life; at best it can keep that life going for a while. But Jesus brings you real life, true life, spiritual life. He makes us, who were dead in sin, alive. For he is the living Bread, the Bread of life. Not even physical death with its icy fingers can rob you of this real, true life. Eternal life is yours through faith in Jesus. Keep on eating the Bread, the living Bread, dear friends. Keep on believing in Jesus. “If anyone,” and that includes you, dear friend. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51 NIV). The Father is drawing you right now. He is drawing you to eat the living Bread, to keep on believing in Jesus.

4. How can Jesus bring eternal life to mortals born to die?

But how can Jesus bring eternal life to mortals born to die? Jesus explains, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51 NIV). He confronted death with his own flesh. The whips tore his flesh, leaving him stripped with the marks of our sin. He offered himself as the sacrifice in our place. Just as the flesh of animals covered Israel's altars due to the sins of the people, Jesus' flesh covered the cross to pay the debt for the sins of the world, including yours. So by his death you have life. “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51 NIV). The Father is drawing you right now. He is drawing you to eat the living bread, to keep on believing that Jesus gave his flesh into death on the cross for you to make you alive forever.

Cherish these words of the Gospel, this Good News, through which the Father draws you. Yes, cherish his Word. For that is how you eat the Bread of life. Hear his Word, take it to heart, chew on it. For his Word brings you faith and life. Don't cheat yourself by skimping on the Word. Plan for regular weekly worship. Plan how to make his Word a part of your daily life. Plan for Bible class. For the Father draws you to eat the Bread of life as you hear and learn his word.

Towards the end of John 6 we are told that many no longer followed Jesus after he had said these things. They weren't really interested in his word. They were skeptical. It didn't make sense. Now you won't be able to argue a skeptic, even the skeptic inside of you, into believing. Only the Father draws us to eat the Bread of life. But you know the power of the Father's words spoken by the Son Jesus Christ. You have experienced that power in your heart. You have tasted the Bread of life. So keep on saying with Peter in John 6, “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 NIV). Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and mind sin Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313