Questions From the Crowd
(Second in a Series of Three Sermons)
John 6:35-51 – I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The kingdom of God is like a teenage son who says to his mom, “Hey Mom, what’s for supper?” To which mom replies, “Your room is a pigpen. I can’t stand it anymore. You need to clean it up or I’m just going to put it all in boxes and give it to Salvation Army. Do you hear me?” To which he says, “ok, ah mom, did you see that $20 bill I left on the table?” To which mom says, “And that’s another thing. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know. Back in the good old days, kids knew the value of money and they appreciated all that their parents did for them. No such thing as credit cards back then. You saved up for rainy days and you paid cash. Are you listening to me?” “Ah ok, mom, yes, could I just ask you one more question? What time will supper be?” I’ll tell you one more thing, buster brown. You better start getting up and going to church on Sunday mornings. If you’re going to live under this roof, there’s some rules you’re going to have to follow. Back in my day, we kids went to church, no questions asked. We knew that Jesus loved us and we would sit still and be quiet if we knew what was good for us!
The teenager must have felt like the Jews in our text for today. His mom kept answering questions different than the ones he was asking. So also with Jesus. He rarely answers the questions people asked; He instead answers the questions they should have been asking. The outline of today’s sermon includes ten questions. First, the questions the Jews asked, and secondly, the questions Jesus answered.
The Questions the Jews Asked
The first question the Jews asked in our text for today was, “Isn’t this that little (Galilean) boy whose parents we know by name?” For some time now, their hearts had been hardened against Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee. They wondered if anything good could come out of such a small and insignificant town. They had seen with their own eyes this Jesus feeding 5000 men plus women and children with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish, but they would not believe. They had heard reports of Jesus healing the sick and giving sight to the blind and raising the dead, but they would not accept Him as the long promised Messiah. Like the mom in the opening story who was blasting forward with her own agenda instead of responding to simple questions, the Jews were in a foul mood. Their only comeback to Jesus offer to satisfy their deepest and spiritual needs was to scoff at the idea that the son of Joseph the carpenter could be anybody special. Even though Jesus’ great desire was to gather them as a mother hen would gather her chicks, they would not be gathered.
Their second question was much like the first, “How dare he say that he came down (out of heaven?)” Jesus had been spending His days fulfilling prophecy after prophecy, and yet these religious leaders kept on preferring the status quo. Jesus was all about mercy and they were all about tradition. He was all about second chances and new beginnings and they were all about doing things the way they had always been done. He was all about the forgiveness of sins and they were all about keeping a record of wrongs. Even though their Father in heaven wanted to draw them near as a nursing mom draws her precious child near, they would not be drawn.
Their third question is actually in next week’s Gospel lesson, and is another example of the enemies of Jesus blasting forth with their own hostile agenda instead of listening with humble hearts. Does he think we’re a bunch of (cannibals?) Or to say it another way, “How is this one able to give us his flesh to eat?” By this time, the Jews weren’t just muttering among themselves. They were crying out in loud voices their ideas. The language indicates they were divided. They knew they were against Jesus, but they differed on exactly what their objections were. They were together in their scorn for this man, this son of Joseph, but they couldn’t really come together in terms of how to express that scorn. Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms, and they kept on speaking in physical language. Jesus was inviting them to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, and they would do nothing of the sort. Even though the Holy Spirit would in that moment have called, gathered, and enlightened them with His gifts, they would not be called nor gathered. Darkness was to be preferred.
In the first part of our sermon today, we focused on the questions the Jews asked with hostile hearts. In the second part, we focus on The Questions Jesus Answered. In our text for today, we can find at least seven answers to questions they should have been asking. It’s almost like the popular TV game Jeopardy, where the answers are provided, and contestants try to come up with the questions that match the answers.
The first question -Who are you? The answer “The Bread of Life.” When Jesus identified Himself as the Bread of Life, He was saying He was essential for life. He was trying to get the Jews thinking off the physical realm and into the spiritual real. He was contrasting what He brought as their Messiah with the bread He miraculously created the day before. That was physical bread that perishes. He was the spiritual bread that brought eternal life. Jesus was making yet another claim to deity. This statement was the first of the “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel the phrase I AM was the covenant name of Yahweh God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Jews who were listening would have automatically understood this as a claim to deity.
The second question that should have been asked- Where should we go with our hunger? Answer #2 is ME. It is of our very nature to take our hunger to the breakfast table and to the lunch table and to the supper table and even to the late night snack table. To take our hunger to the places where we work and are entertained and you fill in the blank. In reply Jesus says, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” He would teach us today simply to come to Him. To come just as we are, to come without one plea, to come hungry and to come often to His Table, His promises, His Word. It is of our very nature to think that we can satisfy our deepest desires in life by running fast and working hard and aiming for perfection and getting as close to perfection as is humanly possible. Jesus would have us keep it simple this morning. To simply believe that He is Who He said He was and that He has done everything He said He would do. To believe that He has lived the perfect life that none of us can even get close to living, that He has suffered all that He was appointed to suffer, and that because He did in fact die on a Friday and rise up on a Sunday morning and make appearances all over the countryside the next 40 days, because all of that is true beyond the shadow of a doubt, there is no more hunger, heaven is ours, sins are forgiven, all is well.
Question #3 - Where should we go with our thirst? Answer – Me. It is of our very nature to think that we can satisfy our thirst with a few beers or maybe it’s rum and cokes, or maybe it’s financial success or maybe it’s position or popularity or power or you fill in the blank. In reply, Jesus says, whoever believes in me shall never thirst. We are inclined to chase after all these other things in life and think that human happiness is complicated and dependent on all kinds of factors, some which we control and many which we cannot. Jesus would have us keep it simple this morning. To simply believe that as often as we come to Christ, there is no more thirst, heaven is ours, sins are forgiven, all is well.
Question #4- “Will you be casting us away?” Answer – Not if you come to me. It is of our nature to think that the nastiness of our sins and the bad habits that we can’t quite overcome will disqualify us from God’s presence. For many of us who have had so many advantages that we have taken for granted and we have had so many opportunities that we have wasted and we have had so many privileges that we have abused, we are tempted to stop coming, to stop asking, and to give up trying. In reply, all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” As the waiting father looks down the road for his son and does not cast him out but runs down the road to meet with him, embraces him with tears of joy and issues the order for the homecoming to be celebrated…..so also do the angels and archangels of heaven stand on tiptoe yearning for us to repent this morning, that our repentance might be celebrated. As a mother of a toddler cries for joy when that child steps forward with an apology and a desire to be loved, so also does our Lord Jesus Christ cry for joy every time we stumble forward admitting that we have messed up again and wondering if we could still be loved.
Question #5 to Jesus, Who gives you your marching orders? Answer - (My Father)”For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.
Question #6 to Jesus, What are your marching orders? (Not to lose you)And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
Question # 7 to Jesus - How do we come to you? (Use your ears) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. It is written in the Prophets, and they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me
The kingdom of God is like a man who was brought up to believe that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat. It is in his very nature to work hard so that he might eat well. To eat well so that he might work hard. To work even harder so that he might eat even better. And so the cycle goes faster and faster until He starts to get more and more exhausted in a regular sort of way. And then more and more he finds that he is sitting still. And the more he sits still the more he is drawn to this familiar voice that speaks in such a way as to keep it simple. And the more he listens to this gentle and ever so reassuring voice, his hunger is gone, his thirst has been quenched, heaven is his, sins are forgiven, all is well. In Christ. Amen.
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