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Whoever Feeds on My Flesh August 16, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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John 6:51-69

Proper 15

August 16, 2015

 

Focus:  God gives us the bread of life.

Function:  That the hearers serve the Lord.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

Whoever Feeds on My Flesh

 

One of our youth took me up on the offer to shadow me for a day this week.  One of the things we did was plan the upcoming church movie event.  As we were looking around the theater’s website, he asked me how bad I thought it would be if I invited you all to an R-rated movie.  For starters, I’m not sure many of you would join me.  But it would probably also be damaging to my reputation and to our relationship.  But don’t worry, War Room is rated PG!

Sometimes, this happens on a larger scale.  In the past couple of weeks, both political parties’ leading frontrunners for next year’s presidential election experienced it.  Hillary Clinton found herself backpedaling after mentioning the phrase “all lives matter” and Donald Trump found himself in an awkward debate with reporter Megan Kelly.  At the moment, it looks like both of them ostracized lost some of their followers.

Most all of us at one point or another have said or done something foolish and it cost us a friend.  It even happens sometimes when we speak the truth.  And that happens all over.  Scientists who believe in Jesus can and do lose their jobs over their belief in creation.  Parents trying to guide their children lose them over difficult topics.  Unfortunately, it happens.

We see this in the words of Jesus today.  Over the course of His ministry, He said some pretty strange things.  He made comments that ostracized some of His followers.  He didn’t mind speaking the truth, even if it meant upsetting people.  But this one might just be the strangest of them all.

We are still in the aftermath of Jesus feeding the five thousand a few weeks ago.  But historically, it’s only been a day.  Jesus and His disciples fed the crowds, and then they journeyed across the sea to Capernaum by boat.  And that’s where the large crowd follows Him and meets up with Him again.

He had fled from them, knowing they were seeking to make Him a bread king.  That’s not why He came, but it’s what the people wanted.  And so they caught up with Him on the other side of the sea and they began asking questions.  So He began to teach.

51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 

That’s a tough saying, and one the Jews didn’t understand.  So they argued about it: “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”  And Jesus elaborated:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

 

And that’s when the disciples chime in, just as confused as the Jews.  “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?”  And they were right!  It is a hard saying, it’s a strange teaching.  And then we read that “many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”

‘Eat You?  How can we possibly do that?  You can’t give us Your flesh, and even if you could, that’s cannibalism.  It’s weird, it doesn’t make any sense.  Maybe You’re not as great as we thought You were.’  And they left.

Now, we’re not told specifically that it was the crowd of five thousand that left, but it sure seems like Jesus has gone from being surrounded by a massive crowd, to now only being in the presence of the twelve disciples.

The words of Christ ring true: “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  We aren’t capable of coming to Him on our own.  Even the crowds and disciples that had seen His miracles couldn’t believe on their own.

We see this in our Old Testament as well.

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.

 

They don’t get to choose to follow God.  They’re already His.  Their choice now is either to continue in the gifts and blessings God has given them, or to walk away as the crowd did.  We’re the same.  Okay, maybe you’ve never been tempted to worship Baal, or Ra, or someone of the like.  But we’re each tempted in our own way.

For many, a big temptation happens every time we get behind the wheel of a car.  God has given us government and He has given them authority.  Their law is law.  If we break it, we’re sinning.  It doesn’t matter that you want to get there a little faster.  It doesn’t matter if you’re going 31, 41, or 81 miles an hour down Main St.  It’s a sin.  But we’re also communicating something to the child or the friend in our car, to the neighbor on our street, to the coworker we’re carpooling with.  We’re telling them it’s okay.  We’re telling them to follow someone other can God. Everyone does it, so it’s fine.

Think about it for just a moment.  What would it say to that same coworker, or friend, if you were careful not to speed?  Do you think they’d notice?  Might they be annoyed that you won’t get there as fast?  Might they ask you about it?  Might they even ask you to speed up?  And if they do, what can you tell them?

Another big one in our culture now is sex outside of marriage.  Most of us who are adults understand this.  It tempts some of us more than others, but we get it.  We understand how pleasurable and fun it can be.  We understand the temptation that comes from peer pressure, the temptation that comes from a constant bombardment of graphic images that we see everywhere on a daily basis.  Our culture says sex is fun and casual and no strings attached.  But God doesn’t say that.  Indeed, the author of sex, says the opposite.  That it’s a one flesh union, that it permanently bonds us together.  That it unites us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  And that when it’s used as He created it, it’s a wonderful and fun blessing.  But apart from that, it brings much pain.

This is a challenge to our young people for sure.  It’s a challenge to everyone.  But what message can you send by saying no?  What message can you share, what weird difference is there about waiting for marriage?  We get to say that God has a plan, and we get to say what it is.

Because when push comes to shove, that’s what sin’s about.  It all goes back to the Garden, to the very first question: “Did God really say?”  Even in our own midst, our own church community, this is a real struggle.  We water down the Word.  We question it.  We ask “did God really say men and women are different?”  “Did God really say that we should listen to our government?”  “Did God really say that we should care for the widows and the orphans?” “Did God really say it’s wrong to tell a white lie if it will get me out of trouble?” The list goes on and on and it ultimately leads to this:  “I don’t want to follow a God who says ______.”

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.

 

We struggle with this, too.  It’s hard to echo Joshua’s words, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  We don’t choose this for ourselves.  God calls us to it.  God called the people of Joshua’s day, and they responded, they said they would follow Yahweh, who brought them out of slavery.  They would follow the God who drove out the Amorites and gave them the Promised Land.  We’ve seen it, we’ve lived it, we’ve tasted the fruit.  God is good.

The twelve disciples responded in a similar way.  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  They had seen it, lived it and tasted the fruit.  They knew that God is good.

And we respond in a similar way.  We know that following the Lord isn’t an easy thing.  We know that there are challenges and temptations that we face every day.  And we each know of the times we fall short.  You know better than anyone the hurt you’ve caused, the times you’ve walked astray.

But we’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good.  In those moments of our shame, and our guilt, and our defeat, we echo these words, “Lord to whom shall we go, You have the words of eternal life.” And in those times, indeed in all times, we eat the flesh of Christ.  We come together as His people, in His house, to His table, to partake of His body and His blood, shed for us on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  And they are.  Our sins are forgiven.  But it goes so much deeper.  It is so much more.  Because in this bread, in this body, in this wine, and in this blood, we also have the resurrection.  We have life.  We are forgiven, and cleansed, and loved, and saved, and victorious, and alive.  We are part of the family and we have life everlasting in His name.

And so when temptations come, we echo Joshua: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  When we’re tempted by our coworker to speed, we explain to them how government is a gift from God.  When tempted by friends to cheat because we feel neglected in our marriage, we tell them that we will be faithful, just as God is faithful.  When tempted to walk away from this community because we’re hurting from a sin someone else did against us, we remind ourselves that we are part of a family, and you just don’t walk away from family.  When we’re discouraged because we’re single and everything we seem to hear is telling us we have to get married to have any value, we remember that our worth comes from Christ crucified and from His proclamation that we are loved.  And when we are tempted to ask the same question the devil loves, “Did God really say?” we open up His Word, we read, mark, and inwardly digest it, so that we can respond and say, “Yes, God really did say _____.”

We serve the Lord, not because it’s a choice we have to make, not because it’s something we must do to avoid death, but we serve the Lord, we follow the Lord, because He has promised that “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever,” however weird that might sound.

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