Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 6th chapter (John 6:22-35).
Beloved in the Lord,
When Jesus crossed the Sea, walking on water, He left behind the crowds. He departed from their midst for they were seeking to make Him King by force. Jesus would not be their kind of king. He’s no bread king. He’s better. He’s more. He’s greater. In His greatness He departs while the crowds want more. Jesus departs but not so far as to be gone. In fact, Jesus departs just far enough.
The crowds want more of Jesus. So, “when they found that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they got into boats also and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.” Jesus departs that He may be sought after. He backs away, moves over, goes out, steps forward, that those seeking Him may find Him where He wants to be found. The crowds were seeing Him but not rightly. They were hearing Him, but not with open ears. The crowds were in the Lord’s presence but they were not where they needed to be. For they were stuck in their false understandings of Jesus. They were standing still in their wrong faith. They were set up on their ideas of Messiah and King and Savior. They were distracted by empty stomachs, looking inward instead of outward, hearing internal grumblings rather than divine verses extra nos, outside of themselves.
In great wisdom Jesus would not allow them to sit and be comfortable with such things. So . . . He moves, His departure being for their eternal good. Jesus adjusts the situation, working to open their ears and enlighten their eyes through His Word. He moves just far enough that they too may move after Him – seeking Him where He may be found.
The crowds seek Jesus but Jesus is on to their scheme. “truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus moves far enough, but there has been no movement in the hearts of the people. He must move still farther and further. The seekers are still flesh and blood. And on this side of eternity, “flesh and blood is interested only in bodily nourishment” (Luther). Thus they were looking and working for the wrong kind of eating, looking and working for the wrong kind of bread.
The crowds were following Jesus to get more bread, rather than eating bread – and thereby sustaining the body – to get more Jesus through His Word. I ask you, how are we any different? The idols of yesteryear tempt our hearts today. Yes, idols. The gifts our Lord gives us to sustain this body and life, first article and fourth petition gifts like, “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have” we make into idols because we believe the lack of them is death and the possession of them is life.
Let me ask you this, How many meals have you missed in the past year? Now . . . how many times have you missed church? The truth is we rarely miss a meal and if we do we usually make it up somewhere during the day don’t we? Fourth meal, mid-night snacks, anything to quiet the grumbling. But when it comes to missing church – well, all it takes is a more pressing activity, a late night, a visiting guest, good weather, etc. We’re more concerned about tending to the needs of the body than we are the needs of the soul. We’re more worried about filling our stomachs than receiving the Sacrament. And at the same time we’re less concerned about what our bodies actually do and whom they do them with, than we are about the eternal consequences of our deeds. What the body wants the body usually gets because the idols of yesteryear plague us as well.
And so we work for the wrong kind of eating offering our blood, sweat and tears for food that perishes. Why? Because we can see and feel the bread of this world. We can count it. We can store it. We can put it on a shelf or even trade it on Ebay. We can measure it. We can hide it. We can get more and the more we get the more secure we feel.
And what does all our scrapping profit? “Perishable bread preserves only this temporal life?” In another passage Jesus asks, “what does a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” The profit is temporal, and the investment may be eternal. We must repent. You must repent of your idols and repent of your sins.
The eating we’ve been working for, the bread we’ve been chasing after, doesn’t give life. These all let sin, death, devil, hell, bad consciences, wounded hearts, and immoral lives remain. None of these bear the seal of the Father! None of these shoulder the burden of guilt, the weight of glory, nor the hope of everlasting life. So long as we remain set in such sins we are lost. The possession of them is death. The Lack of them is life.
That’s why Jesus moves! There is eating to be wrought and bread to be had. But it must be given and it must be received. It is not earned. It is not gathered, stored up, counted, measured, nor hidden away. The Food that endures to eternal life – the Son of Man will give you. On Him the Father has set His seal. On Jesus rests the burden of our guilt. And for this, and for you, He will move once more, shouldering the glory of God as the timber rests across His back. He will move and He will stumble and He will fall. His steps will grow weary. The sins of the world shall drag Him low. You sins will be the death of Him. And He will move still. Even in death, even death on a cross, Jesus will move that you may draw near. “Being lifted up He will draw all men unto Himself.” And you will see the passion of the Son of Man. And you will hear the mercy of the Son of Mary. And the Man the Nazareth will give His life for the life of the world. And the Child of Bethlehem will offer His flesh in place of yours. Flesh and blood is set upon the stomach. But Jesus’ flesh and blood is staked upon the earth. He suffers. He dies. And then He moves to the grave. Where our sins lead us, Jesus enters. In death He conquers. In the grave He rests. And on the third day flesh and blood is resurrected. Christ is Risen! He is risen for you! The possession of Him is life, the Lack of Him is death.
His working is for your eating. His body is for bread. He blood is for drink. The Bread of Life has come down to give eternal life to all who believe, to all who eat with faith. As St. Augustine has said, “believe and you have eaten!”
“And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom 10:14-15 ESV). Is believing a onetime event? No! We do not believe yesterday only, but those who are of faith believe yesterday, today, and . . . we pray forevermore. Believing is an everyday event. Faith is for today. Today is the day of salvation says the Lord! Therefore, believing necessitates hearing. Eating requires the preaching of the Word. If you would believe today and be saved from this wicked generation then hear the Word, repent and believe on His Name. If you would believe tomorrow and be saved – then hear the Word tomorrow, repent and believe on His Name. Believing requires hearing. Hearing means there is a preacher and that preacher must be preaching Christ and Him Crucified for the salvation of the world. Without the message of the cross, without the preacher preaching and the hearer hearing, there will be little believing. Faith will starve. And the body will grumble under the pangs of death.
Now it must be the earnest endeavor of everyone to arm himself with the Word of God, to practice his faith, and to acquire a food that will not perish. God cannot tolerate abuse of His Gospel by the selfish pursuit of our own interests and our greed, which we disguise in the cloak of the Gospel. God does not have His Gospel proclaimed for the sake of the belly, but for the welfare and salvation of our souls.
If such an endeavor is your endeavor, then no longer “miss your meals.” Hear the Word and feast on the mercy of your Savior. Believe and you have eaten. Let no idle (idol) activity keep you from this table. Let no grumbling stomach deter you from this heavenly food.
Beloved in the Lord, Jesus does not leave us without a preacher preaching so you may be the hearer hearing the gospel of God for the forgiveness of your sins. And He does not leave you without food – good food, holy food, food for you soul. “I AM the bread of Life” Jesus says. As Luther says, “He Himself is the Donor the Baker, the Waiter, the Brewer, yes, the Cook, and also the Dish and the Plate that gives us the imperishable food.” Jesus is the bread of life and this bread endures unto eternity. It gives life, eternal life, because it gives us the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ even as it gives us His Body and His blood. For the life of the creature is in its blood. And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Jesus gives all of this when He moves from heaven to earth for you.
Thus, He moves once more – just far enough that you would depart your sinful ways and seek after Him in the bread and the wine, the water and the Word, the chapter and verse and find Him to be the forgiveness of sins FOR YOU! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!