Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Right Answer to the Wrong Question

Proper 15 LSB — August 16, 2015
Sermon Text — John 6:51-69
Audio —

 

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 sixth chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

Words of Revelation (How can God do this?)

SermonGraphic_300x200When Scripture speaks God speaks.  For all scripture is divinely inspired.  And when God speaks He speaks of His Son.  “For you search the scriptures believing that in them you have eternal life.”  The Son says, scripture itself says, God says, “these testify about me.”  All scripture points to Jesus, every word, every genealogy, every itoa, every jot and tittle, etched on paper, handed down through the centuries, preserved through the fires of persecution, translated into local languages, printed and published and delivered to you the hearer, the reader, the one who believes that in them you have eternal life.  All scripture is God talk, and all God talk is talk about Jesus.  If Jesus is the golden thread woven through the pages of the bible then every line on every page has been gilded by the Holy Spirit to draw you to the Father through the Son delivered to your heart through the ears.  Therefore when Jesus says, “I am the living bread come down from heaven and the bread that I give is for the life of the world” He is saying those words to you.  Speaking these divinely inspired words to you He calls for you to believe.  Scripture is written that you believe that Jesus is the Christ.  God speaks that you believe in His Son.  All that is written is written that you believe and by believing you have life within you.

The Jews in our text did not believe.  Scripture said so in last week’s reading and now their unbelief is manifesting itself in their questions.  “The Jews quarreled among themselves asking “How can this man give us his flesh to eat.”  They do not believe because they do not understand.  They do not lack knowledge for they know very well what He is saying.  They lack wisdom.  They do not fear the Lord.  They do not believe the Word.  Asking “How?” they put the Lord to the test.  They might as well have asked

“How were they delivered from Egypt?”
“How did Moses’ staff become a serpent?”
“How the Nile become blood?”
“How did the Red Sea part in two?”
“How did water come from the Rock?”
“How did manna come from heaven?”
“How did the Jordan stand in place?”
“How did the walls of Jericho come tumbling down?” 

The answer to all these questions is the same as the answer to their immediate question.  If you do not believe that Jesus’ flesh is real food and His blood is real drink how then do you believe anything in the Old Testament?  How then do you believe that you a mere mortal can be saved?

Seeking the Mystical

You see beloved, humanity knows enough to desire life.  The question is not how, but where.  God has done the how and Jesus’ words this morning direct us to the who and the where?  Yet, in our fallenness we are slow to believe because we do not understand.  In our fallenness we measure the Words of God according to our reason.  But if we follow our reason to its logical end we will die of despair and surrender all of Scripture, all of God, all of Jesus.

We don’t want to lose Jesus.  We’re not trying to lose God.  We want our faith to make sense.  Thus we attempt to answer the “how?” question.  Answering “How” we lose the where?  Reason says there is no how.  Reason says, Jesus can’t give us His flesh to eat or His blood to drink?  Reason says, there must be some other way to get God, some other way to get Jesus, some other way to be “spiritual.”  You see beloved, humanity seeks to be free of flesh and blood.  Flesh and blood are the problem.  We see it.  We feel it.  We experience it.  Flesh and blood pass away. Flesh and blood decay.  Flesh and blood die.  Humanity wants to live.  We desire life. Answering “how Jesus gives us these things?” we lose the ultimate question of “where does Jesus give us these things.”  Losing the “where” we’re left to ourselves. Left to ourselves we decide the “where?”  And the “where” must be somewhere in the spiritual realm.  Humanity is ever the mystic, old Adam is forever the enthusiast.  We long to be set free from the bondage of this flesh and blood.  We long to be released from its curse.  Seeking the Spirit apart from the flesh and blood of Jesus we follow whatever tugs on our heart.  Flesh and blood avail nothing, we say.  What we do or what is done in the body, to the body, doesn’t matter. It’s not what we do, but the intentions with which we do them.  It’s the thought that counts.   We surrender to empty words, believing the lies of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  We wrongly separate the heart, what it feels, loves, and desires, from the body, what it does and experiences as it partakes of the deeds of darkness.  This ultimately finds its end in how we treat the body when we’re done with it.  Such a pagan understanding of the body is manifested in cremation – which to the pagan is the supposed hastening of the soul’s separation from flesh and blood.

The Word became Flesh

Jesus will not allow anyone who listens to Him to retain their innate pagan understanding of the body.  His Words locate, anchor His hearers in His own flesh and blood.  His Words are the answer to both the “how?” and the “where?”.  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  Indeed, Jesus does say, “the flesh avails nothing.”  That is, OUR flesh avails nothing towards God.  Sinful mortals cannot win their own salvation.  But Jesus’ words are taking the focus from your flesh and putting the focus on His flesh.  Jesus says, “MY flesh is food indeed.  MY blood is drink indeed.”  He makes a distinction between our flesh and His own flesh emphasizing the necessity of being united to His flesh and blood for salvation.

God’s ways are not our ways.  What seems wise to men is folly to God.  What seems foolish to mortals is the wisdom and power of God unto salvation.  The Father sent His Son to redeem humanity, body and soul.  Jesus became flesh and blood to redeem your whole person.  You were not created to be separated from your body.  Adam was created to live forever, forever in his body, forever with the Lord God.  But sin entered the world through this one man and because this one man sinned, all sinned.  Adam died and so too will you.  To save sinners from eternal death God sent forth His Son to be born of a virgin, born under the law to redeem those born under the law.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us for us.

Jesus humbled Himself,
departed the spiritual realm,
entered our existence,
became one of us,
was found in the likeness of men, though without sin.
In Him the fullness of the deity was pleased to dwell.
He was born like you for you.
He was circumcised in your place.
Baptized to fulfill all righteousness.
Transfigured in the flesh revealing His eternal glory.
He went about doing good,
          Touching lepers,
          Teaching the Word of the Lord.
          Healing the sick,
          Casting out demons
          Cleansing the outcast
          Feeding the hungry
          Forgiving sinners
          And raising the dead!

Everywhere He went, everything He said, everyone He met He did so in the flesh so that flesh and blood creatures such as ourselves could behold God, hear God, meet God face to face and live!  Not even death was too low for such divine humility.  To redeem you, He entered death’s domain.  The incarnate God died!  God died!  God was crucified, dead, and buried.  He came to destroy the works of the devil, atone for your sins, and plunder the graves of mortals.  He came to be united with transgressors, to save sinners, to give His life as a ransom for many, for all, for you.  There is no salvation apart from the flesh and blood of Jesus.  Thus the flesh and blood of Jesus rose on the third day and ascended into heaven.

My Words are Spirit

Yes, you say, “see, Jesus ascended into heaven!  How can this man give us His flesh to eat?  Surely we must also ascend to where He is that we may partake of Him spiritually!”  Ah, there you go again, Old Adam, always eager to disbelieve the Word.  Beloved, take note and mark this well on your hearts!  Did you not hear the divine Word?  Scripture says that in Him the fullness of the deity was pleased to dwell.  We are not talking about any man’s flesh and blood.  We’re talking about the flesh and blood of the incarnate Son.  Jesus has not set aside His humanity.  Ascended to the Father’s right hand the humanity of Jesus has been exalted to the highest heaven!  His flesh and blood share in all the attributes of the eternal Son.  God is all powerful.  Jesus’ flesh and blood are all powerful.  God is all knowing, Jesus’ flesh and blood are all knowing.  God is everywhere, thus wherever Jesus is, He is there in His flesh and blood!

The question, beloved, ought not be “how?” but “Where?” Where is Jesus that I may find Him, hear Him, grasp Him, receive from Him divine gifts of mercy, life, and salvation?  He is wherever I hear His Word.  And His Word tells me to look in the waters of baptism.  His word directs me to the absolution given from His sent ones.  His Word leads me to this table where He promises to be present distributing His flesh and blood under bread and wine.  “But that is limiting God” Old Adam cries!  No!  Beloved, God is not limited to such things, but you and I are.  Indeed, God can and may act apart from His appointed means – for the Spirit acts when and where He wills.  But this same Lord has bound us to these means of grace that sinners may find the forgiveness of sins and receive everlasting life by grace through faith.  Truly the Spirit acts when and where He wills.   Let us rejoice that His Word has revealed to us that He wills to act, He is delighted to be, here in water, here in absolution, and the Holy Supper for you.  Through these means God has promised to locate Himself for your good apart from which there is no promise.

Words of Location  (Not How?  But Where?)

Beloved in the Lord, let us not be carried away with empty words, words void of the Spirit’s promises.  Rather let us be filled to the full with the Spirit who deigns to come to us through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, through the preaching of the cross of Christ and the giving of the sacraments.  These deliver what the Word of God says, namely Jesus Himself, His Words, His Work, His life, His death, His resurrection.  And let us not suppose ourselves to be teachers of the Holy Spirit, exercising exegetical gymnastics to make sense of the plain reading of scripture.  Let us, rather, be found as faithful disciples of the divine Word, heeding the voice of our God, receiving His gifts, and having received, in the ear and the mouth, glorify God in our bodies.  Our bodies do matter to God.  Your flesh and blood has been redeemed by the flesh and blood of a more perfect sacrifice.  Thus, the Lord your God has planted within you His Holy Spirit, that you, planted within your vocation may serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.  And when the time comes the body that has been planted in the ground may be raised on the last day to share in the everlasting glory of God’s son, Jesus.  For Jesus has the words of eternal life.  Believe this and you will live.  AMEN!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


Comments

Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Right Answer to the Wrong Question — 5 Comments

  1. “And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.'” Luke 1:18

    “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?'” Luke 1:34

    They both asked, “How?” Zechariah was disciplined by God. Mary was not. Why?

  2. From the article above: “Let us rejoice that His Word has revealed to us that He wills to act, He is delighted to be, here in water, here in absolution, and the Holy Supper for you.”

    And that’s not all. At one point Jesus simply said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20) No water, no absolution, no supper — no ministrations by a cleric are necessary. Among the faithful, the mutual identification with Jesus’ name is quite sufficient to be blessed by his presence, and being fully God and fully man, he is fully there, surely, for us.

  3. @Carl H #2

    The full context of Matthew 18 is the forgiveness of sins, or absolution.

    To paraphrase what one sem prof once said: “if Jesus isn’t there to forgive your sins, then He’s there for one other thing.”

    The implication being that we either stand before Christ forgiven or judged, holy or unholy, righteous or unrighteousness. There is no middle ground.

  4. @Carl H #2

    No water, no absolution, no supper — no ministrations by a cleric are necessary.

    So when Jesus sent the apostles, instructing them to baptize, teach, and forgive sins, He really didn’t mean it? And “This do, in remembrance of Me”… He didn’t really intend that we should do it?

    Think about it. Jesus was baptized Himself; He instituted the Supper; He forgave sins, telling the disciples their forgiveness would be the same as His and He commanded them to teach everything that He had taught them.
    And you don’t need any of this?

    Are you dead, maybe?

  5. @Carl H #1

    God’s made the distinction between Zechariah and Mary: that Zechariah’s response was from lack of faith and that Mary’s response was from faith.

    Notice that Zechariah’s question came from doubt of God’s ability to do what was promised. In spite of what God had done for Abraham and Sara at advanced age, Zechariah doubts the message of the angel, and that doubt rest not on God’s Word but on Zechariah’s own situation. The angel’s response shows that particular lack of faith, “because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

    Mary’s question rests in the morality of what the Angel announced. Was she being asked by the angel to do something contrary to God’s Word. That is, was she, a virgin, being deceived by an angel masqurading as an angel of light? Was the angel going to ask her to violate the Law of God?

    All pastors and even the angels of God are to be subject to this kind of question. Her question comes from faith in the whole of God’s Word. We can see this by both the words describing her concern “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.”

    And we can see this by the angel’s response, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” She was not being asked to sin against the Sixth Commandment. She tested the spirits in the manner consistent with 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God”

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