John 6:60-69 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 15—Series B)
“Word of Eternal Life”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
August 19, 2018
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our sermon text is from the Holy Gospel recorded in John 6:
60Therefore, many of His disciples who heard him said, “This teaching is offensive. Who is able to listen to Him?” 61But knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this cause you offense? 62Then what if you should see the Son of Man ascending where He was before? 63The Spirit is the One who gives life, but the flesh is of no benefit. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe and who it was who was going to hand Him over. 65And He said, “On account of this I told you that no one is able to come to me unless it is given to him from the Father. 66From this time on many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. 67Therefore, Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” 68Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life, 69and we have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
It really is the BIG question, isn’t it? To whom shall we go—Jesus or . . . ? But before we can answer this question, we must answer first, “Why go to Jesus in the first place?” What are we actually looking for? The answer from John 6 is eternal life. That’s what Jesus has been offering to the people as He preached to them in the synagogue at Capernaum.
We began three Sundays ago with the beginning of Jesus’ sermon, His “Bread of Life Discourse,” following the feeding of the 5000. The crowd was seeking Jesus, but for the wrong reason. They wanted to make Him their “bread king” and so provided everything that they might need in this life. But Jesus countered that reason by saying, “Stop working for the food that perishes but receive the food that remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). Jesus taught them that God was doing a work in them by the power of the Holy Spirit, creating faith in their hearts to believe in Jesus as the true Bread of God who had come down from heaven in human flesh so that He might give His life for the world. In that sacrifice of Jesus’ life into death, Jesus gives Himself to the people to be received by faith as the Savior whose flesh is true food and blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on this bread by trusting in the words and promises of God spoken by Jesus will live forever, that is, has eternal life.
The crowd was thinking about life now, but Jesus was focusing them on life forever that would be theirs by the sacrifice of His body and the shedding of His blood which cleanses the sins of all people. And where there is the cleansing of sin, there is eternal life. The punishment, death, is removed and life everlasting is the gift received by faith in the Son of Man, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. But this teaching proves to be too much for many of Jesus’ followers to handle. “We know this guy—we know His mom and dad—where does He get off saying that He’s come down from heaven? Who does He think He is?” (John 6:42). “And how can this man possibly give us His flesh to eat and blood to drink and be the true manna from heaven? What’s he mean by giving His flesh for the life of the world? That’s just crazy talk. He’s just a human like us. The ‘living Father sent Me’ He says. Give us a break!” At the end of Jesus’ message, “many of His disciples who heard him said, ‘This teaching is offensive. Who is able to listen to Him?’” So, “from this time on many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”
Jesus’ message about bringing eternal life through His flesh and blood was simply too offensive to the people. First of all, it was blasphemous to them that this Jesus was indicating that He’s God. Second, even if Jesus were God, God wouldn’t come down from heaven and take on human flesh and be a real man and He certainly wouldn’t die. Gods don’t die. Paul says it to the point this way in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” Yes, Jesus is a “scandal” and “offense” in that He is God who took on human flesh so that He might give His flesh over to a bloody death on a cross in order that all humanity might have eternal life through the forgiveness of sins.
The message of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ who suffered, died, and rose again to give enteral life to the world is offensive to the sinful human nature of all of us. If it wasn’t, everyone ever born would believe. No one would rebel against God’s offer of eternal life through faith in His Son who died and rose again as Lord and Savior. But that’s not reality. Our fallen nature wars against God and does not willingly submit to His Word of truth. So people look for options that are more “palatable,” that are more “reasonable,” that suit the fallen nature of humanity better than a God who took to Himself human flesh and blood and died in humiliation on a Roman cross as a sacrifice to bring life to the world. Fallen humanity says, “I don’t need that kind of a Savior. I can find better.”
So, to whom shall we go for real, true, abundant life?
There are a plethora of options available, for sure. Multiple religions and religious ideologies and various forms of “spiritualism” certainly vie for the attention of people. They all make wondrous promises of enlightenment or spiritual fulfillment, even a heaven or a nirvana, a place of peace and bliss. Society and culture will tell you that all religions and forms of spirituality are essentially the same. If there is a God, they all lead to the same one. If there is a heaven, they will all get you there. Different paths, same deity. All lies! World religions and spirituality cannot lead you to God or heaven. The notion that they are all just same paths to the same end is a bogus lie propagated by Satan to get fallen humanity to be duped and to spend eternity in hell with him!
All religion and spirituality can be divided into two categories. There are the religions of the Law and the religion of the Gospel. Every world religion and way of spiritual thinking apart from the Holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church is a religion that seeks to reconcile God through people’s own works. An individual gets on God’s good side by good behavior, following all the right rules, making all the right moves. A person tries to attain a higher level of existence, of transcendence, of nirvana by how they think and act. It’s all a bunch of “do this” and “do that” and “don’t do this” and “don’t do that.” That’s the very charge often leveled against the Christian Church, that it’s a religion of rules. How ironic that the real “religions of rules” transfer their problem upon the Church as if it were ours.
So sinners are free to go their own way and seek out the best way that they can attain the good life with God in His heaven through what the world offers. If you should choose that path, know that you will work for what you get, laboring for food that ultimately perishes. For how do you know if God approves of what you are doing or not doing? How do you know that you have done enough? Maybe there’s more. Maybe you need to try harder, work harder, be nicer? Perhaps you ought to just stop sinning altogether. Surely there ought to be a reward for that!
But how can anyone rid themselves of their own sinful nature? How can a wretched person who is by nature sinful and unclean, who sins daily, who thumbs his nose at God’s Word, and loves to do things his or her way, ever overcome that to make right what is so wrong? “What can a person give in exchange for his life?” (Mk. 8:37 NET). To whom shall we go?
There is Jesus Christ. He offers “words of eternal life.” He promises in His Word that He will give up His life into death and hell for us so that He gifts us eternal life without cost, without price. Only Jesus can do what is necessary to take away the punishment of sin, the guilt of sin, the condemnation of sin. Only Jesus can make the sacrifice that will turn away God’s wrath from the sinner and make things right between humanity and the Creator once again.
Guilty sinners, Jesus gave His flesh for you(John 6:51). He took that flesh upon Himself and became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus grew up in the flesh and lived and walked and taught and healed in that flesh. He proclaimed, not a religion of “do this” and “don’t do that” and God will love you more, but a religion of, “God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit loves you so much that God the Son became fully human so that He could suffer hell in your place, die your death, and shed His blood, so that you might receive as a free gift the forgiveness of sins and eternal life along with the power and ability to love and to serve God and your fellow people with joy. “For this is the will of my Father,” Jesus said, “that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:40 ESV).
This, then, is the Gospel that you have come to know and to believe by grace through faith: Jesus is the Holy One of God, the Son-made-flesh who dwelt among us, the Savior who suffered and died to purchase your forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This Gospel is your gift from God—your forgiveness, eternal life, and the new birth of faith. To whom will you go? Pray your Father in heaven that your confession of faith would always be, “Lord Jesus, to whom shall I go? You alone have words of eternal life.” Amen.