Year B Proper 14; John 6:35,41-51
There are two different sermons on this page. The first also ties in with the Epistle.
John 6.35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" 43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Ephes. 4.25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5.1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We have all seen the sign "Under new management". It infers a change in the service, the attitude, a better product. The idea is to stop existing customers from leaving, to reassure those who were happy that it hasn't changed that much, and to attract new ones.
Paul was writing to Christians. By definition a Christian is someone who is under new management. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The image Paul is giving is of someone changing clothes. Taking off selfishness and deceit, putting on Godliness, righteousness and holiness. This is to take place by a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit that will change the believer's attitude. 5.1 tells us we are dearly loved children of God and that we should imitate him. Earthly children imitate their parents, so should heavenly children.
Paul is very practical in what this means. I would like us to look at one aspect of behaviour that occurs in the gospel and epistle for today. Speech.
In the gospel the Jews grumbled because Jesus said that he was bread from heaven and they thought they knew all about him. They put a label on him, Jesus son of Joseph whose mother we know, too. He didn't come from heaven but Galilee! They made up their minds without examining the evidence. They dismissed Jesus by putting a label on him, relegating him to a thing, not a person.
We can do that sometimes. Put a label on someone and dismiss them, robbing of their dignity and standing, making ourselves superior to them. Jesus referred to this in the Sermon on the Mount when he equated someone who calls a fool to a murderer, Mth. 5.21ff.
The Jews grumbled about Jesus. In the Old Testament God's people grumbled after they had been delivered from the slavery of Egypt and God had provided them with manna in the wilderness. In the New Testament they are grumbling because Jesus had given them physical bread before he delivered them from of sin and death.
The Israelites wanted meat in the wilderness, so God gave them quail (Numbers 11) but he was angry with their ingratitude. Paul warned the Corinthian Christians not to grumble or they would face judgement (1 Cor. 10.10). The antidote is to look at what God has done and is doing, not to look to our selfish desires and to covet.
In the epistle Paul encourages Christians to change, to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body."
Even those who have followed the Leveson Enquiry in a superficial way will have deduced that truth is a very slippery and subjective subject for some.
Lying involves more than saying something that is known to be untrue. It can include exaggeration, flattery, cheating in sport or on an income tax return, making promises that you do not intend to keep, making up excuses, disclosing a confidence, and selective memory loss.
The Bible says that liars will not be able to enter God's kingdom ( Rev. 21.8 ). A Christian may lie, just as he/she can sin in other areas. However, this is talking about habitual lying. This shows that someone is a child of Satan, who is the author of lies, and not a child of God ( John 8.44 ).
Christians are to lay these things aside. To say sorry, to God and, perhaps the person they have lied to. To ask God and, perhaps, the wronged person for forgiveness. To ask for God's Holy Spirit to help to follow Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. Jn 14.6.
Christians are called to stop lying and do something positive instead. Putting on truth. Our whole being should radiate truth. Yet, our human nature can be very deceptive. It will fight against what God's Spirit is doing in us.
I don't know if any of you followed the trial of John Terry for racism. Although he was found not guilty, it became clear that some footballers are guilty of terrible abuse, anger, & hatred.
Putting on truth is not a licence to tell everything we know, for example, divulging a confidence. Neither is it permission to tell people what we really think about them. Later on in this passage Paul encourages talk that builds others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen, v.29. When we tell someone what we think of them it may only benefit ourselves, in a temporary warped sort of way.
We are part of the one body, the church, with Christ as our head. The head directs the body. Jesus is the truth so, as part of his body, we should be true to him and ourselves. We should also be true to one another. If we harm other parts of the body, other believers, we do wrong. Some disturbed people self-harm. We should not harm other believers with our speech. This will grieve God's Spirit who lives in every believer, v30. Just as a parent is upset when their offspring quarrel and fight, so our loving heavenly father is grieved when Christians engage in bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, slander, along with every form of malice, v.31. Paul writes that believers are to get rid of these things, in the way that a discarded soiled garment is taken off and burned.
For every taking off there is a putting on.
Take off lies, put on truth.
Take off unwholesome talk, put on talk that will build people up and benefit them.
Take off bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Put on kindness and compassion and forgiveness.
Verse 15 says that we should speak the truth in love. We are to live a life of love (5.2) imitating God the Father and Jesus. He offered himself sacrificially to God for us. We are to offer up our lives in gratitude as living sacrifices (Rom 12.1).
Louis Cassels (1922-1974) "Obey... take up your cross... deny yourself... it all sounds very hard. It is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is peddling spiritual soothing syrup, not real Christianity. And yet, in a strangely paradoxical way, it is also easy. With every cross that we lift in obedience to Christ comes the strength to carry it. It is always a package deal."
God has been so gracious to us. He calls us to be gracious to one another. It is difficult. We will all fail at times. But God will give us the forgiveness and the grace we need to live, and speak for him.
This week I read this story that illustrates a grace and forgiveness that I can only aspire to.
Revd Arthur Bowler, who was a church minister in the United States wrote this.
"I watched intently as my little brother was caught in the act. He sat in the corner of the living room, a pen in one hand and my father's brand-new hymnbook in the other.
As my father walked into the room, my brother cowered slightly; he sensed that he had done something wrong. From a distance I could see that he had opened my father's new hymnal and scribbled in it the length and breadth of the first page with a pen. Now, staring at my father fearfully, he and I both waited for his punishment. And as we waited, there was no way we could have known that our father was about to teach us deep and lasting lessons about life and family, lessons that continue to become even clearer through the years.
My father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it carefully, and then sat down, without saying a word. Books were precious to him; he was a clergyman and the holder of several degrees. For him, books were knowledge, and yet he loved his children. What he did next was remarkable. Instead of punishing my brother, instead of scolding or yelling or reprimanding, he sat down, took the pen from my brother's hand, and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles John had made: "John's work, 1959, age 2. How many times have I looked into your beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes looking up at me and thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my new hymnal. You have made the book sacred, as have your brothers and sister to so much of my life."
"Wow," I thought. "This is punishment?"
The years and the books came and went. Our family experienced what all families go through and perhaps a little bit more: triumph and tragedy, prosperity and loss, laughter and tears. We gained grandchildren, we lost a son. We always knew our parents loved us and that one of the proofs of their love was the hymnal by the piano. From time to time we would open it, look at the scribbles, read my father's expression of love, and feel uplifted.
Now I know that through this simple act my father taught us how every event in life has a positive side - if we are prepared to look at it from another angle - and how precious it is when our lives are touched by little hands. But he also taught us about what really matters in life: people, not objects; tolerance, not judgment; love, not anger. Now I, too, am a father, and, like my dad, a clergyman and holder of degrees. But unlike my father, I do not wait for my daughters to secretly take books from my bookshelf and scribble in them. From time to time I take one down - not just a cheap paperback but a book that I know I will have for many years to come, and I give it to one of my children to scribble or write their names in. And as I look at their artwork, I think about my father, the lessons he taught me, the love he has for us and which I have for my children - love that is at the very heart of a family."
There is a story about how, many years ago, there was an old man who used to walk the streets of Marseilles whom they called "The Miser of Marseilles." He was an object of derision throughout the whole city and even throughout the south of France, for everybody seemed to know him. Apparently he loved nothing and had no other object than to hoard every bit of money he got hold of; for what purpose, no-one knew. He was hated and he was derided whenever he appeared on the streets.
When he died, he was so despised that only a single person attended his funeral. Then his will was read, and these were its strange terms: From my infancy I noticed that the poor people of Marseilles had great difficulty in getting water. I noticed that water, the gift of God, was very dear and difficult to obtain. And when they could get that water, it was not as pure and clean as God intended it to be. Therefore, I vowed before God that I would live but for one purpose, for one end. I would save money, money, money; that I might give it to the city on one condition: that an aqueduct be built to bring fresh, pure water from yonder lake in the hills to Marseilles. That I now make possible by leaving all my hoarded wealth to this city. This is my last will and testament.
That aqueduct is one of the historic sights which guides and natives point out to visitors above all other things. Travellers in Marseilles today hear the poor people say as they drink the pure, sweet water from the lake in the hills, "Ah, when the miser died, we misunderstood him, but he did it all for us! We called him the miser of Marseilles, but he was more than that; he was the saviour of Marseilles." If we human beings could but learn the one inescapable meaning of that parable we would know the secret of how to get the most out of life which is to give the most to life.
Two weeks ago we saw how the crowd responded to the feeding of the 5,000 by trying to make Jesus King by force. Last week we looked at how they followed Jesus because he had fed them, and missed the point of the miracle. We looked at true bread, true work, and true life.
In today's reading we will look at two responses to Jesus, and two results.
41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, `I came down from heaven'?"
Two weeks ago I mentioned that there were a number of links with Jesus and the story of the exodus of God's people from Egypt. I mentioned the deliverance of Israel from slavery, and Jesus deliverance of His people from the slavery of sin. The giving of the law to Moses on the mountain and Jesus teaching the people on the mountain. The giving of manna in the wilderness and the feeding of the 5,000 in a barren, deserted place.
Another link is grumbling. In Exodus 16:8 the Israelites grumbled before they received the manna. Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.
Even after the manna came God's people grumbled, saying that they wished they were back in Egypt because the food was better there ( Numbers 11 ).
The Jews grumbled because Jesus claimed to come from God. They thought they knew better because they knew of Joseph and Mary. But, again, their knowledge was superficial. They didn't know enough to act as judge and jury. They knew nothing of the virgin birth. They thought that they could know about the things of God by giving their opinions. Yet they didn't know enough, they were just exposing their ignorance and their blinkered attitude.
Recently we have had John Leslie and Dr David Kelly being condemned in the press and in Parliament in a way that led to torment for the former and the suicide of the latter.
As Christians we should ensure that we do not condemn people on the basis of heresay, and to follow the ways of the crowd. We should not grumble either, but instead look to God's great mercy and provision for us.
( Grumbling and ) Drawing.
was a lady who designed and knitted exotic patterns with ease. There
was an occasion when she had lunch in a real Chinese restaurant (only
one person spoke partial English, all menus were in Chinese). When she
saw the hand-written menu she was so impressed with the calligraphy she
tucked the menu in her purse. Some months later she produced a stunning
white sweater with the Chinese symbols hand-stitched down the front.
She received compliments galore until one cocktail party when she met a distinguished Chinese doctor who asked her where she got the symbols. He then wanted to know if she knew what they meant. "I'm afraid to ask," she said, "but tell me anyway." Even she had to laugh when he told her they read, "This is a cheap dish - but good."
This shows the importance of not only seeing, but knowing and understanding.
44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
The basis for our salvation is God's grace. His undeserved favour in revealing himself to us, and reconciling us to Him through Jesus. Just as God graciously chose to deliver Israel from slavery He has also drawn those who are his to respond to his call. Ephesians 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Jesus quotes from part of Isaiah 54:13 All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace.
This part of Isaiah insists that God will not permanently separate the nation of Israel. It foretells a time when the ruined capital city will be rebuilt and achieve a greatness it has never known. Yet the description in these chapters goes far beyond what has ever been realized in Jerusalem. It merges into a vision of the future, when sin and sorrow will be no more and people will live in final peace with God.
Jesus is bringing in the era that the Prophets looked forward to. Here he is referring to those who will listen to God and act upon what they have heard. Jesus has come from heaven, now God the Father is drawing people back to heaven through Jesus. If people truly listen to God and learn from him they must come to Jesus.
To listen and learn from God requires humility, a willingness to receive and to act upon what is heard. A willingness to admit that someone knows better than we do. Jesus looked to Isaiah in the Bible as authoritative. We need to come to God again and again in humility to listen to him as we study his word and listen to the Holy Spirit.
For those who listen, learn and act upon God's word Jesus promises, verse 44, I will raise him up at the last day.
Earlier I mentioned that there will be two results in people's response to Jesus. On that last day Jesus will return to earth in splendour and majesty. There will be a resurrection of the dead and everyone, living and resurrected will have to face the judgement of God. There will be two criteria for admission to heaven.
Firstly, has this person been perfect for all of their life ? Romans 3:23 says that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'.
The next question will be, 'Has this person accepted the offer of eternal life offered by Jesus through his death for them on the cross ?' This is the only way that someone can avoid the just judgement of God of sinful humankind. There is no other way. Sincerity is not enough. The crowd sincerely believed that Jesus had not come from God.
Those who have accepted Jesus as their saviour can look forward to eternal life, verse 51. This is life that lasts for ever, although once we will be with God we will be outside time. On that last day believers will receive new, perfect, resurrection bodies.
We will be united with all other believers from history. One people, with perfect relationships with God, our environment and our fellow saints. We will be at peace with ourselves, knowing the satisfaction that the true bread brings. We will be serving and worshipping God with no distractions. We will be able to see God and be with him all of the time, contra verse 46.
The miser of Marseilles was driven by a vision of good quality drinking water for the poor. For this he forsook everything, his worldly goods, even his reputation. Our vision of heaven should bring hope, comfort, holiness and a determination to continue learning from God and following his ways.
I will conclude by reading the following, which is on the Notice Sheets.
following inscription is on the cathedral in Lubeck Germany.
" Christ our Lord says this to us:
You call Me Master and obey Me not.
You call Me Light and see Me not.
You call Me Way and walk Me not.
You call Me Life and choose Me not.
You call Me Wise and follow Me not.
You call Me Fair and love Me not.
You call Me Rich and ask Me not.
You call Me Eternal and seek Me not.
You call Me Noble and serve Me not.
You call Me Gracious and trust Me not.
You call Me Might and honour Me not.
You call Me Just and fear Me not.
If I condemn you, blame me not."
Make room for Jesus in your heart and he'll make room for You in heaven