"Following or Walking Away" John 6:51-69 Sermon Pr. Ted Giese Sunday August 19th 2018 Season of Pentecost
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 19th 2018: Season of Pentecost / John 6:51–69 "Following or Walking Away"
"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.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “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. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on The Last Day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 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. 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.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as He taught at Capernaum.
When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.) And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him, “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.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Last week we talked about people who were on the fringes of Jesus’ life who even though they had had their fill during the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 eating freely of the multiplied fish and loaves they in the end failed to trust in Jesus and His Word while they interjecting with their smart aleck comments trying to throw Jesus off His message. They heard Jesus’ preaching, His teaching that day, and were indicating that they would not be walking as a child of the light; they didn’t seem to want to follow Jesus. Today we move from that outer ring of people who on the whole had less contact with Jesus to the inner ring of people who spent the most time with Jesus and had the most contact with Jesus during His public ministry.
When the dust settles and Jesus has conclude His public teaching on Him being the living bread that came down from heaven from God the Father which gives eternal life, and the Jews at Capernaum on the sea of Galilee where Jesus had become the preacher had had their say and added their 2 cents about the topic, St. John then tells us that many of Jesus’ own disciples after hearing this teaching said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” And John then also tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. They too apparently would not be walking as a child of the light; they didn’t seem to want to follow Jesus either. After that Jesus then addresses the Twelve, His inner most disciples asking them, “Do you want to go away as well?”
So maybe you might be thinking who are these additional disciples who walked away from Jesus? These would be men counted among the Seventy-Two. To find out more about them we need to skip over to the Gospel of St. Luke in chapter 10 where Luke records how it was that, “the Lord [Jesus] appointed seventy-two others [apart from the Twelve] and sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to go. And [as Jesus sent them] He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” When these men returned to Jesus St. Luke tells us that “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” And [Jesus] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
These additional disciples of Jesus were ordained by Jesus to speak God’s Word and they were given authority, they cast out demons in Jesus’ name they received the compassion and good will of others and knew first had what mercy was for they had nothing and were in need and people cared for them out of their love of God and their love of neighbour, they would have had to have dealt with offended folks who would not believe in Jesus and who treated them poorly, they would have had to have shook the dust of the towns that rejected them off of their feet back against those towns, and they returned to Jesus with joy: and now when Jesus says that He is the Living Bread of heaven given to the world for eternal life from God the Father many of these same disciples end up saying, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” and they turn back and walk away from Jesus, they take offence at what Jesus was preaching, and they no longer to follow Jesus as His disciples. They who had walked as children of the Light choose to stop following Jesus.
Unlike last week where the smart alecks trolling Jesus had potentially only witnessed one single miracle these men had experienced many miracles and would have even preformed miracles in Jesus’ name and heard Jesus teach and preach over and over again and yet they fell away, they walked away. Is this not a dreadful and frightening thing to hear? That people so connected to Jesus, so close to Him could fall away, could walk away, knowing the truth yet rejecting it?
St. John, who did not walk away like these men had, who was with Jesus even at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, tells us that “Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.” Which means that when Jesus then turns to the Twelve Disciples and asks them “Do you want to go away as well?” Jesus knows the path ahead that they will walk, He knows every twist and turn, and Jesus knows that in the hour of His greatest need these men too would not just walk but run away from Him; even St. Peter. Jesus knows that of them only John would witness Jesus’ death and Jesus knows that they will return to Him all but one, Eleven would return but Judas would not and even here on this day as many of the Seventy-two and others walked away from Jesus, and St. Peter as spokesman for the Twelve pledges the loyalty of the Twelve, Jesus knew that Judas will betray Him, that Judas is the one “who would betray Him.” Judas didn’t physically walk away that day but he was walking away in his heart and the footsteps of his heart would lead into the dark.
In our sin we betray Jesus and walk away from Him. That’s a general thing to say: a blanket statement. All the same it is true. The ever present danger in this life is when, in our sin, we walk away from Jesus and never turn back to Him, never return to Him, stop following Him. It’s sad when someone who never knew Jesus discounts Him, or when someone only barely knows Jesus and then dismisses Him, but it is tragic and horrifying when someone has dedicated their life to Him and then walks away from Jesus: Regular returning to Jesus, continual turning to Him for forgiveness, a willingness to hear the hard Word, the hard teaching from Jesus because in it there is eternal life makes a person different from these men in our Gospel reading who abandoned Jesus. Such a person who returns to God out of the darkness of their sin has the spirit of repentance, a heart that trusts in Christ Jesus that holds fast to His teaching that He is in fact the Living Bread that came down from heaven that gives eternal life. This is a gift that is to be cherished not thrown in the ditch as a person walks into the dark. Now it’s important for each of us to know that the danger of walking away is real just as the blood of Christ Jesus shed upon the cross to save you from such a path is real. Everyone is washed in the blood of Christ the question is will you be guilty of the spilling of that blood on account of your sin alone or will it also be for you a life giving flood which washes away your guilt and sin, which keeps you on the path following after Christ as you walk in Him who said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The frightening thing is that in your life you have witnessed people you love walk away from the one true faith – the Christian faith, faith in Jesus – and they are still walking, you can see the path they are on and if they never turn back towards Jesus, if they continue to walk eternally away as ones who don’t have Christ Jesus as their friend and redeemer, their God, they will walk in darkness the rest of their days and every footstep, if they should continue in them, will only lead to the darkness of eternal death and hell. It is frightening to think that there are people who we love, who have been baptised yet who in their lives have rejected the faith given to them and as a result may in the end turn out to be ones who will be absent from the great and happy eternal reunion in Christ Jesus on The Last Day. This is a sobering thought.
What do you do with this fear when it crops up in your life? When you see grandchildren and great grand children who are un-baptized with no plan to have them baptized, when couples live together without the blessing of God, when you look around and see missing people in the pew who had been here and while in perfectly good health are simply absent from hearing God’s Word and have chosen not to receive the bread of heaven, the bread of life, during their daily walk here in this place or in any place at all? What do you do with this fear? Perhaps you remember this German proverb, “fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” Later in the Gospel of St. John Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Don’t be a slave to fear, it takes up too much time to live in fear, live in Christ, walk in Him.
I want to walk as a child of the light; I want to follow Jesus. Why? In Him there is no darkness at all; The night and the day are both alike. Yes! The Lamb is the Light of the city of God; And we pray: Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. The Word of God: This Jesus is the very Bread of Heaven, and Jesus is – as Psalm 119 says “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Without this Bread of Heaven we walk in the dark and have nothing to sustain us along the way. Which brings us to what St. Peter says when Jesus asks the Twelve “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered Him, “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.”
“This example illustrates that we must not rely on man. We must learn to [hold fast] to the Word of God, whether this is spoken by a disciple or an apostle, a saint or an ordinary man.” Therefore, don’t put your faith in men, not even in pastors or priests for even they may walk away or you may find out that they have walked away from Jesus in their hearts. Likewise don’t believe that the ones you love will follow your example of church attendance, or church involvement, or Christian faithfulness, and there-by end up walking in the Light of Christ themselves, they may not do so by your example alone. What they need is the Word of God; first and foremost, if they trust in the Word of God they will know Jesus and will follow Him. Pray without ceasing that you would not be a stumbling block to the faith of the weak, that the Holy Spirit would draw the lost back from the darkness to the Light of Jesus and that He would give you the words needed and the wisdom to know when to say them, and the courage to open your mouth and say them. Be encouraged then to study God’s Word for you will not have it on the tip of your tongue to speak to them in love if you have not inwardly digested it. Remember Jesus didn’t hold back from speaking God’s Word and teaching the truth out of fear of offence, even to those closest to Him, and neither do you need to be afraid. Those who have ear to hear: let them hear it. In Christ Jesus ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 10:1–12
 Luke 10:17–20
 John 8:12
 John 14:27
 Psalm 119:105
 Luther’s Works AE Volume 23, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 6 – 8, Concordia Publishing House 1959, Pg 191.