“The Hard Saying of Jesus Pt. 1”

John 6:26-58
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on February 4th, 2007

Last week we saw how easy it is to try to force God to fit our own agenda’s without realizing that God is actually moving in this world in accordance with His will and plan. Our will and “Choices” are redeemable within the scope of God’s will. Because of our fallen condition, we will always try to use God for our own purposes and comfort. We come to church most often for encouragement in a cruel, harsh environment, and need our preachers to give us a formula to “Turn our lives around,” but the bible keeps on pointing to Jesus as the “author and perfector of our faith;” But, What does that mean? Is the gospel enough, or is there something more? I think we live our lives waiting for something more. We want to see God “Work” for us, and what we usually mean by that is that we want our hurts to be healed and our needs (Felt or real) to be met. We want solutions for our family problems, and we want to learn to be better lovers, parents and friends. When we don’t get what we want, we often commiserate with those that struggle like us and wallow in hopelessness, and take comfort in numbers, but find no release from our struggle. All of this, while failing to realize that our biggest struggle is the realization that our greatest need is Christ, and that any earthly hunger, will only pale in comparison. That’s why weird paradoxes like “If you save your life you ill lose it, but if you lose it for my name’s sake, you will find it,” and “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain,” are a bit crazy and often misunderstood. It can no doubt become a cop out to dealing with issues here on earth, as many skeptics have exposed and exploited, but is it possible that knowing Jesus in a real gospel way makes us more earthly good, while we maintain our heavenly minds? Can I become a better parent, lover or friend by loving Jesus, and being captured by His plan here on earth, and the hope that our earthly life is not in vain?

In our passage today, Jesus begins to take on the crowd, and the religious leaders, and exhorts them to turn to Him in faith, and not spend their lives chasing a vaporous identity and a finite happiness. He (Jesus) is our sustenance, when we feed off of Him, and abide in Him and His words (Prayer, fasting, bible intake). This isn’t a formula, it’s an act of God on our lives, without which, we would continue to wallow in our self-focused agenda, and a practical Christ-less life. Jesus’ solution is Himself, not any self-help formulas. He calls people to Himself, as the ONLY means to eternal life. He enacts Old Testament metaphors to bring attention to His exclusive call to salvation. He denies any religious rites, and human choice, and bluntly says that “No man can come to me unless the Father draws Him to me,” which destroys the notion of an autonomous self. In one sermon, Jesus offends on every front, calling people away from their self-centered exploitation of God to a God-centered relationship denying their own plans in order to be obedient to His own.

From the Head…

A Word to the Crowd (John 6:22-41)

vv. 22-26
As the people search for Jesus, they search for someone that can give them what they want, not necessarily what they need. Verse 26 is not a contradiction (See verse 14), but a revelation of their clear motives and misunderstanding of the miracle. Miracles are not meant to only testify of whom Jesus is, but to express something about the gospel He is preaching. They see Jesus as a miracle worker; He is trying to point them to Himself as something more.

vv. 27-34
Jesus tells them to stop laboring for “Food that perishes” (see John 4:15). What does He mean? “Stop seeing your life as purely material!” Look to Him for eternal life, not just the material life that you have before you. Of course they misinterpret His use of the word “Labor/work” and like every good religious person ask what “Work” must we do to please God? His answer is clear, “Believe in Him whom He has sent.” We will never be satisfied chasing the things we want, and adding a works based approach to the gospel. Jesus is the central focus of this faith. Not our will or our works! The people wanted more, because they expected more from their Messiah. Moses was a type, the Messiah should give even more than he did. Jesus’ comments turn to the present, and declares that the bread/manna that truly saves comes “down out of heaven and gives life to the world.” Jesus moves from the provider of bread (Feeding of the 5000) to the bread Himself, and expands the recipients of His gift (The immediate Jewish audience) to the entire world. Jesus is moving people from their own needs to something greater, with a lot larger vision. Like the woman at the well, the crowd only sees Jesus’ human analogy in the physical sense.

vv. 35-40
Jesus become a lot more explicit, “I am the bread of life.” All of verse 35 is reminiscent of Isaiah 55:1-2 or Proverbs 8:5. Christ here explicitly says who He is, and that He alone is our thirst quencher and hunger stopper (see John 7:37-39). Our joy, and satisfaction is to be found in Him. The end of our search is located in Him, not our wants, which will fade away for sure. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough information according to verse 36, the problem is unbelief. This is a heart issue. We are using God and others for our own gain, or we are serving God and others out of love and gratitude. The people have only seen the power, but not the purpose of the miracles. It is in verse 37-40 that Jesus throws down some hard words. His point is that those that come to Him, He will not cast out, but those that come to Him are given to Him by His Father. He reiterates this as His Father’s will (v. 40), as His Father has drawn them (v. 44) and has been ‘granted” by His Father (v. 65). This is a phenomenal comfort to know, that Christ will not cast us out! He doesn’t lose those that He has been given (see John 17: 12). Jesus begins to assault the mind of the proud, religious Jew. Aren’t they the chosen ones (And no one else), and isn’t the Messiah supposed to deliver them from their physical hell? The answer appears to be no! Jesus is not their political prisoner, and they are not His because of descent, but because they believe in Him through faith.

A Turn to the Jewish Rulers (John 6:41-58)

vv. 41-48
Jesus continue His assault on human pride, and turns his attention to the Jewish rulers who are “Grumbling” about the audacity to call Himself the “Bread of life that came down from heaven.” They are struggling about His identity, and He hits them with the truth of their unbelief, and their lack of salvation from pedigree. He reiterates what He said in verse 37, that no one can come to Him unless His father has “Drawn” them to Him. Jesus goes on the kind of drawing God does. He quotes Isaiah 54:13, and shows how God woos His people, He doesn’t force their hand. The OT passage addresses a restored Jerusalem, which is symbolic of salvation that we have in Christ in the “already state”, but not completely realized in the “not yet” state of Revelation 21. It is God who woos, and teaches, and illumines our hearts so that we are “Born again” in to a new life and nature that begins to see Christ as the bread which we need. (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 22:24-26; Joel 2:28). We see the Holy Spirit’s role in this (John 14:26-27; 16:12-15; 1 John 2:20, 26, 27). In verses 47-48 Jesus firmly reiterates His point, and the foundation for understanding verses 51-58.

vv. 49-58
Jesus now turns I believe to a metaphor to get His point across. He reminds them that the manna that their fore-fathers ate was temporal, and although needed for life, and provided by God, it paled in comparison to knowing Christ as our joy and our hope and our satisfaction. He then compels them to eat his body and drink His blood. Although there is comparison to mystery religions cultic rights, there are many dissimilarities and this doesn’t appear to be anything at all but a metaphor for immersing ourselves in Christ and His word through faith resulting in praying fasting and bible intake. As we feast on Christ (see Isaiah 55:1-2), we begin to understand our relationship to God, and our place in the world.

Life is not about looking to our next fix; it is about feeding off of Christ, which the sacramental meal (Communion) is a picture of. This text isn’t about liturgy or sacraments; it’s about Christ as our life (John 4:31-34; John 15). Life doesn’t have to be bleak, confusing and defeated. The gospel frees us to overcome sin, be better parents and husbands, have good marriages, but it stems from a love affair with Christ, and that satisfaction sets the foundation for us to love others unconditionally, because we no longer “Need” them for our identity and our fulfillment. We get that nourishment from “Feeding” off of Christ (Reading His word, praying to Him daily, fasting so that we can deny ourselves, and listen to Him, sharing our faith, giving our goods to help others, serve others in Christ’s name, etc.). We feed off of Christ in faith (John 6:35, 47, 54), and we continue to live in faith, and walk according to His word (John 15:1-11). This is not about a weekly meal; it’s concerning an every day walk with God. It’s like eating and drinking, which we do and need daily. “This is not about the Lord’s supper; rather the Lord’s supper is about what is described in John 6.”

…to the Heart
I truly hope we can begin to appropriate these hard words of Jesus in our own lives. Our life isn’t meant to be stale and mundane, and purposeless. Our life is meant to be lived and lived with abundance (John 10:10). God does want you healthy (A solid understanding of His love and sacrifice for you) and He does want you prosperous (A richness in Christ beyond imagination). We are too often willing to settle for a crappy marriage, and confused direction, because the world dictates that this is the norm, this is the way it is supposed to be, so we capitulate and accept our own “Fate” without realizing that we are frogs in a kettle, with the where with all to exit this boiling cauldron, but the flesh is unwilling to move. What is our time like? Is it feasting on Christ? What does that mean to you? Are you reading His words and praying to God to illuminate your dull and struggling eyes? We are all in the same stormy boat, panicking and looking for the life preservers, instead of looking toward the life giver, Jesus Christ, the only one that can bring forth life from death.

2 comments so far

  1. Kayla on

    Thank you Mike for preaching this. Listening to this sermon was a great reminder to me of a major change God made in my heart last year and the need for me to remain diligent in keeping my focus on serving, loving and worship Him first.

    Dieing to myself finally and giving up on my dreams for the “perfect life” gave me freedom in Christ. When I stopped worrying about how I should be treated and focused on how I ought to treat others my world was turned upside down and my heart was transformed.

    I also appreciated the reminder that this will always be a struggle for all of us. I pray that we as a church will continue to fight against sin and self-centeredness to remain focused on Christ the author and perfecter of our faith! Thanks again.

  2. sermonrant on

    Thanks Kayla, it is a big reminder that God is loving and gives us what we need to liove, but often calls us beyond those things to Himself in ways that are hard for us to get.

    Thanks much for your comments!


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