The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 6:35, 41-51

 


THIS IS THE THIRD SUNDAY IN A ROW THAT WE WILL HEAR ABOUT BREAD, AND WE HAVE ANOTHER TO GO, BUT I’LL LET TOM DEAL WITH THAT. DURING THIS CYCLE OF THE GOSPEL READINGS, IT FEELS LIKE WE ARE GETTING OVERSTUFFED WITH BREAD, AND, IF WE DON’T LISTEN CAREFULLY, IT SEEMS AS IF WE ARE HEARING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER, BUT THAT’S NOT THE CASE. THE DISCOURSE BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS OPPONENTS IS LIKE AN ONION, AND, AS EACH LAYER IS PEELED AWAY, WE GET CLOSER TO THE CORE OF WHAT JESUS IS SAYING. HIS OPPONENTS ARE IDENTIFIED AS THE JEWS, WHICH SHOULD BE BETTER TRANSLATED AS THE JUDEANS; THOSE WHO ARE COMMITED TO THE RITES AND RITUALS OF THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM, AND IS NOT AN INDITEMENT OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. AFTER ALL, JESUS WAS A JEW, AS WERE HIS DISCIPLES, THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND, AND THE AUDIENCE FOR WHOM JOHN WRITES HIS GOSPEL. AS THE DISCOURSE GOES ON, THE HOSTILITY TO JESUS INCREASES, AND JESUS’ WORDS BECOME SHARPER. ONE LUTHERAN SCHOLAR CALLS THIS “OBNOXIOUS DISCOURSE.”

THE FIRST VERSE OF TODAY’S GOSPEL LINKS US TO WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE AND HELPS DEVELOP THE FLOW OF THE DISCOURSE. WHEN JESUS SAYS, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN,” THE JUDEANS ARE INCENSED, AND THEY START TO MURMUR AMOUNG THEMSELVES, “ISN’T THIS JESUS, THE SON OF JOSEPH, WHOSE FATHER AND MOTHER WE KNOW? HOW CAN HE NOW SAY, ‘I HAVE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN’?” THE WORD TRANSLATED AS “COMPLAIN” IN ENGLISH IS REALLY THE WORD FOR “MURMUR,” WHICH IS WHAT THE ISRAELITES DID IN THE DESERT WHEN THEY GOT TIRED OF EATING MANNA. GOD WAS SAVING THEM, AND THEY MURMURED AGAINST HIM; SO TOO THEY MURMUR AGAINST JESUS. BASICALLY, JESUS TELLS THEM TO SHUT UP; “STOP YOUR MURMURING AMOUNG YOURSELVES.”

WHAT JESUS SAYS NEXT HAS PROFOUND IMPLICATIONS; “NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS DRAWN BY THE FATHER WHO SENT ME; AND I WILL RAISE THAT PERSON UP ON THE LAST DAY.” THE WORD “DRAWN” IS THE SAME WORD USED TO DESCRIBE THE HAULING IN OF FISHING NETS; REMEMBER THAT BIT ABOUT BEING FISHERS OF PEOPLE. GOD’S SPIRIT CASTS A WIDE NET TO DRAG US TO JESUS, AND LIKE FISH, SOME PEOPLE JUMP OUT OF THE NET, LIKE THE JUDEANS WHO ARE FACE TO FACE WITH JESUS. I CAN TESTIFY IN MY OWN LIFE WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE DRAWN TO JESUS. IT TOOK GOD THIRTY YEARS TO HAUL ME IN, AND HIS SPIRIT NEVER QUIT UNTIL I WAS IN THE BOAT WITH JESUS.

JESUS THEN LINKED HIS TEACHING WITH WHAT HAD BEEN FORTOLD BY THE PROPHETS, “AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT BY GOD. EVERYONE WHO HAS HEARD AND LEARNED FROM THE FATHER COMES TO ME.” THE JUDEANS COULD NOT HAVE MISSED THAT WHAT JESUS WAS SAYING IS THAT BEING TAUGHT BY HIM IS THE SAME AS BEING TAUGHT BY GOD. NO ONE HAS SEEN THE FATHER EXCEPT THE ONE WHO HAS COME FROM HIM, AND ANYONE WHO TRUSTS IN THE ONE WHO HAS COME FROM GOD HAS ETERNAL LIFE. “VERY TRULY I TELL YOU,” JESUS SAYS, “WHOEVER BELIEVES HAS ETERNAL LIFE.” THIS IS NOT THE INTELECTUAL BELIEF THAT JESUS LIVED, SINCE THE JUDEANS WERE FACE TO FACE WITH HIM; RATHER IT IS TRUST. WHOEVER TRUSTS THAT JESUS HAS COME FROM GOD, AND THAT HIS WORDS ARE THE WORDS OF GOD, HAS ETERNAL LIFE.

AGAIN JESUS REMINDS THE JUDEANS OF GOD’S GRACE IN REDEEMING ISRAEL OUT OF EGYPT, HOW HE FED THEIR BODIES WITH THE MANNA FROM HEAVEN, OVER WHICH THEY MURMURED, YET THEY STILL DIED. WHAT JESUS IS OFFERING IS THE TRUE BREAD OF HEAVEN, THE LIVING BREAD, AND WHOEVER EATS THIS BREAD WILL LIVE FOREVER. THE BREAD THAT JESUS WILL GIVE FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD IS HIS OWN FLESH. THIS STATEMENT WILL UNHINGE THE MINDS OF THE JUDEANS, SINCE THEY WILL INTERPRET IT LITERALLY AS SOME SORT OF CANIBALISM, BUT JESUS IS REFERING TO HIS REDEEMNG DEATH ON THE CROSS. WHICH, TO THOSE LOCKED INTO THE RITES AND RITUALS OF THE TEMPLE, WILL BE EQUALLY UNBELIEVABLE.

TOM’S FINE HOMILY OF LAST WEEK, IN WHICH HE MADE THE POINT OF HOW SOME GET LOCKED INTO THINKING THAT WHAT IS TO COME WILL BE THE SAME AS WHAT WENT BEFORE, IS THE PROBLEM OF THE JUDEANS WHO ARGUE WITH JESUS. THEY CAN’T TRUST IN WHAT JESUS SAYS BECAUSE THIS IS NOT THE WAY GOD WORKS; THEY ARE THE EXPERTS ON GOD. THEY CAN’T TRUST THAT JESUS HAS COME FROM GOD, BECAUSE HE IS JUST AN ORDINARY MAN LIKE THEMSELVES. THEY THINK THEY KNOW ALL ABOUT GOD, AND THEY THINK THEY KNOW ALL ABOUT JESUS, AND, EVEN THOUGH GOD HAS DRAWN THEM TO JESUS, THEY REFUSE TO TRUST HIM OR HIS WORDS.

THEY MURMUR BECAUSE THEY ARE TRYING TO FIT JESUS INTO THEIR ESTABLISHED FRAME OF REFERENCE. BREAD EQUALS THE MANNA IN THE DESERT. THE MIRACLE OF THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND EQUALS THE FOOD THAT FED THEIR ANCESTORS. ANYTHING ELSE IS NOT WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION. WHAT JESUS IS SAYING, HOWEVER, IS NOT ABOUT THEIR ANCESTORS, NOR ABOUT HUMAN RITES AND RITUALS, IT IS ABOUT WHAT HIS FATHER IS DOING AND WILL DO. HIS STATEMENT OF GIVING HIS FLESH FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD IS BOTH A REVELATION AND A PROMISE. THE ENTIRE GOSPEL OF JOHN MOVES TOWARD THIS TRUTH, AND TRUSTING IN THIS TRUTH IS THE WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE. JESUS IS SPEAKING TO THE JUDEANS NEAR THE TIME OF PASSOVER, GOD’S GREAT ACT OF REDEMPTION, AND IN HIS WORDS THE CONTEXT OF THE TRADITION OF PASSOVER IS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. IN JESUS IS GOD’S GREATEST ACT OF REDEMPTION, AND TRUSTING IN HIM IS LIFE EVERLASTING.

AMEN