Sermon – March 11, 2020 – Lent Wednesday
Printable PDF: 3-11-2020 Midweek 3 Sermon
Midweek 3 Sermon ~ March 11, 2020 ~ Pastor Myrl Wagenknecht
THE SON OF GOD GOES FORTH TO WAR
The Warrior Rejected by Many Followers
66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69
Do you have a BFF? Be careful, because you can only have one BFF: One “best” friend. And you can’t change BFF because that one friend is “forever.” Think back to grade school, high school, or some great adventure that found you very close to someone. But they are no longer friends because of time, misunderstanding, lack of trust, gossip, disappointment. I will suggest one Best Forever Friend.
- His own rejected him.
It was during his last year of ministry. For two years, crowds regularly followed him, eagerly watching and listening. Shortly after he had fed a college basketball arena-sized crowd of five thousand men, plus women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish, the people began to think that they should make Jesus their king. They were even going to take him by force, probably so they could keep him there at the Sea of Galilee and get all that free food and maybe also be free of disease. Keep in mind that all of these people were part of the chosen nation that God had carefully protected for more than two thousand years. They knew that God had promised a Savior, and they were looking at Jesus as that Promised One.
It’s tragic that their expectations were for a Savior who would give them food and health. Some of their spiritual leaders had abandoned the beautiful promises of the Savior from sin and the giver of eternal life. They had turned those promises into a prediction of a king who would throw out the hated Roman rulers and establish a kingdom on earth with unlimited bread and health. How could that have happened? An enemy had been at work! He had attacked the Bible. Satan had convinced the spiritual leaders with a lie to reject Jesus. Many others chose to do the same.
Jesus resisted their efforts to make him a king and withdrew from them. The next day, the crowd found Jesus and had many questions. The subject turned, naturally, to bread. That’s when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Whoa! They had bread on their mind, but the bread Jesus gave them was so different from what they expected. He told them he had come from his Father in heaven. He was the bread from heaven, and all who “ate” the bread from heaven, that is, who took him in by faith, would live forever. He would raise them up on the Last Day. Jesus often taught with parables, object lessons, similes, and metaphors. Why were they too dull to catch on to the true spiritual meaning? He was bread from heaven giving everlasting life. He was living water giving everlasting life. Eating this bread and drinking this water was simply believing in him. But they seemed to stop listening. Many turned around and headed home. He would have been a great king. Free bread. He would have been a great friend. Healing. Wisdom. Comfort. No BFF here.
But it wasn’t just the crowd of thousands who walked away. Jesus had a group of 70 disciples whom he was training to reach out with the gospel to the huge mission field in Galilee and beyond. But the words of Jesus, the bread from heaven, were difficult to understand. How could he claim to give them eternal life? “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’” (John 6:60). And right after this we learn, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” This was the Savior of the world who had come to offer his perfect life in exchange for our sin at the battle on Calvary. He’s getting ready for that battle and has been preparing the troops to carry on. And some of them leave. They did not believe Jesus had the authority or power to grant eternal life. They reject him. They will look for another friend.
The enemy of Jesus had gotten to the hearts and minds of the Jewish leaders and others. He had led them to believe the lie that Jesus couldn’t be who he had said and showed he was. The leaders were teaching false doctrine of the worst kind to their people: that they could somehow get to heaven by trying to be good people and following the law. Jesus was simply telling them what he had said at the beginning of his ministry: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). They planned to kill him and reject his message.
We begin to see the huge forces Jesus was fighting against. How does the awe for Jesus go out of someone who’s been that exposed to him? An enemy did this.
It wasn’t just back then.
The enemy still hates Jesus and, as much as he can, still fights hard against him. The enemy has encouraged lost people to grow deeper in their separation from God by establishing numerous false religions such as Islam, Hinduism, atheism, materialism, and many more—all of them offering some sort of path to God or a substitute for God, a path that leads only to hell.
He has also made inroads into the Christian church, spreading false doctrine, attacking the Bible, and using critics of Christianity in the media, in universities, and in politics to damage and destroy saving faith. You know about the growing numbers of “dones”— people who have left the church and say they won’t come back. And the “nones”—people who claim they have no religious affiliation. Satan is a terrorist who is cornered and knows he’s going to die—but he wants to take as many as he possibly can with him.
Even here in our own church we have some members who once enthusiastically promised right here at the front of this church that they would remain faithful to Jesus and his Word, even if they had to die to do that. Those confirmation vows have been broken. Something has happened to take away their joy of being in God’s house.
Maybe you have someone close who is slipping or has lost his or her faith. We all sometimes struggle with a personal doubt about something God says. Our doubts and questions keep buzzing in our brain. Maybe in your own heart there is some doubt when you confess, “I believe in God the Father almighty, and in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.” So you can understand Jesus when he turns to the smaller group of 12 disciples with a question. Listen carefully to this question and hear the emotion: “‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve” (John 6:67).
Jesus gives them the opportunity to make a clear answer. Was there emotion in his voice? Did they hesitate? Did they want time to see how many others were staying first, before they gave their own answer? We don’t know, but this we do know:
- His gracious words of life draw us ever closer to him.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I love Peter here because he is so right! “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
When God created the world, he simply spoke, “Let there be …,” and there was light and dirt and stars and galaxies and lions and butterflies — a universe beyond understanding. He just spoke! What power God has in his words!
I’m holding in my hands the Bible, God’s own love story toward us — his words of life, forgiveness, and salvation. These words have terrific power. You know the passage in Romans where Paul tells us, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Only God knows how many believing Christians there are in the world. This I do know: Every single one of them did absolutely nothing to create saving faith in their hearts. Everyone — you and I, too — came by only one very powerful means, one agency, one path. It doesn’t matter if it is spoken, read, or received in a tactile, visible fashion called Baptism. It’s the single most powerful force for good in our world: GOD’S WORD! That’s what brought you and me to trust that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has purchased and won for us the forgiveness of all our sins! He did it all and paid it all for us! He loves us enough to die so we might live with him forever. So can you see why Jesus fought false teachers so hard?
He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). They continue to oppose Jesus and lure you to abandon your Savior. They have a lot of opinions and theories, but they do not have the words of eternal life. There is only one source for that, and Peter had it right: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Peter and the others were blessed and did not want to lose what Jesus had given them. We are also blessed. You and I stand here washed in the blood of the Lamb of God! We are forgiven and we have eternal life. Jesus is our BFF. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.”
Jesus becomes our guest preacher here every time we come to listen. He promises to take us through the door marked “Death.” He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It was Martin Luther who said, “If you were to ask a Christian what his task is and by what he is worthy of the name of Christian, there could be no other response than hearing the Word of God, that is, faith. Ears are the only organs of the Christian.”
We are just a few weeks away from Easter. It’s spring. Baseball teams are almost done with their spring training. Let this Lent be time for us to grow more deeply in the Word— our own spiritual spring training. My prayer is that by Easter this congregation will be renewed in its zeal to make better use of the Word. Start your own personal reading program or home devotions. I suggest each of us start tonight or tomorrow by reading chapter 6 of John’s gospel, and then a chapter each day to the end of John’s gospel. If you want to stay tight with a friend, you talk and you listen. Having some doubts? Listen to Jesus. Read his words. Study his suffering, death, and resurrection FOR YOU.
We are challenged every day to hold on tight to God’s Word when we see and hear all the stuff the world, our sinful flesh, and Satan throw at us. It’s a pretty steady flood. So if Jesus were to ask us right now, “You do not want to leave, too, do you?” let’s answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Amen.