The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost August 27, 2017
Text: John 6:60-69 (51-69) Revised 3-year series B 17:2027
Theme: “Would You Leave Me, Too?”
With sad eyes Jesus directed this question to His 12 apostles at a time when many others left Him: Would You Leave Me, Too?
Consider how many a Christian has knelt before God’s altar in church and in all sincerity at the time proclaimed, “Yes, I will remain with the Lord Jesus. I will remain with His Word, with His grace, with His Church, and I will never leave Him. Nothing, neither joys nor sorrows, neither honor nor shame, neither poverty nor riches, neither life nor death shall be able to separate me from Him.” But then, before too long, that one left the Savior, allowing the fire of faith and love that once burned within to die out.
Ah, yes, sometimes with sadness I look back over my years in the ministry and consider those, especially young confirmands, upon whose head I have laid this hand in blessing. It was a joy to watch them grow and confirm their faith. Like tender trees in a garden they seemed to come to full bloom in the Savior. I sometimes thought, “Even if others should fall away, surely these will not. They will remain faithful.” But what happened? Where are they now? The fire of faith and love that once burned within them died out. Have they, like Paul’s coworker Demas, left the Lord Jesus because they loved the world instead?
I must admit, such thoughts at times enter my heart. And it happens more often now, perhaps because I see my time in the ministry growing shorter. These days I tend to look back at times and thoughts of the past could change a day of joy into one of anxiety or sadness.
But should we ever be tempted to give ourselves over to such thoughts, we see in this Gospel from John that the Savior also experienced that many of His most hopeful disciples forsook Him. But what did He do? Ah, He sadly looked on those who were leaving, but He did not on their account give up on the others who were still with Him. Instead, He turned in trust to His dear, 12 apostles with the question: “Would You Leave Me, Too?”
Now, if the Lord Jesus would come to each of us today with such a question, what would your answer be. Would You say, “Oh, Savior, I can’t remain any longer with You. The world is too inviting and sin is so sweet. But Your yoke is too hard and your burden is too heavy! I must go!”
Oh, no, no! I pray that with one voice we would answer today: Lord, where shall we go? Only You have the words of eternal life. And we believe!”
I. Lord, where shall we go?
When Peter replied with those words, he wanted to say, “Lord, are You asking us? Even if it were possible that we could be so thankless and forget Your love…even if we could wipe out of our hearts and souls the benefits that we have enjoyed with You, where would we go? To whom could we turn for the light of truth that we need? Where would we satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls for the grace and peace of God? Where would we look for comfort in our troubles, for forgiveness from sin, for rescue from death? Where could we find eternal life apart from You? Leave You? Lord, where could we go?”
Peter and all the apostles did not know where they would go if they wanted to leave Christ. Do you know?
Those who leave Christ think they can find happiness somewhere else. One leaves Christ and thinks he can find happiness in the pursuit of money and earthly things. Another leaves Christ and seeks happiness in all sorts of lusts and earthly pleasures. Another leaves Christ and seeks happiness in the friendship of the world. Another leaves Christ and seeks happiness in honor, fame, or the wisdom of this world. But in the end, do they find what they seek?
Judas left Christ for 30 pieces of silver when he betrayed Him. But the money by which he sold Christ soon became like fire in his hands and heart. Finally, he despaired of his treasure and met a horrible end.
David left Christ and plunged himself into the sea of lust. But, as sweet as it once was to his sinful desire, so bitter it then became. He later lamented in his psalms how sin’s arrows pierced his heart and weighed on his conscience so that it felt like a mountain had crushed him to the earth. With his lust for sin he did not buy happiness but sold it as guilt oppressed him night and day.
Solomon left Christ, too, when he began to love the world and its joys. But soon he cried, “Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless” (Eccl.1).
Even Paul had to admit that his early life without Christ was nothing until he came “to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge” (Phlp.3:19). For only “in Christ,” Paul writes, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3).
In such examples and in our own experience don’t we see that all who forsake Christ and look for happiness elsewhere finally must admit that they deceived themselves?
So, what do you want to do, dear friends? How do you want to answer your Savior when He asks, “Would You Want to Leave Me, Too?”
Wouldn’t each of us want to reply like Peter, “Lord, where shall we go? How could we leave You? You have loved us from eternity. You redeemed us in time. You bought us with your blood and baptized us in the flood of Your forgiveness. From birth you carried us in Your arms and led us by the still waters of Your Word. How much You have done for us! Lord, where could we go?
“If You cannot make us happy here, and save there, who can? If You cannot quench the thirst of our souls, what will? If we wanted to grub after money or power or fame, what would that help us in the end if we gained the whole world but lost our own souls? Here our hearts would remain without peace, and there we would sorrow eternally. What if we gained the whole world as our friend, but made the Almighty our enemy? Where would we go if we left You? We don’t know!”
II. For only You have the words of eternal life and we believe.
Those are Peter’s words, and by grace, dear friends, those shall be our words too! How could we leave Jesus, for our Savior has words like no words of any man? Only He has the words of eternal life that we can believe.
Jesus’ words not only stir and shake our hearts, but they give us heavenly refreshment, joy, and comfort. They promise forgiveness for all our past and future in His blood. They are words that not only direct us from earth to heaven but have unlocked heaven and God’s heart itself to us. They make us divinely certain that He has made us righteous before God and has taken us back into His family. They proclaim that we are once again God’s children in Christ and that He will never forsake us. To leave that would be to forsake life and to choose death….to leave that would be to forsake heaven and to choose hell.
So, if, dear friends, the Savior would come to you today and ask: “Would You Leave Me, Too?”, would you have to dwell long on your answer? No! No! By God’s grace, like Peter with fiery eyes and burning heart, may God help us be quick to say because we know its truth and its blessedness: Lord, to whom shall we go. You only have the words of eternal life and we believe.
God help us proclaim that glorious gospel in all the world; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.