Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost August 13, 2017
Text: John 6:24-35 revised 3-Year Series – B 17:2024
Theme: Jesus: “I’ve Got Something Better for You in Mind.”
I. I’ll do more than provide your earthly needs.
Do you have any months during the year that are especially meaningful or thought-provoking for you (seek answers & reasons)?
August is that way for me. My brother was born in August – and now a grandson, Jude, too. I have also lost 3 people during this month, with whom I was close – my father, Arnold Lehmann, and two of the first people I met in Missouri – Ann Kafer and Emma Pedersen. All three of them died in the same August 8 years ago.
Emma died first in this week we are in. Dad died the 24th and Ann died the very next day, the 25th. I was sitting by her bed reading some of her favorite Scripture verses when I heard her take her last breath. The births of my brother and my grandson in August are important to me. But I have to admit that for now they are overshadowed just a bit by the passing of these 3 people who were very dear to me.
I’d like to tell you about one of them, Emma, just a few of you knew her. And if I may, let me share with you some things that I recalled at her funeral service 8 years ago today. It was based on this text from John 6.
At the time I had known Emma and her husband Richard for 17 years. They were the very first people I met in Springfield. The date was June 2, 1992. I had just come from a congregation in Fort Worth, Texas, to begin work as the pastor at the newly founded Zion LC. At the time Richard was the trustee in charge of the church’s property. The church didn’t own a parsonage, so Richard had been given the task of finding a rental home for us. He and Emma spent quite a few hours cleaning and fixing it up for our arrival.
On the morning of June 2, about 9:30, we pulled into the driveway, and there they were, Richard and Emma, to receive us and help us get settled. Hardly had I gotten out of the car before Richard was already making some wise-crack remark about how much stuff he’d have to carry. Emma, of course, gave him her “Emma look” and scolded, “Richard,” at which he smiled and started carrying things in. She always had a way of setting him straight, firmly, yet ever so gently. It was my first look into their lives together, lives that were very close, lives that complemented each other. Richard appeared to be the “gruff” one. But that was all a put-on. He was really quite the “pussy cat” on the inside. Emma appeared to be the “gentle” one, and she was. But she was also very firm in her approach. “Good,” I would think, “Someone has got to keep Richard in line.” But that was no problem. You see, Richard doted on His “Sweetheart, Emmie,” as he always called her, and thanked God daily for the blessings given him through her. (More men should follow that example.) And Emma loved her “Richard.” Together they made quite a couple.
It must have been hard for them when the cancer took over and they were no longer able to be and to do what they were used to doing. But I never heard them complain. I only heard them express their concern for each other and their love for the Savior who had blessed them together in so many ways.
But cancer is never an easy sickness to go through. No illness is easy. By the end Emma’s body was greatly weakened by it. There must have been times when both wanted to cry, “Why? Why Lord?” In our humanness it’s hard and we sob, “It hurts! It’s exhausting! I’m afraid! Why?” I never personally heard Emma say such things, but I don’t doubt that such thoughts crossed her mind. Yet, even as they did, her Savior spoke to her through His Word, “I’ve Got Something Better for You in Mind.”
Something better? What could be better than the things Emma enjoyed? A doting, faithful, God-fearing husband! A loving daughter and grandchildren! A large family of brothers and sisters who liked each other! A good bunch of friends at church! And, and, most importantly, her service in God’s house! Emma was always doing something at church. Whether it was baking those pumpkin bars that I loved for the fellowship time, or cleaning, or setting the altar, or handing out VBS flyers in the neighborhood, Richard and Emma were always doing something in their service to God. What could be better than that? Truly, Emma had a good life. Something better?
The people in our text were thinking a similar thing. What could be better than that which Jesus had already shown that He could give them? He had just miraculously fed over 5,000 men, plus women and children, with only 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread on hand. He had blessed it and multiplied it with enough to feed perhaps over 10,000 people. Now who could do that? He had easily provided the crowd with the things they needed. They hadn’t seen such a thing like that happen since the time Moses provided their ancestors with manna in the desert. What could be better than this? A man who could get them whatever they needed.
That’s the way the crowd saw it. Here was a man who had the power to save them from hunger. Here was a man who could heal them of their diseases. Here was a man who could stand against the Romans, free them from the tyranny of gentiles, and return them to Israel’s glory years. Here was a man who could do whatever they needed and give them a good life on earth. He could provide all their earthly needs. Nothing better than that! So they sought to force Jesus to be their king. Would you like to be able to command God to do just what you want Him to do? Would you like Him to give you a blank check on which you could fill in any desired amount? Would you like Him to take away all your problems? If He would provide for all our earthly needs, we would be so much better off. It would be nice to have God do whatever we wanted and needed, right?
Ah, in our sin and earth-bound concerns we are so weak and short-sighted, like this crowd. They didn’t understand Jesus’ eternal purpose; they only thought about their present desires. He went away from them as we heard in last week’s text, secretly left with His disciples in a ship at night. But the crowd didn’t stop. They looked for Him until they found Him the next day in Capernaum. Sadly Jesus confronted them with their shallow thinking, saying, “You are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs (in other words, recognized who I am as God and Savior), but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Yes, as the Creator He wants to take care of His people’s needs. But those “needs” that are of the earth are just temporary; they spoil, fade away, don’t last. Even life here on earth doesn’t last very long, and that’s not going to change in a sinful world, fallen from God. Jesus has got something better in mind for us than to provide us with our earthly needs. He wants to provide us with life in heaven.
II. I’ll provide you with life in heaven.
It’s something we lost when sin entered our world. It’s something we forget when we enjoy the good gifts that our Lord gives us in this life. Those good gifts at times get in the way of us focusing on the Giver. This world and the things we want to hang onto are spoiling; it’s full of sin’s consequences – sickness, pain, hardship, and death. Do we really want the Lord Jesus to keep us in this mess?
He said, “I’ve got something better in mind for you.” And then He came into this world not to feed us with daily bread; He came to save us from our sin. He satisfied the demands of God’s justice when He died for us on the cross. He took God’s anger for sin away. It was God’s work, not ours. He died that we might live with Him above without sickness, pain, hardship, or hunger ever again. That’s the work of God. It’s the better “food” that Jesus gave which Moses couldn’t give. “This is the work of God,” Jesus said, “to believe in the one He has sent. I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty….If a man eats of this bread, He will live forever.”
Believing in the Lord Jesus is “eating the bread.” “Eat of Me,” He says. “Believe in Me for I’ve got something better in mind for you; I’ll provide you with life in heaven.”
To those who have “eaten of Him” in faith He promises: “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst….For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rv.7:15f).
When people believe that, they have something far better than anything they could ever have in this life – they have heaven with God.
I am quite sure that Emma, Ann, and Dad, who all died in this month of August 8 years ago, are now enjoying that better life in heaven. Not because they looked to their works to save them, but because they looked to God’s saving works in Christ and clung to Him in faith. And I am confident that all the faithful members of Zion and Peace from the past who died clinging to Christ as their Savior from sin, have it. Christians of every age who eat of the Bread of Life have it, too. I don’t just think that, I know it’s true because God promised it.
And someday I’ll look forward to hearing my Savior say to me, “I’ve got something better in mind for you, too. I’m going to do more than provide you with your earthly needs; I’m going to provide you with life with me in heaven.” And in that instant I know that I will be with Him, like all those who have gone before us, trusting only in the merits of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He is the Bread of Life. May we eat of Him in faith here, now, and then enjoy life forever with Him above; for His name’s sake. Amen.