The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost August 20, 2017
Text: John 6:38-48 (35-51) Revised 3-year series B 17:2026
Theme: What’s the Connection?
A person once said, “Pastor, I’ve heard you say again and again that Jesus died, and that because He died, our sins are forgiven. What’s the connection?” Maybe the answer seems obvious to you, but there are many who don’t understand the significance of Jesus.
They hear it said time and time again that Jesus died on the cross. They have been told that because He did, their sins are forgiven and they may go to heaven. But they don’t get the connection. And, if you think about it from the standpoint of purely human reason and human experience, it’s not too hard to see why.
Throughout history there have been hundreds of men who came for a time and stood up for a noble cause. Some gave their lives for it. But who would say, for example, that because Abraham Lincoln sacrificed his life on the altar of devotion to his country that you and I have been made right with God? There’s no connection there.
Similarly, it seems absurd for many to say that the death of a man two thousand years ago has bearing on a person’s relationship to God today. All of us would say that too if God the Father had not drawn us to Christ, and God the Holy Spirit had not revealed to us the saving truth behind Jesus’ sacrifice. It is impossible to see that connection without divine intervention because man’s natural thinking is, “I must make myself right before God.” That’s why people asked Jesus, “What must I do to be saved.” Or, like we heard this crowd say in last week’s lesson, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” They think that salvation rests in them.
Paul wrote in the Epistle Lesson today: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared…These things God has revealed to us by His Spirit….The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1Co.2:9f). It’s impossible to get the connection without divine intervention.
I. Only faith sees Jesus as the One sent from heaven.
The people in our text didn’t get it, even though Jesus stood right in front of them and God was trying to draw them to Jesus. But they refused to be drawn. In fact, they pushed themselves away. It wasn’t God’s fault; it was theirs. To push oneself away leads to one thing – rejection. That’s what began to happen here.
It says, “The Jews began to grumble about Jesus because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said ‘(Now wait a minute.) Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
They failed to see Jesus as the One whom God had sent from heaven. Why? In large part because He was so well known by them. He was their home-town boy. They knew the family; they grew up with Him. How dare He claim anything more special about Himself than they.
You know, we have a saying that says: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Well, here’s an example. They were so familiar with Jesus and His family that they would not stand for Him being greater than they were, and they refused to accept their desperate need of His divine greatness.
Now remember, they had just witnessed Him feeding over 5,000 people with just a bit of food. They had witnessed Him healing their friends and relatives. Maybe they had even heard rumors of Him walking on water during a storm the night before and saving His disciples from drowning. So much had they seen and heard, yet they grumbled and rejected Him. They wanted no connection between themselves and Him.
Why is it that people don’t want the connection? Is it because they fail to see Jesus and what He is and can do? Or is it because they fail to see themselves for what they are and can’t do? It’s both. But I would suggest that it is first the failure to see oneself.
You know, every time we celebrate Holy Communion, we say the confession of sins that goes like this: “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment.” Do you think about those words when you say them? Do you realize what you are really saying there?
I must admit they make me feel very squeamish. By nature, I don’t want to say them: I am a poor, miserable sinner – a beggar, despondent of whom I am as I stand before You, O God, because my sins always offend You. By what I am and what I have done I only deserve that You turn Your back on me now and throw me into hell forever.” Who wants to say that? By my human nature, I don’t. That’s why it makes me feel squeamish every communion Sunday when we say it. You see, the total depravity of my human heart is anything but flattering; it is nothing that I wish to admit.
Oh, by nature I’m willing to admit, like the average person today, that I’m not perfect. But somehow the average person today thinks he is good enough to get by before God – not perfect, perhaps, but surely not so terrible either. Unless I see that my natural condition is totally helpless and spiritually hopeless before God, I will never see the connection between Jesus and me. Unless I see that sin was the controlling power of my life and that unless I was freed from its guilt and curse and power by only a firm reliance upon Christ and His cross, I would someday have to stand in the presence of God with no valid claim upon His mercy.
But that’s where texts like this are so great. For Jesus says, “For this reason I have come down from heaven for you. In fact, the Father has sent me down because His will is that You see in me the solution to the problem. I will die on the cross to pay for your sins and one day, after you are long dead and in the tomb, I will raise your body up from the grave – I, I myself will really do it. Believe in me for I have come to give you life forever. This is my heavenly Father’s will. Believe it.”
And there’s the connecting factor – faith, faith that sees Jesus as the One sent from heaven to save me in my completely helpless and hopeless state. It is just such a …
II. …faith that the Father uses to draw me to His Son forever.
Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day….I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”
How plain and simple are those words. Faith that makes the connection between Christ and me is not an act on my part. It’s not something I do. Remember, Jesus had said earlier in this chapter, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” Faith is not a choice or decision on my part. How could such a thing be made by me if the Bible is correct in saying that I am dead in sin. A dead person can’t decide or choose anything. Where there is death and inability, God has to work to create life. And He does. He wants to do that for everyone. His desire is to draw everyone to Jesus in faith as their Savior. It’s His work and will.
Think of it in terms of a magnet and a nail. Put a nail down on the table. Then put a magnet close by and what will happen? The magnet will draw the nail to itself until they stick together. Why? Not because the nail rolled over to the magnet under its power, but because the magnet had a strength that drew the nail to itself.
And that’s the way God works with you in faith. If you believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life that came down from heaven to give you life, if you believe that on the last day He will raise up you and all the dead and give unto all that believe in Him eternal life, it’s not because you chose Him, it’s because the Father in grace, in pure undeserved mercy, all as His own doing, drew you to Him.
So, don’t ever go around saying things like you chose Christ, or you made a decision for Christ, or you found Christ. Christ wasn’t lost; we were. You were dead in sin; you didn’t bring yourself to Him but the Father drew you to Him as the Savior when you were unable to do anything in the depravity of your human nature.
Boy, that is grace! The Father through the Spirit gives us faith we need and draws us to the Son who died and rose in our place. Faith is the connecting factor. It’s something that I can be sure of.
Salvation, also the faith that believes it, or as Jesus figuratively put it, “eats of Him,” lies in the hands of an almighty and merciful God. Therefore, it is sure. If faith and the ability to choose or believe were my decision and rested in my hands, how could I ever be sure that what I did was enough? And how could I know that what I believed was true? But because faith is that which the Father uses to draw me to His Son forever, I can rest assured in the connection that exists between Jesus and me. And here is a great promise to comfort our sometimes unsteady hearts: “This is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me.”
Now how great, assuring, and comforting is that! I don’t want to say, like some do: “Once saved and always saved” because the Bible warns us against falling away. But how awesome it is to hear Jesus say, “I shall lose none of you the Father has given me.” How comforting is that for you who say, “Jesus died and rose for me.”
Many don’t get that connection. Faith connects us to Him – faith that sees Jesus as the one sent from heaven; faith that the Father uses to draw us to the Son forever. It is faith that humbly and gratefully receives what God in grace has done from start to finish for us. God grant it in our lives for Jesus’ sake. Amen.