Tenth Sunday after Pentecost 2015

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost | John 6: 22-35

August 2, 2015   PASTOR HOPKINS


From the opening verses of today’s text it’s clear that Jesus is making quite a stir.

He’s exceptionally wise and very interesting. He’s the sort of Rabbi that people are happy to sit around and listen to for hours.

Jesus is also quite generous. For the folks in John’s Gospel it was only yesterday evening that He fed 5,000 of them for no other reason than the fact that they were there!

As if that weren’t enough, Jesus is captivating and magnetic; so much so that people won’t leave Him alone. Upon waking, their first order of business is to find out where He wandered off to, and track Him down. After last night, who knows…He might be making breakfast.

They sought Jesus out because He is so very interesting and wise, so intriguing and personable, so drawing, inviting, and generous. And maybe for some more bread.

As it turns out, however, being interesting and wise and personable and generous are all quite necessary; but they are not sufficient.

These qualities are not enough when it comes to identifying your Messiah.

Plenty of guys in first century Palestine were all those things.

To most folks Nicodemus seemed wise and drawing; because you don’t become the teacher of all Israel by being awkward and foolish.

Like many professional politicians, Herod could put on any face you liked. And if it suited his purposes, he could have brought enough bread and fish for 6,000 of his constituents.

So Jesus would like them and us to look past those qualities, and see what He wants us to see.

He doesn’t want you to follow Him because He’s interesting and smart and nice and a good cook.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

“Look past the free dinner,” says Jesus. “Look past the free dinner, and see the sign. And really, don’t just ‘see’ the sign; perceive the sign.”

Anyone can see a sign. But there’s little point if you don’t know what it means. If you don’t believe me, ask the long list of unfortunates who see the bright red octagon with the letters “S.T.O.P.” They see the sign, but they do not perceive the sign. If they perceived the sign, they would obey.

“Don’t follow me for food that perishes,” says Jesus. “See the signs. Perceive the signs, and follow me for the Food that lasts forever.”

That raises the question: “How?” The crowd says, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

To which one of my beloved seminary professors, Dr. Masaki, would say: “Wrong question.”

Jesus gently tells them, “The work of God is this: that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.”

Did you catch that? It may be more clear if you flip the equation around: “That you believe in Him whom He has sent; this is the work of God.”

That is good news because it means that believing is God’s work, and not yours. It means that God always makes the first move.

“Don’t settle for a sign.” Jesus tells them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” It is on Him, whom the Father has set His seal.

God sends His Son for you to see; and not just to see, but to perceive. He sends His Son for you to see and perceive and taste and touch and smell and believe. In the Incarnation, in the Word becoming Flesh, God makes the first move to restore a broken creation that would settle for a band aid when they could have the Cure.

By His Holy Spirit. Through His spoken and preached Word. In the Font. God works to create the very faith He requires. When we speak the Creed here in just a few minutes, He Himself is the Author of your “Amen.” That faithful “Amen” is His Gift to you. Which is part of the reason that as we approach that rich word, we make the sign of the cross in remembrance of our baptism; the place where this wonderful gift was given.

That “Amen” this morning is translated more like: “Sir, give us this Bread always.”

Of course they wanted a sign. We all want signs. But signs are merely meant to point us toward something greater, something outside themselves.

But Jesus offers us so much more.

“I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”

The feeding of the 5000 was a sign meant to point to Jesus as the One who gives Himself for the Life of the World.

Now, at this altar, no more signs, no more symbols, no pointing toward something bigger and better. Now Jesus gives Himself. His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all your sins. For the life of the World.

So you who come to Jesus at this altar with the “Amen” that God has given you as a free gift, you will never hunger and you will never thirst. You will receive the Food that lasts forever.

And when you have tasted Him and received the Reality that all the signs were pointing to, you should know that Jesus does still give signs:

food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, husbands and wives, children, faithful neighbors, and the like.

In the Small Catechism Luther explains the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Gives us this day our daily bread.”

He writes: “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”

Those gifts, given to His Church, and to the unbelieving world, are meant to point us to the One who goes to the Cross for the life of the World; to the One who is the Life of the World.

So come now, and joyfully receive Jesus, the Bread come down from Heaven, the Life of the World: here in His Holy Eucharist.

To Him be all the Glory, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.


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