Sermon – Pentecost 12 – August 12, 2018
John 6:41-51 ‘Taught by God’
CT: Only through God’s mercy do we hear the Father through the Son, believe, and live.
Intro: Take a moment and think back on a favourite teacher. Were they so much fun you can’t remember a thing they taught you, or did they convey understanding in a way that sticks? Of course there are two sides to learning. There needs to be open ears and receptive minds ready to take the ball and run with it in the same way that a quarterback in football needs an open receiver if his team is going to make any yards. In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah that “all will be taught by God.” What greater teacher can you think of than the Creator of heaven and earth? Jesus made it known that His relationship to the Father makes that possible for you, because He alone has seen the Father, because He was sent by Him—comes from Him; it is Jesus who makes us ‘people taught by God’.
Blinded by Reason: The people gathered around Jesus were not buying into that idea; they were blinded by their reason. Our reason is important; it sets humanity apart from the rest of God’s creation, but it too is corrupted by sin. Our thought processes are bent inward, ruled by what we can see, touch, and taste. We set our reason up as judge over what is right or wrong, or what exists and what does not. Evolutionary theory, for example, is a giant twisted ball of truth and lies often used to recuse oneself from the existence of God.
The Jews in our Gospel lesson were having the same trouble, they had to recuse themselves from who Jesus said He was and the things He could do. Their reason could not get past Jesus’ flesh, the very thing God sent to save them; that Jesus gives us to eat! That Jesus could say that He came from heaven and that God was His Father was totally unacceptable, unthinkable, and void of human reason. What’s more it was blasphemy; a crime calling for the death penalty! “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Many today view the incarnation—the Christmas story as a nice tale, but not true. If more people believed this to be true they would be here today! God come to us in the flesh seems pretty far fetched for the modern mind too. Can you explain it to your neighbour? And even more important, can you tell them why? And if you can, will the person listen or will their reason cut off their hearing?
Grumbling: People today and then are blind to God’s work and deaf to His promise to save them. To the people of Israel sitting in the middle of the desert, reason said there was no hope; they were brought out there to die. And so they grumbled against God just as those Jews grumbled against Jesus and large numbers of people still do to this day, cutting off their ability to be taught, and learn. God sent the Israelites manna, real food to meet their need; it was a real physical sign that God did not want them to perish. God was being faithful to His covenant promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In the same way Jesus is true God in the flesh, the Bread from heaven, and a real physical sign that God wants no one to perish. According to His divine mercy, God wills to save us; He is faithful to His promise to deliver us from the dominion of sin, death, and the devil that we might live with Him and for Him forever. The manna in the wilderness and the multiplying of the five loaves all point to who Jesus is. In the midst of your grumbling, when you struggle to understand God’s will, He is teaching you through Jesus that we might believe His Word of Promise and have life; that we would be hearers of His Word, doers of His Word, listening to Jesus, taught by God. God has nothing to say apart from His Word made flesh. Behind every sermon preached in this place God is teaching you through His Son. But are you listening? We have those important minutes of prayer and preparation before the service begins; indeed from the moment you enter into this room you should be preparing your ears and your hearts to receive what Jesus will give you today. Think of it! You are being taught by God today; are you ready?
For All, But not All: Yet as our Gospel lesson begins to show, not all are willing to hear, and even fewer are able to believe. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; He suffered and died once and for all for God desires that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance—to faith; sadly not all do. Resistance to God’s will carries with it death. What derails God’s universal grace and mercy is our unbelief. Not only does the ear need to be bent to listen but the heart needs to be receptive, and our sinful nature has years of practice in closing both.
Taught by God: To be taught inwardly by God is to hear in Jesus, the Father’s merciful and gracious voice. It’s to see in Jesus’ death and resurrection the Father’s actions for you. Yes Jesus had to be fully human or He would not have been under that Law and become sin for you, nor could He suffer and die, but He was sent for that purpose. He died on that cross precisely because He is the Son of God, sent by the Father. To grasp the magnitude of what God is doing and giving we need to be taught by God; experience, your own abilities, or the sharpness of your minds cannot comprehend it.
It’s as Luther wrote: “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Jesus put it bluntly: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The Greek quite literally says, “No one can be brought to me unless the Father who sent me forcefully drags him.” In John, chapter 12, Jesus reinforced His words with, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (forcefully drag) all people to myself.”
Jesus’ crucifixion forcibly drags us to look deeply into the depth of our sin, the devastating cost that only He could pay, and the judgement each one of us deserves. At the same time the grizzly spectacle of the cross brings us face to face with God’s overwhelming mercy; that He so loved you that He would send His only Son, endue His flesh with life for all people, and give Him up for us all. And Jesus said, “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Through Jesus, through His cross, through His Word and Sacraments, through His Church you and I are taught by God, and given the assurance of faith in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body, and the life everlasting.