Do You Want to Go Away?
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 6:51–6:69
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 18-19, 2018
“Do You Want to Go Away?”
Summer is the season when we go away – to family reunions, to the beach, to vacations that take us lots of different places. Some of you may have been away on travel already, and some of you may be waiting until after Labor Day when prices are lower and crowds are smaller. Sometimes in life we just feel like we’re going to explode if we don’t get away as pressure builds and demands increase. Those words, “Do you want to go away?”, make us think of getting away from the ordinary, everyday humdrum of life. And we certainly all need this in life from time to time. Jesus asks his disciples this same question at the close of today’s Gospel lesson: “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67b), but here it means something very different than just getting away for awhile. Jesus is asking the twelve disciples if they, like so many others, want to walk away from following Jesus. Do they want to call it quits and go away from their life of discipleship with Jesus the Bread of Life? That is the question that is before us today as our 3-part series from John chapter 6 on Jesus the Bread of Life concludes today. The theme for preaching is based on that question which Jesus asked his disciples: “Do You Want to Go Away?” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
The opening verse in today’s Gospel lesson serves as a bridge to the closing verse from last Sunday’s Gospel lesson. Here Jesus tells us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). Confusion abounds as the people dispute and argue with one another about what Jesus means. Speaking very concretely, Jesus straight up tells them: “… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him… whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me” (John 6:53-58). Scholars and theologians have debated over the centuries if Jesus is speaking of feeding on him through his Word – the good news of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and hell through the sacrifice of his body and the shedding of his blood on the cross of Calvary that is proclaimed through the Scriptures. Or if Jesus is speaking in a sacramental sense here that points us specifically to his Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper where Christ’s true Body and true Blood are received in, with, and under the bread and wine. More than just a symbol or picture, the Sacrament of the Altar is what Jesus says it is: his flesh and blood. So, which is it? Myself, I believe it is both/and. By faith, we feed on Jesus the Bread of Life through his life-giving Word which proclaims that we are saved by God’s grace alone, apart from anything we can do; apart from any merit or worthiness on our part. Also by faith, we feed on Jesus the Bread of Life as he comes to us in his holy Supper and grants forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all who trust in him
The net result from Jesus’ preaching that he is the Bread of Life is this: people start to leave. They drop off the radar and go away. “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60). These disciples were not the original twelve disciples like Peter, Andrew, James, John. Rather, they were part of a larger group of people who also followed Jesus. Think of concentric circles: at the center is Christ, then is the core with the inner circle of the twelve disciples, and then the community with larger group of disciples, and then the crowd out on the fringe. People were starting to take offense at Jesus (John 6:61). The original word here is σκάνδαλον, where we get our word “scandal.” It originally meant something that you’d trip over; a stumbling block in your path. People were tripping over Jesus’ words. They were scandalized by what he said, and so they started to drift away, as we are told: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). The same can happen to us as well. Do we take offense at what Jesus is saying? He tells us: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail… no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” (John 6:63, 65b). So, is Jesus saying that I need to check my brain at the door? Is this some blind obedience thing? Do you mean I’m not in charge of my own life and destiny? In the do-it-yourself world that we live in where we are told that we can do anything and overcome any obstacle in our path, we may indeed be scandalized by Jesus and take offense at him and what he is saying. Our love for Christ may grow cold, and we, too, may run the risk of drifting away. After so many others had done this very thing, Jesus looked at the inner circle of disciples and asked them, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67b). It is a penetrating question, and Jesus asks it not just of the twelve disciples; he asks you and me that same question today: “Do you want to go away as well?” What will we say? How will we answer Jesus?
Peter’s response to Jesus’ question is something that we sing each Sunday as we prepare to receive and welcome Jesus as he comes to us in his Gospel Word: “Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia” (John 6:69a). These are honest words, and they are beautiful. At the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world, where do we go? In what or in whom do we put our trust and hope, not only now but when this earthly life is no more? Everything else will indeed go away then, whether we want it to or not. What will remain? Only faith in Jesus our Bread of Life. As Peter exclaimed, “… we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69b). Jesus is the Holy One of God, our Savior and Redeemer, our Bread of Life. He is the One who has laid down his life for our sins through his sacrifice on the cross, and in him we have eternal life. Amen
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them; read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Thy holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which Thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.