Sermon ArchivesSunday's Sermon
10th Sunday after Pentecost __John 6:1-21 __ July 29, 2018Today we begin a series of readings from John’s Gospel, that will take us always through the month of August.
During this time, we will focus entirely on the sixth chapter. In other words, we will hear about the feeding the 5000, Jesus, walking on water, we will encounter some of the “I am” statements that John is noted for and we will hear about bread.
By the end of August, you will be very familiar with John 6!
But that’s not what I want to talk about this morning, instead I want to draw your attention to verse 15 in our reading.
Last week I made reference to paying attention to “throw away lines”, those seemingly insignificant lines that upon closer scrutiny, are not so insignificant.
Verse 15 is one of those lines.
In verse 15 we read: “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
In short, Jesus walked away and the question is “Why?”
I believe in order to understand this we need to look back to verse 2 where we read, “A large crowd kept following him because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.”
Suffice to say, their interest was aroused.
They saw the crippled dancing.
They heard a man who could not speak from birth now singing.
They watched a blind man making his way about town by himself fully able see everything in his path.
In short, the crowds became aware that Jesus could heal.
And then there was the feeding.
They saw the meager resources, and they watched as five thousand people were fed and more was left over then when they started.
Keep in mind, generations earlier Moses had told the Hebrew people that a great prophet would be coming to them, a Messiah.
And now recently, John the Baptist had spoken of the Messiah, the one whose sandals he was not worthy to untie.
So, as you can imagine, the crowds were beginning to wonder, maybe this is the One
Maybe this is the prophet, our Messiah?
And, let’s be honest, who could blame them?
I suspect if I had been there I do not doubt the idea might have crossed my mind.
Think about it: if he can heal the sick, multiply a meager meal into a banquet to feed all of Milaca, Pease, Bock and Foreston…good grief, what’s not to like?
Think about it…he could give us victory over our enemies, get rid of the pesky Romans.
He could provide rain and sun and favorable weather and give us a bumper crop every year!
He could as the saying goes: “Put a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.
I can hear people saying among themselves, “Any man who can give us all that will surely be our king, and we will follow him, he will have our loyalty.”
And we are told, Jesus walked away.
And we are left with the question, Why?
And, why does this matter?
I want to suggest that Jesus walked away because he would have nothing to do with a kingship based on materialism, based on what he could give them or us, based on what they or we could get out of him.
Think back for a moment and consider the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the Devil and how the Devil tried this on Jesus, “Just turn these stones into bread and people will love you and follow you.”
Jesus said NO to the Devil and he said NO to the crowd and he walked away.
He had no interest in being that kind of king.
He was not interested in that kind of relationship.
Think about it…loyalty based on what we can get is familiar to us.
We cast our vote for the candidate who promise to give us everything our hearts desire—at no cost.
When we no longer get a good feeling from our favorite sports team, when our team is not winning, many of us will change the channel and watch something else, we will redirect our loyalties.
When I was young and immature I got the impression from our culture that that key to a relationship was based on what the other person can give to me and what I can get out of them.
And sadly, the temptation is there to see our relationship with God in the same way.
What can God give me?
What can I get from God?
Let me pause there for a moment…Scripture tells us that Jesus invites us to pray for things, he even offered the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Praying for things is not wrong:
There is nothing wrong with praying for healing or improved health.
There is nothing wrong with praying for the welling being of others.
There is nothing wrong with praying for improved relationship, for things like forgiveness and reconciliation, and all that…
What is wrong is loyalty and devotion to God that is based on what God can give us: more stuff, bigger stuff.
And Jesus was well aware of the temptation.
In Mark’s Gospel, chapter five, we encounter the story of Jesus restoring the life of a young girl, which is great news. But do you remember what Jesus says?
He tells those who witnessed the miracle not to tell anyone—like that’s going to happen!
Why does Jesus say that?
He says that because Jesus is not looking for loyalty based on miracles, sure, he is willing and able to restore and bless our bodies, restoring us to health, but it is our souls—our hearts and minds he came to save.
I tend to believe that God knows us well enough to know that we are easily distracted.
God knows that we like miracles, just like we like fireworks and new shiny things that glitter.
But it does not take long and sooner than later we want more glitter, shinier and bigger stuff, we want more and more miracles to satisfy our short attention span and our greed.
I also believe that God is found less in the fireworks and more in the subtle, the sublime, the mundane thing of life.
I believe God is found in the beauty and majesty of nature, the gentle touch of a loved one, a kind word shared between strangers, the generosity we show toward the greater good.
In acts of compassion and grace, in the hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation and living lives of humility.
I also believe that some of the most amazing miracles we encounter are those where we act in faith:
When we trust the promises of God,
When we like Joseph believed the voice of an angel in his dream,
When the Israelites took that first step into the Red Sea
When the 10 lepers trusted Jesus and went to be washed and blessed and healed.
Any time we act in accordance to the Word of God it is truly a miracle.
Our faithfulness is miraculous.
Jesus knows all too well that we are tempted to give up on God when we don’t get what we want.
Jesus knows that we are easily tempted to stop praying when we sense that our prayers are not being answered.
We are tempted to stop gathering for worship:
when we sense that we are not getting what we think we want,
when the music does not suit our tastes,
when the hour is too early or too late,
when we sense that we are not getting anything out of it.
We are tempted to let our faith lapse when we sense that God is not giving us what we think we want—even though it’s not what we need.
In the Old Testament there is an odd story of a man named Job.
Job had everything anyone could want.
He is even referred to as a good man, a righteous man in the eyes of God, a man of deep faith.
And then one day, everything was gone.
He lost his children, his land, his livestock, his body was infested with sores.
And he had no idea why?
And yet, even on his darkest day he was able to say, “I know that my redeemer lives and he will stand upon the earth, and I shall see Him.”
The point being: Job’s faith did not falter when he was no longer getting from God.
He had no idea why this tragedy befell on him, but he did not waiver, his devotion to God did not fade or disappear.
God does bless our bodies, our lives, but it’s our souls, our hearts and minds, that God wants to save.
Job knew that, Job believed that his redeemer lived, in spite of all he experienced.
Let me close with this image.
Throughout the week, take a moment every so often to close your eyes and let this picture pass before you.
A large crowd of people, 5000 in all.
Jesus has just fed them with 5 small loaves of bread and 2 small fish.
They have all eaten, all are content.
Leftover have filled twelve baskets.
The crowd is clamoring to make him King,
they are declaring their loyalty,
their willingness to follow him because he filled their bellies, because they sense he could give them more of what they wanted: power, riches, easy living, you name it.
And then… picture Jesus slowly walking away.
He walks away. Amen
Let us pray: Gracious Lord, open our eyes to see what you want us to see.
Open our hearts that we might love what you love.
Redirect our lives to reflect the lives you created us to live, to live in relationships based on faithfulness and grace.
Protect us from greed, from avarice, from hoarding and thinking only of our own wellbeing.
Send your Spirit to guide us day by day as we walk with you, following you and reflecting your mission in this world. Amen