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Sermon October 20, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1416

October 20, 2019 John 6.51-69

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The Words of Eternal Life”

 

51I 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.”

52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

Let’s recap our series of sermons on conversations with Jesus. I went back over the last five sermons to see what we have picked up from Jesus on conversations. I found twenty points! Too many to cover here in a recap, but I have listed them in the manuscript, so pick one up on your way out today or find it on our website later this week.

  1. Answer a question with a question.

  2. Tell a story.

  3. Give some space – no rush to answer.

  4. Everyone needs Jesus, truth, and love.

  5. Use earthly things to help others see heavenly things.

  6. Plant a seed.

  7. There is no one to whom we cannot speak.

  8. Repeat of #5!

  9. Offer what we know. That’s all we have anyway.

  10. Point people to Jesus.

  11. Get people to consider the question: Can this be the Christ?

  12. Pay attention to what questions reveal?

  13. Do not fear warning people.

  14. Repeat #2!

  15. Redefine terms and understandings.

  16. Notice people. Notice what is said and not said.

  17. Show hospitality.

  18. Discern what appears before us.

  19. Be present, preferably a non-anxious presence.

  20. Seek the lost that Jesus might save them.

 

I wounder if there is a book with all this, and if not, should I write one? The Scripture for today offers basically two more observations for us, the source of our conversations and a possible result or reaction to our conversations.

 

 

  • I’m Offended!

 

John 6 is indeed a difficult passage on first reading. Jesus is talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. To the outsider this sounds utterly ridiculous. It sounded ridiculous even to those who had been following Jesus for some time. We know that Jesus is not literally talking about flesh and blood, but He is talking about a mystery we now call the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In that we eat bread and drink grape juice to symbolize Christ’s body and blood. Why would Jesus not make that clear to those who were hearing Him talk about flesh and blood? The answer might be in that those who walk outside the Spirit cannot understand the things of the Spirit. That Jesus may have been doing what He often did in parables, speaking about one thing to teach about another. Whatever was Jesus’ intent in that, it certainly drove some people away from continuing to follow.

It may seem strange that Jesus would intentionally say things to drive others away, but what He is really doing is giving Truth. He is offering a Truth that will indeed lead many people to go away. We so often look to the positive responses to Jesus but there are many people in the Gospels who reject Jesus and reject what He had to say.

In the world today we have many other “gospels” that lead people to some strange ways of thinking. One in particular is the “gospel of offense”. These are the people who are offended at everything, or at least seem to be. I began to think about other “gospels” that have given rise to more offenses, like the “gospel” of intolerant tolerance. These are the people who preach tolerance until you disagree with their position and then they become intolerant of your so called intolerance. There is the “gospel” of anti-Christian only. These people are okay with every religion under the sun except for Christianity. Another might be the “gospel of safe spaces. The list is growing of false gospels that take offense at pronouns, biblical thoughts, and actual history of our nation. Like the people in John 6 we live in a society where people are offended by everything. I’ve never met any of these people but they make all the noise on television and YouTube, so they are out there somewhere.

So, let us add to our list that we will offend someone by the Gospel. All you have to do in mention the name “Jesus” and someone will object. Jesus and Christians are truly hated by the world. What then shall we say and do? Should we just close our mouths and let the world dictate and promote false gospels? As Paul the Apostle would say, by no means! The real offense would be if we remained silent. The real offense would be to God who commands us to speak and to act in ways that bring glory to His name. The real offense would be in failing to take the chance of being offensive.

“I’m sorry that you are offended at the truth. There is nothing I can do about that.”

 

 

 

  • Words of Spirit and Life

 

There is a phrase in John 6.63 that I think we need to recognize and cherish. 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. The words that Jesus spoke are spirit and life. We carry with us the words of Jesus, the words of spirit and life. These are the most powerful words in the world. No other words – of politicians, of advertisers, of businesses, or any other words of the world can hold a candle to these words we hold. These are the words that permeate people’s lives and thoughts and the Spirit takes those words and brings life to people. Think about how the words of Jesus have affected your life. Think about how these words have been received into your own heart and how you would love these words to do the same in other people’s lives.

It saddens our hearts when people reject these words. We wonder how people can live without these words. We also rejoice when they are received. There is no greater joy in ministry than seeing the words of Christ come alive in someone’s heart. It may be in a conversion to faith or it may be in a conversion of someone who has been a Christian for a long time and sees something new to them! We carry these words of spirit and life within us and God is able to use those words in ways we may not even understand or comprehend to speak to the hearts of the people around us and with whom we talk.

 

  • When the Offended Walk Away

 

Many times we fear that we might say the wrong thing and turn people away. It is more likely that we might say the right thing and still turn people away. Think of it in these terms, if Jesus turned many away by what He said, who do we think we are by thinking we have automatically done something wrong when people do not come to Christ? Now, that is not to say that we do things that are offensive or say things that are offensive on purpose. You may remember we started this sermon series with 1 Peter 3.15, “...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” We don’t seek to offend for offense sake, but in fact we seek to present the gospel in gentleness and respect. We don’t go out like some groups, even church groups, and yell disrespectfully that everyone is going to hell. We don’t criticize angrily acting mean and giving a bad impression of Christ. We go in gentleness and respectfully telling the truth and giving the name of Jesus and the words of spirit and life and if people walk away, it is not necessarily because of anything we have done or said that was wrong, but might indeed be because we said everything right.

Did Jesus say anything wrong? No, He always gave the truth. He always proclaimed God’s words and yet people were offended and rejected what He had to say. So too, it may be that we no longer need to fear saying something wrong but let God use the words we carry with us from Jesus to say all the right things and let God do the rest.

 

 

 

  • To Whom Shall We Go?

 

When Jesus saw that a group left after what He said, He turned to the twelve and asked them if they too wanted to go. Simon Peter said, we have no other place or person to whom we can go. We have no other words or doctrines to which we can turn. Jesus has the words and Jesus is the Word. We lay our lives down for this Word. We commit our testimony to this God. We dedicate our hearts and minds to doing and saying everything we know how for the glory of the Lord. There is no other to who we can go. None. That means we are saying to everything else in the world that there is no life with you. No life with governments, no life in consumerism, no life in entertainment, no life in anything other that the One who holds all the words of spirit and life.

 

  • The Words of Eternal Life

 

One word these days can turn someone away...it is in a simple name, the name Jesus. Mention Jesus and you have already offended someone. But His name carries a message of eternal life. Peter confesses this in John 6.68-69, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” This is what we have also come to believe and to know. And because we believe it and know it, we are compelled to proclaim it.

 

So what shall we add to our list of teachings from conversations with Jesus?

 

  1. Know that we live in an offended society.

  2. Some will turn away from the Truth even when we are gentle and respectful.

  3. We carry with us the words of spirit and truth.

  4. We can go to no other than Jesus, for He has the words of eternal life.

 

 

It seems to me that if we recognize that we carry these words of life with us, it would make us more confident in sharing them. They are important to everyone’s life. And furthermore, God will use these words even if we don’t think we will say the right thing or say it the right way. I want to also add that our conversations about Jesus are not just for non-believers, but also with other believers. There are many we can teach and others we can learn from about living out our faith and living out our ministry of making disciples. One of the reasons I chose this passage for this series was because it magnifies the understanding that we need not fear saying the wrong thing as much as we need to be confident that God will say the right thing through us. Some folks will not accept it and that is not our fault. Instead we need to remember that what Jesus said sent some people away, but it also strengthened greatly those who continued to follow. Let us be strengthened as well that we might indeed be used of God to have all the right conversations.