May 17, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text I’ve chosen for this morning’s sermon comes from John 6. Saint John writes, “After this many of [Jesus’] disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
The girls in my house love to watch romantic the Hallmark Channel movies that air during just about every season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and I suppose eventually there will be one for Groundhog Day! Without letting them know I don’t completely dislike the movies; I give them a hard time because the plots are always the same. A big city girl must go to a small town and while there she meets a handsome man, and the experience forces her to make a choice. Does she change her ways and stay in the small town or does she go back to the hustle and bustle of the big city? I’m sure you can guess her choice. In the movies, we want the characters to make the right choice because that’s the ways it’s supposed to be, and real life is never like that. We frequently have to make choices, and sometimes we chose poorly. When it comes to our faith and to Jesus Christ, there are only two options, one is to stay with Jesus, the other is to go your own way. So which do you choose?
The text I’ve chosen for my sermon takes place the day after Jesus fed the five thousand. After a long day, Jesus had compassion on the hungry people by giving them fish and bread. What He really wanted to do was to satisfy their spiritual needs, and He showed He could by the way He met their physical needs. They didn’t see it that way. They saw Jesus as a Food King who would make sure they always had enough to eat. To help them understand who He really is, Jesus explains, “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.” It’s not the clearest point, but Jesus often spoke in obscure ways. This time the reaction of his hearers, including some who were disciples, was less about confusion and more about anger.
John writes, “When many of His disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” To put it another way, “This is ridiculous! How can He say that? He’s crazy!” Instead of asking Jesus to clarify or just believing what He said, John tells us, “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” Did you notice that John calls them disciples? They weren’t part of the inner circle of twelve, but they were followers. They had listened to Him preach and had seen His miracles, but now they chose to reject Him. They hardened their hearts to God’s Word and refused to let the faith in their hearts blossom. Instead they let these hard sayings drive them from Jesus, and if they didn’t eventually come back, their choice to leave Jesus left them with eternal, negative consequences.
You can’t help but hear sadness in His voice when Jesus asks the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” “You’re not going to leave me too, are you?” Are they going to turn their back on their Lord and their faith? Are they going to reject the Bread of Life? Peter replies with familiar words: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Where are they going to go? Who can possibly give them what they really need? No one. The disciples choose to stay with Jesus because they knew He was the Son of God and the only one who can give them what they need – help in this life and hope for eternal life.
Today is a special day, the day we confirm five young men who’ve been taught God’s Word and soon they will stand up here, before God’s altar, and be asked to choose. You boys have to make a choice: are you going to abandon Christ, or will you remain faithful to Him until the day you die? In your confirmation vows, you’re saying your own version of “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” Now, I know that at thirteen or fourteen, this can be overwhelming. We’re asking you to promise to be faithful to God, no matter what. The good news is that you’re not being asked to choose all by yourself. You’ve got the Holy Spirit, you’ve been taught God’s Word, and the Lord will help you. You, like everyone else here, will have ups and downs, but as long as you trust Jesus, as long as you look only at Him, you’re going to be okay. What you have to remember is that everyday you will be asked to chose between Jesus and Sin.
And parents, especially of these five young men, you chose to baptize your children. You chose to send them to catechism class. And today you must make one of the most important choices you will ever make. Will you choose to continue raising them in the faith or will you choose something else for them. Don’t fail them by choosing to stop bringing them to church. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because they’re confirmed, they’re good to go. They’re not! Just like you, they must make a choice every day, and without your help and guidance, they may very well make the wrong choice.
While the boys are the ones reciting the Confirmation vows, all Christians need to listen because Jesus is asking you the same question. You’re not going to leave too, are you? Like these young men, you were given faith, either in your baptism or when God called you later in life. He gave you faith and then He nourished it with His holy gifts of His Word and Holy Communion. All of you have been taught and by the power of the Holy Spirit you can remain close to Christ’s side. Yes, some of what Jesus says will be hard to understand or accept. Sometimes you may want to plug your ears to the answers He gives you. Don’t let that lead you to make poor choices! Hold onto God’s Word, hold on to what you’ve been taught, and realize that there is nowhere else you can possibly go. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life because only Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God. Those who left Jesus that sad day chose to look elsewhere for whatever it was they thought they needed. Don’t make that choice! It’s in Christ alone you find what you need. You do realize don’t you, that none of the other things you could choose over Jesus, love you enough to sacrifice themselves for you? Only Jesus gives eternal life, everything else gives eternal death. Only Jesus speaks life and salvation, everything else will let you down. Only Jesus gave Himself over to Sin and Death so that you are forgiven. Only Jesus chose to give His life to spare yours, and you are His greatest choice.
Life is full of choices. Some choices, like those in Hallmark movies, always work out. Some choices, like those in real life, don’t always work out. Sometimes you’ll choose wisely, sometimes you choose foolishly. Some choices have short term ramifications, some follow us the rest of our lives. One choice will follow you into eternity. Do you choose to stay by Him, even when everyone else is deserting Him? Or are you going to choose eternal death? Know this: Jesus has chosen you, and with His help, you can say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen