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Chapter 24, The Story: “No Ordinary Man”

July 9, 2017

Chapter 24, The Story: “No Ordinary Man”

John 6:66

 

Children’s Sermon: Show collection of symbols/logos

Ask what the symbols mean. 

Then ask how they learned the meaning of the images.

  • If you want to learn something new, what do you do? 
  • What’s your favorite way to learn something new? 

Jesus had a special way of teaching using symbols that people see everyday.  WE call his teaching stories, “parables”.  He used common things that people saw or did everyday to teach them what God is like.  I hope you learn more about God today.  Let’s pray. 

Who is this man?  Shout out for me some words you use to describe who Jesus is to you.

 

Intro:  As I read through the chapter in The Story this week, one verse really grabbed my attention.  It was John 6:66 and reads, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  And that one verse got me thinking about some of the following questions:

  • What causes us to choose to follow or walk away from Jesus?
  • Who is Jesus to you?  
  • What do you find appealing about him that makes you want to follow him?  
  • What is it he says that makes you uncomfortable and want to not follow him?

 

Are we aware that there is something in us that makes a choice about how far we will trust and follow Jesus? It can be really subtle like the nudge to make a phone call or it can be really obvious like where we choose to stand on a social issue.  Jesus was clear, we, like the people we will read about today have muddied the waters with questions and the desire to make God fit our image.  I have to warn you that you may not like what you hear today.  The people following Jesus didn’t and they chose to quit following him. So as we go through this passage, I’d like to invite you to take spiritual inventory.  Pay attention to what draws you in and what makes you push away.

 

Before we get to John 6, let me give you an overview of what has happened in Jesus’ life up to this point.  In this week’s chapter we again wiz through other parts of Jesus’ ministry. 

 

  • Teaching by the lake: Parable of the Sower
  • Kingdom of God parables: Mustard seed
  • Welcomes sinners and tax collectors
  • More kingdom parables: Leaving 99 sheep to rescue one, the lost coin, Prodigal Son
  • Meeting the challenges of the experts of the law, gives the challenge to do what the Law says - Love God and neighbor and illustrates with the parable of the Good Samaritan
  • Sermon on the mount
  • How to pray - the Lord’s Prayer
  • Treasures in heaven
  • Don’t worry
  • Wise man and foolish man
  • Sleeping on the boat with the storm and calming it
  • Casting out the demon named Legion
  • Healing of Jairus’ daughter (brought her back to life)
  • Healing of bleeding woman
  • Healing of the blind men
  • Taking disciples away to a quiet place
  • Feeding 5,000
  • Jesus and Peter walk on water.

 

And that brings us to John 6.  The people have heard his parables and most recently have been miraculously fed from his hand.  What happens next is a true depiction of human nature.  These people who had heard and received food for their bellies came seeking Jesus because they wanted more to eat and Jesus confronted them with their self-centeredness and inability to seek the truth of God.  As we look at this passage, Ask yourself these questions:  What causes me to follow or walk away from Jesus?  Who do I really believe Jesus to be?  What does Jesus say that makes me uncomfortable?

 

READ John 6:25-70

 

Jesus calls their bluff.  He knows that they are not seeking truth but food. The wheels in their minds begin to turn and they think, “Aha! In order to get him to give us food we have to go through some routine, let’s ask him what we have to do.”  And again Jesus confronts them with this fact that he doesn’t want them to “do” anything but believe that he is who he says he is.

 

Their response?  “Okay, we’ll believe you are the Messiah if you do a miracle for us.” Hello! He just had, the day before! They think back to what they have been taught in their history about Moses and the manna in the desert.  They are so focused on filling their bellies, getting their needs met     that they are a little deaf and closed to what Jesus says in response. 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  His words are screaming, “And here I am!” But they don’t hear. You can tell by their response:  “Could you make sure we always have that bread?”

 

Jesus keeps restating his point.  “I am the bread of life. Believe in me and never be hungry or thirsty again!” He plainly states that he is the Bread who has come down from heaven (just like the manna in the wilderness) but his mission is not to fill bellies but to fill souls by reuniting humanity with their Creator, God.  

 

Offense is taken. How can this carpenter’s son be anything special? They say they knew his parents so obviously he is just one of them. Then Jesus takes this conversation to the next level, identifying himself without a doubt as the one who has come from God.  And he tells them plainly that if they believe in him they will have eternal life.  He pushes them to the breaking point when he says, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  

 

Interesting that these people who have been loving his parables about the kingdom of God now choose to take Jesus absolutely literally.  We better understand because we have the benefit of The Last Supper, but these folks were rather horrified thinking about eating another mans body and drinking his blood.  Jesus wasn’t concerned about that. He had already stated that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them”.  Even Jesus was not responsible for making people believe that he was the way to God.  He left that to his Father to draw to himself who he would, but, he offered himself to everyone - absolutely everyone.

 

So it is now decision time. With their own eyes all the people have witnessed the things Jesus has said and done. They have followed him this far.  They have nodded their head at the good points he’s made.  They believe in him enough to hike around a lake and look for him.  But now he has said something that challenges them.  He is asking them to go beyond what they can see and hear and fill their bellies with and what their minds can plainly understand and step into faith.  He tells them that the words he has spoken are full of the Spirit and life.  He tells them that their task is not to see but to believe.  It is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart.

 

Let me share with you how William Barclay puts it:

The real difficulty of Christianity is two-fold.  It demands an act of surrender to Christ, an acceptance of him as the final authority; and it demands a moral standard of the highest level.  The disciples were well aware that Jesus had claimed to be the very life and mind of God come down to earth; their difficulty was to accept that as true, with all its implications. To this day many a person refuses Christ, not because they puzzle intellect, but because Jesus challenges their life.

 

And now comes our focus verse: 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.  

I wonder what reasons went through their heads?

  • He’s making this too complicated
  • I can’t understand it all so I’m out
  • It’s too hard
  • He’s asking too much of me
  • If he’s not going to give me what I want, I’m out

 

I’d wager that most of us have responded with all of these at some point in time of our Christian journey. And some folks have stayed with that reasoning.  “God is asking too much of me, so I’m just going to coast. I’ll be in church, or I’ll pay my tithe, or I’ll help with funeral lunches, but that’s my limit.  I don’t have time for a God who doesn’t give me what I want on demand.”

 

Jesus makes the point that he and the Father are not a cosmic vending machine.  You might imagine that if you put in the proper amount of coins and push the right buttons that you will get your prayer answered on your terms.  But that’s not how God works.  He loves to give gifts to his children, but he also tells us that we have to follow him, live in in relationship with him.  Our response will be obedience to him.

 

So many left, but Jesus asked his twelve, “Will you go too?” And Peter, without hesitation responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  What is your response?