Decisions…decisions… our lives are filled with decisions. Each day we decide when to get out of bed, what to wear, what to eat, where we go, when to leave, how to get there and a host of other decisions.
Some decisions affect our lives more than others. A decision to spend $15 or $20 on a meal is far different from spending thousands of dollars on an automobile or house. A decision to take an aspirin for a headache is far different from undergoing major surgery. Some decisions are greater than others because some have more of an effect on the outcome of our future.
This weekend, God’s Word speaks to us about some MAJOR decisions that not only affect our lives on this earth, but our eternal future! In our Old Testament reading, Joshua (the leader after Moses died) called upon the Children of Israel to make a choice: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15) Joshua clearly laid out that there are only two choices: either continue serving their sinful nature and the false gods of their day (rejecting the true God and salvation in Him alone), or they would forsake their sinful nature and serve the only true God. Joshua encouraged them and led the way by boldly proclaiming: “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15)
The same encouragement is given in the Epistle reading: Ephesians 5: “Live as children of light … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness… Be very careful, then, how you live -not as unwise but as wise, (wise & unwise choices) making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil… Instead, be filled with the Spirit…”
And in our Gospel reading (the final verses in John 6) we are presented AGAIN with the only two choices concerning our spiritual lives, either Jesus’ way or our sinful way. This week we continue reading… Jesus declares: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The confusion and offense at Jesus continued. This is not a matter of understanding, but of accepting – they understood clearly what Jesus was saying – but they heard it as scandalous words! Sounds like cannibalism – eating flesh… drinking blood… (Jesus says it six times in seven verses); certainly NOT kosher / definitely offensive to the natural man! These words from a mere man would be shocking and repulsive; but the point is that these words are not from a mere man – these are words of Jesus – the promises of God!
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”… From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, “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.”
Jesus’ disciples were RIGHT – this IS a “hard teaching” / not hard to understand (it is very clear what Jesus is saying!) but hard to accept! And Jesus’ response to their complaint is just as hard. Jesus gives these people the “shock treatment” – to jolt them away from the mere materialism of this life (they were still only thinking of the bread and fish He had provided in abundance for the 5,000 just the day before, they had come seeking out Jesus for another “free meal”). But Jesus came to “feed” them and us with “the living bread from heaven. (with the promise) If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” (v.51)
On our own we can NEVER choose to accept these “hard teachings” of Jesus, and there is NO WAY of explaining away the scandal of Jesus’ words. Jesus’ message is “out of this world” – it is a Spirit-filled and life-giving Word. Apart from His Word there is no salvation, and apart from believing Him and in Him there is no salvation.
Therefore, we REJOICE in the same confession Peter speaks on behalf of all disciples of Jesus. “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.” Through God’s gift to us of saving faith through Baptism, His Word and the Lord’s Supper, these are NOT “hard sayings” for us – neither hard to understand nor hard to accept. Rather, these are our confession, our statement of faith, that God would affect every decision we make.
We believe it because Jesus says it / we boldly teach it to our children in our homes and through our church and Lutheran schools. With Joshua we proclaim: “as for me and my house / as for me and my church and school / we will serve the LORD!” Jesus IS the Living Bread for us. We are daily fed by His Word and regularly come at His gracious invitation to receive His true body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. This guides and directs every decision in our lives – all to the glory and service of our Savior, Jesus Christ and for the invitation and inclusion of others in His Kingdom.
We pray that you will join us for Jesus’ life-giving Word and Sacraments this weekend as we gather again for worship and receiving His gracious blessings.