Sermon

John 6:60-69

 

Probably no pastor can ask the question correctly.

 

You do not want to leave too, do you?

 

Because of ego and pride and worry (not a Godly quality) and disappointment and other people’s judgment of life and work and a whole host of other things, pastors can’t really ask the question correctly.  “What’s wrong with the pastor?” the people will surely say when they hear the question.  “Is the pastor angry with us?’  “Is he disappointed with us?”  “Is he venting when he asks that question?”  “Is he going to quit?”  “Is he dissatisfied?”  “Is the pastor beating us up with that question?  Hey, we are here!  Why is he asking us that question?

 

But one person does ask the question and he asks it correctly.  His name is Jesus.  He asks all his disciples---even the ones at 3800 Shell Road on Labor Day weekend in 2009---You do not want to leave too, do you? And you and I need to give the right answer this morning to that most poignant of questions.  Let’s consider it……..

 

You do not want to leave too, do you?

 

That’s the question.  Jesus asked that question of his congregation.  He had been teaching them.  He had taught them hard things for them to hear.  We read that after his lessons, “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.”  

 

You actually heard the same question by the Old Testament Joshua this morning.  He was with God’s people.  They had done wonderful things together.  But he worried about his people.  He knew that they were capable of leaving God’s good things and going after other gods.  So he said, “You are not able to serve the Lord.  He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.  He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.  If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”  And then we hear words which are good answers to the question to Joshua’s and Jesus’ question, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  We hear the people all say, “No, we will serve the Lord!  Yes we are witnesses!  We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

 

It wasn’t an easy question to answer.  It was a hard question and it is a hard question.  It comes on this fact: “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”  That is what caused the leaving in the first place…this hardness, this difficulty.  It still does.  Jesus tells us to believe him…swallow his words, swallow him, have him become our energy and cellular construction and make up.  What is so hard about those words?  What is so offensive about those words?  What causes people to choke and cough on those words?  Maybe it’s the fact that you and I and all the rest “out there” don’t like to be told that we are helpless and hopeless by ourselves.  Church isn’t a self-help seminar.   It doesn’t build self trust.  It tears self trust down.  It reduces it to shreds and shards and smithereens.  You end up with the Apostle Paul saying, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Jesus’ words don’t teach you to trust yourself and your own judgment.  God’s Word doesn’t want you to go with your gut feeling and to follow your instincts and your inner voice.  And perhaps most offensive and hard of all is that it really isn’t about you.  A God pleasing worship of God isn’t about you.  It’s about God.  You count but you don’t count as much as he does.  He’s God.  You are not.  (How do you like that?)  He does not exist so that he can please you.  You exist to please him.  Period.  End of the hard teaching.

 

But you don’t want to leave too, do you?  Please say “No!”

 

Where would you go?  Peter poses that when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”  And some think they know.  There are gods out there, that are attractive.  They are lovely siren gods who would lure you onto the rocks of Charybdis as you steer your ship of life by.   Shapely gods.  (Joseph was described as “well built and handsome”.  The Bible even knows of comely form.)  Well proportioned gods of human reason where everything is right where it should be.  Eye-catching gods.  Head turning gods that bid you come and enjoy “the pleasures of sin for a season.”  

 

The fact was there wasn’t anything beautiful about Jesus that we should, as Isaiah the prophet said, “desire him.”  He was like one from whom people turn their faces.  That’s the way Isaiah the prophet describes Jesus.  So when you see Jesus you will not be surprised at how homely he is but at how beautiful his homely face is and how wrong you were in your determination of beauty in the first place.  If you didn’t know, faithfulness is much more beautiful than beauty is.  Jesus is faithful.  He is absolutely faithful to you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.  And so even though a panel of American Idol judges would deem Jesus homely and plain, you see him as beautiful.  You say, “I will not leave this beautiful Jesus…my Jesus.  Gentleness and quietness are God’s raving beauties: The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is  of great worth in God’s sight. (1  Peter 3:4)

 

There are many other gods that attract people to leave Jesus.  There are the willowy and sensuous gods of emotional and substance highs.  Snappy dressed Wealth-god, flashy and glitzy entertainment-god, dignified and confident prestige-god,  happy-go-lucky fun-god,  mirror faced self-god.  All of them are about you feeling good.  They all appeal to your senses.  They are together lumped as being sensuous gods.  The Bible warns us all of being taken in by their charms: Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.  (Ephesians 4:19)  Every single one of these gods that lure people away from Jesus soon age and get hag-like and ugly.  They don’t have a long shelf-life.

 

So there is this question Jesus asks, “You are not going to leave too, are you?” There is the threat.  There is the danger.  That is---to some degree---what is happening.  People are leaving churches.  People are leaving Jesus.  You can see it  happening if you look. But….You are not going to leave too, are you? The important thing is not that a pastor should ask you that question but that Jesus should…and does.  You aren’t going to be ashamed to be “caught” with Jesus, are you?  You are not going to be ashamed of the homely nature of his belief, are you?   You are not going to be ashamed of the emotion…and once in a while getting caught with tears in your eyes because of your failings or tears of joy in your eyes because of Jesus’ great and glorious love to you, are you?. You aren’t going to be offended at the grace of it all, are you?  That is perhaps the most offensive of all.  That you have to say with Martin Luther, “We are beggars.”  And Jesus does ask the question to all of our possible offenses, “Does this offend you?”  Right there in the words before us, he asks this question too.

 

You do not want to leave too, do you? It is the most plaintive of all questions.  There is the most riding on this question…and the answer.  In the Greek language we see something wonderful though.  The Greeks had two ways of asking a question.  They had the one way: when they expected a “yes!” answer.  They had the other way: when they expected a “no!” answer.  So Jesus is talking Greek when he asks the question.  What do you think?  When he asks you the question, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” what was he expecting you to answer?  If you think Jesus is expecting you to answer “Yes, I think I will be going” you are wrong.  Jesus expects a “No!” answer.  Peter rose to the occasion in a brilliant way.  Peter answered the way we want to answer too.  He who so often disappointed everyone with his responses and actions.  This time was brilliant.  He said those most important of words for the follower of Jesus, “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

 

There was another reason why Jesus could ask, You don’t want to leave me too, do you? and expect a “No!” answer.  He knows his own.  This reading tells us that clearly.  He knows you are his.   He knows his Father too and he knows what his Father has done for each of you.  “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”  Jesus knew from the beginning which of the disciples did not believe.  But he also knew the ones who did!  He knew Simon Peter believed.  He prayed for Simon “that his faith would not fail.”  He watched Peter.  He came to him in his very weak times and looked at him.  He came to Peter in his workplaces (the Sea of Galilee early in the morning and places like that).  He came to Peter in the night (by blazing fires in high priest’s courtyards).  He had Peter be with him when he ascended up to heaven.  He fed Peter from bread and from Bread.  He gave Peter his body and blood to drink at his own Lord’s Supper.

 

So why the question then?  Why does Jesus ask you if you are going to leave him when he clearly knows you and your faith in him and that he and his Father and his Holy Spirit are going to keep that faith?  Why does he say, “You aren’t going to leave me too, are you?”  It is for one reason: you need to hear yourselves saying what Peter heard himself saying.  You need it for your comfort.  You need this answer for your life-planner…that book where you put your plans for all your days here and for all the countless days of eternity.

 

Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.  That’s the right answer to the question.  That is the answer God knows about you and God wants to hear you say.  In short, you and I say, “We aren’t going anywhere.  We aren’t leaving Jesus.  He has the words that help us through our days”…words that say, “I am with you always…you can do all things through me because I strengthen you…I’ll prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies…I am putting you squarely in the middle of my Kingdom…my Kingdom is coming…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  He has the words that promise us life.  This Jesus we are not leaving tells us that in his Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, he would have told us.  He says he is going there to prepare a place for us.  He is going to lead us there and carry us there.  He is going to allow nothing to keep us from that place.

 

Let your “No!” be no!  Let it be loud and clear.  Listen to yourself say it.  Say it out loud.  Hear it with your own ears.  “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

 

No!  Amen.