Download or listen to the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: “Is Jesus Enough? (Part 2)” (John 6:51-69)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Two weeks ago, we began to consider the question, “Is Jesus enough?” When the crowds who had eaten Jesus’ miraculous feast of bread and fish came looking for Him the next day, He said, “You are seeking Me not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the loaves and were satisfied, filled up; you had enough.” But now Jesus doesn’t give them physical bread to sustain their physical life; He gives them eternal bread to sustain their eternal life. And the question for the crowds is, will Jesus be enough for them? Or will they go looking for something or someone else somewhere else. Is Jesus enough for the crowds? Is He enough for you and me? Or do we look for something or someone else? If you were to lose everything else, would Jesus be enough for life in this world and in the world to come? Is He enough for the Church, for the members of the Body of Christ gathered in a place to hear Him speak, like those crowds were gathered on the side of the lake, or in the synagogue at Capernaum? If you happen to leave here without having a religious experience, or an emotional high, or even without feeling anything—but you have heard Jesus’ own word to you, you have been given Jesus in place of your sins, you have eaten and drunk His Body and Blood, will Jesus be enough for you? Is Jesus enough for the world—the same world in which this congregation finds itself? The unbelievers who surround you in the place you work, in the place you live? Is Jesus enough, or must we excite their sinful natures in some way to get them in the door? Should we appeal to some lowest common denominator, thinking that if we only market ourselves in the right way, people will come? Or will it be Jesus or nothing? Is He enough?
It would seem that for many people the answer is “no.” Just looking around, we see people going about their lives and their business without a thought of Jesus. They seem to be getting along fine, doing their work, living without Jesus. Do they need Jesus? Is He enough for them? Sufficient? Can He satisfy a longing that they deny they have? And what about us? Has Jesus become simply one part of our lives? Along with all the other things that make up our lives? So that we look for Him when we think we need Him? Like we look for food when we’re hungry or water when we’re thirsty, we look for Jesus when we feel the need?
But when Jesus speaks to the crowds, He not only claims to be enough: that if they believe Him, they will never hunger or thirst; He also claims to be the only life that there is. If people eat His flesh and drink His blood, they have eternal life. If they do not eat His flesh and drink His blood, they have no life in them. In one of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, there is a scene with a girl named Jill Pole. She is very thirsty, and finally she finds a stream. But she doesn’t want to drink from it because there is a large Lion in her way. She feels as you or I might feel when encountering a lion: scared. He speaks to her: If you are thirsty, come and drink. If you are thirsty, come and drink. But she is too scared. “Are you not thirsty?” the Lion asks. She says, “I’m dying of thirst.” “Then drink.” “Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” she asks. “I make no promise,” says the Lion. “Do you eat girls?” Jill asks. “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms.” “I daren’t come and drink,” Jill says. “Then you will die of thirst.” “Oh dear! I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” says the Lion, whom, if you know the Chronicles, is a picture of Jesus (The Silver Chair,21-23). There is no other stream. Either drink and live, or don’t drink and die.
So Jesus says, eat My flesh and drink My blood and live forever. But the crowds say, “This is a hard saying, who can accept it?” Just like Nickodemus, who heard Jesus say you must be born again from above, and said, “How can a man enter his mother’s womb to be born again?” So the crowds hear eat My flesh and drink My blood, and say “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” But they hear it only according to their sinful, fleshly reason. They do not hear it in faith, and so they have no life. And so they leave. Jesus says, “If you do not believe what I say, how will you believe if you see Me lifted up on the cross, giving My flesh and shedding My blood for the life of the world?” Many of Jesus’ disciples leave Him, and no longer walk around with Him. They refuse to believe that there is life only in this Man’s words, that words can give real life as opposed to the lives they think they’re living, and so they leave to go look for whatever life they can find somewhere else. But there is no other life. There is no other stream. And then Jesus asks His apostles, “You do not wish to go away also, do you?” And Peter says, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” You alone are holy. You alone are the bread that comes down out of heaven to give life to the world.
But where do we find the bread of life? How do we know where real life is? There is a single question to ask to know whether something can give you eternal life or not. The question is, “Is this Jesus?” Are the things I own Jesus? No? Then they cannot give me real life. Are the things in my pockets, or in my bank account Jesus? No. Then they cannot give me life. Are the things I do with my time, however good and worthwhile they may be, Jesus? No. They cannot give life. Is my family Jesus? Then it can’t give life. Are all the good things I do for my family and friends Jesus? No, then they cannot give life. Is the Law of God, which demands that I love God with all my heart and soul and mind, and my neighbor as myself, Jesus? Then it cannot give life. In the end, they all bring me death. And we know it. No matter what they write about you in your obituary, all the good things you’ve done, all the people you’ve influenced, all the things you liked to do, what good will they do you in your casket? Your fathers ate manna—bread from heaven—in the wilderness for 40 years; God sustained them with physical bread. But they all died, every one of them. And so will you. If it’s not Jesus, it’s not life.
But there is Jesus! And He doesn’t leave it up to us to search for Him and find Him. He gives us clear and undeniable promises. So we can ask of Baptism, Is this Jesus? Yes! It is Jesus crucified and resurrected for the world, so it gives life. Is this absolution, this word of forgiveness, Jesus? Yes! Then it gives life. Is this Word from and about Jesus, whether written or proclaimed, Jesus? Yes! He is the Word made flesh. He gives life. Is this Supper Jesus? Yes! His very body and blood. It gives life. None of this can be known by your sinful flesh. None of this can be seen by physical eyes. But we see by faith. We do not see mere water. We see the blood of Christ. We do not hear merely the words of a sinful man. We hear Jesus Himself. We do not see mere bread and wine. We see the body and blood of Christ. And because the Father has granted us to see these things through no merit of our own, we have eternal life, right now. You will not die! We do not see merely the physical reality of death; we see the life of Christ, which is not subject to death anymore.
Do you also wish to go away? No. Because even if you did, there would be nowhere else to go. There is no other stream. Jesus has the Words of eternal life. You have been washed, you have been fed. You have eternal life. Jesus is enough, and more than enough.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/18/12