I'd like you to imagine a picture that you have seen already. I'm going to try to set it up, and as I set it up you’re going to remember the event, I think, quite well. Imagine our former president George W. Bush sitting in a chair, and he's surrounded by children and they’re sitting in chairs as well and there's a man, he's leaning down and he's whispering in the president’s ear. Do you know what day I’m talking about? September 11. If there's any moment in that man's life that was his moment of truth, it was September 11. That day will forever define George W. Bush, and he will be known for how he responded to the events of that day. Would you agree?
But presidents are not the only ones who face moments of truth. Countries have moments of truth. I think 9/11 was a moment of truth for our country, as well. Businesses face them. I think many businesses are facing them right now in our economy. Churches face moments of truth. People face them. We face them.
Today, I would like to say that I believe that we are all facing a moment of truth. As we celebrate this communion service, it is a moment of truth. It's a moment of truth that's been intentionally placed there by Jesus to bring us to this point.
I'd like to share with you a story about a moment of truth that I think helps me to see this and to understand this with communion. It's not a communion story, but I think it directly points to communion. It’s found in John. We read the Scripture today. John, chapter 6 and we’re going to back up to verse 26. Thousands of people had been traveling south down through Galilee, headed toward Jerusalem for the Passover, and on their way many of them had stopped to hear this young, new, radical Preacher, Who was becoming more and more popular.
And on one of those days while He was preaching to them He has the crowd sit down and He proceeds to feed them, 5 thousand men plus women and children, 10 thousand and some people, with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. And the people, when they see Him do this, they’re just amazed and they're excited, and instigated, I believe, by the disciples, they decide that they’re going to make him their King. “This is the kind of King we want. This Guy can make bread out of nothing, practically. This is amazing. Not only can He take care of our stomachs, but if there is a war with the Romans, He can supply our armies with just a few pieces of bread. Not only that, we hear that He can heal people, so He can heal the soldiers when they get hurt. He's our man.”
But as the crowd rushes forward to make Him king, Jesus, with some of the firmest tones He’s used yet in His ministry, says “Stop. This is not what we’re doing today. Please leave. The shows over. Time to go home.” And grumpily, I believe, the people leave and the disciples, even more grumpily, get into a boat and Jesus sends them off.
But the next morning the crowd, the people that were there, the 5 thousand, they're not done yet. They're not ready to let Jesus just get away like that, and so they come back, and so here they are. They’ve come back to the beach and Jesus is nowhere to be found. Some of them saw that the disciples had left, and Jesus stayed, but now He's gone, and about that time, a crowd of people come on boats from Tiberius and they meet up with this crowd and the people who had been fed by Jesus tell them excitedly about what had happened and now they’re determined more than ever to find Jesus and to make Him their King and so a whole bunch of the original 5 thousand jump into the boats. I don't know how many people managed to get into those boats, but I don't think it was all 5 thousand, and they cross over with the group from Tiberius and they find Jesus.
And so here in verse 26 Jesus faces these people. The first thing they ask him, they say, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”, and he doesn't answer their question. He goes right to the question that they're there for. He knows it, and He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” In other words, “You’re not seeking Me because you believe, really, are you? You're seeking Me because your bellies were made happy.”
When I was a missionary's kid my parents had a phrase for people like this. We called them “Rice Christians”. People who, when the missionaries came, they’d say, “Here, you want some food? Come to church.” Well Jesus gets down to nuts and bolts and He says very clearly, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures through eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
And now everything is out in the open. Jesus has not come to feed the body. He has come to feed the soul. His is as a spiritual kingdom, and at first, you know, they give it a shot. They act interested and they say, “Well, what shall we do? What shall we do so that we may work the works of God?” Because you see, for the Jews, spirituality was about doing things, and the rabbis had come up with a whole list of things that you should and shouldn't do to be a better person. To make yourself more spiritual. In fact, the rabbis believed that if everybody in Israel could all stop, could all be sinless for one moment, they could all be doing, none of them doing anything bad, all at the same time, the kingdom of God would come. And so they're thinking, “What, You have another work for us to do? Please tell us. We’ll try it out. It's worth giving it a try.” And He says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Jesus could not have been more plain. He was not the messiah they were looking for. And yet He made it clear that He was the Messiah that they needed, and it’s time for them to choose which one they wanted.
Now the Jews reveal just how stubborn and not so bright they are, and they say, “Well, our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread to eat.’” “Okay Jesus, You want us to believe? Then go ahead. Bring down bread from heaven like Moses.” Does this strike you as a bit odd? Didn't He just do that? They're asking Him to perform a sign to prove to them that He's the one, but He's already done it. The truth is, they just want Him to keep providing food for them. They want a restauranteur, not a Redeemer. How low they are shooting. How much better was God's Messiah then theirs.
Reminds me of a story I heard from my wife's uncle. He’s an antique dealer and collector and he had a friend who did the same and his friend is snooping around at an estate sale and he notices an old violin. He pulls up the violin and he starts inspecting it and discovers that it is a Stradivarius, and he says to the lady, “Ma'am, I can get you a lot of money for this violin.” “Well it’s not for sale!” “Ma'am, I can get you a lot of money for this. Please, let me go get my friend, call my friend, he’ll come down right away and we'll tell you how much it's worth.” She says, “Nope, not for sale. I’m going to cut it in half, and I'm going to put flowerpot dirt in it and I'm going to plant some flowers.” He says, “Wait. Just give me time. I'll be right back.” And so, true to his word, he goes and he calls his friend, his friend comes quickly. They arrive at the house. They knock on the door and they say, “Please, please, can we see the violin.” She goes, “No! Go away. I don’t want you here.” “Please.” She goes, “Ok, come on in.” And so she brings them in and there is the violin. Just as she said, cut in half, dirt, flowers. It’s so pretty. And the dealer looks at the lady and he says, “Ma'am”, and I forget the amount here, but it was a very high sum. I'll make up one that’s close to what they go for today. He says, “Ma'am, I would have written a check for a hundred thousand dollars.” Stradivarius violins usually sell for 2 thousand, 3 hundred thousand, millions, ok, the cheap ones are multiple hundreds and all she did was just get mad. “Get out. Leave me alone.”
Are we like this? Are we shooting too low? Are we making a flowerpot out of Jesus and out of heaven's blessings? God wants to give us the banquet and we’re determined to get the crusts. God wants to give us a ferrari, and we just want a datsun. God wants to give us the ranch and we only want the manure. God wants to give us Jesus, and we just want religion. But Jesus would not let the Jews aim so low. The time had come. It was time to make a decision and He says, “It was not Moses who was giving you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father, who gives you the true Bread out of heaven, for the Bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”
Well, they kind of put on the clueless act and say, “Lord, always give us this bread.” And He, knowing just how important their decision is, replies, “I am the Bread of life. He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” And now Jesus has made it as plain as it can possibly be. They must reject their cherished hopes, their idea of what the Messiah is supposed to be. He's not the one they dreamed of, but He is much, much better and they must choose Him or perish. But they don't get it. They still play dumb and they say, “Well, isn't this Jesus whose mother and brothers and father we know? How can He say that He came down from heaven? And how can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” And as Jesus stands there, He looks into their eyes, He's longing for some sort of sign of repentance, surrender, belief, something; and there's nothing. The disciples, the 12, stand next to Him. They look at Jesus, they look at the crowd and back. Perhaps it starts with just one. Maybe it's a famous rabbi or synagogue ruler, and he looks, and then he turns in disgust and he walks away. And then somebody else does the same, and then two or three, and then whole groups and pretty soon Jesus is standing there alone with the 12.
And there's something fascinating about this story that I discovered some time after I got out of college. This event is the pinnacle of Jesus’ ministry. Everything before this event leads up to it and everything after it leads down to the cross. Jesus gains in popularity before. He loses popularity afterward. He cloaks his divinity before. He makes it very plain afterwards. He protects the disciples before and then He speaks clearly about the cross afterward.
So why is this event so important? What makes the difference? I believe that this was a test, a very specific test that Jesus did to determine what the motives were of those who were following him. Were they truly seeking Him or did they just want what He had to offer? And most of them failed it. But not all of them. The 12 stood by, and Jesus, with sadness in His voice says, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” And Peter says, to me one of the most touching lines in the Gospels, he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Where else could they go? They had tasted Jesus and found Him good. They wanted the Bread of Life. They wanted Jesus, and they believed.
So which group are we in? Will we turn and leave with the crowd, or will we be with the 12 and stay? Will we choose financial security over eternal security? Will we choose online lovers or the Eternal Lover? Will you choose over-eating, or the Bread that satisfies? Will you choose entertainment, or will you let Him fulfill you? Will you rely on your religion or will you trust in Him? Won't you stay by the Master’s side? Don't let this moment of truth pass to your loss. Let's choose Jesus. Let’s choose Jesus above all the other false saviours out there.
You know, there's another moment of truth in Jesus’ ministry that comes just before the cross. I believe that Jesus sets it up all over again. It's the same test. He’s got to whittle it down a little bit more because there are still some, at least one, who needs to decide which way he's going to go. And this time He actually brings out bread and He brings out the wine. And I believe that He's asking the disciples to choose Him, the Bread of Life.
But poor Judas. I believe that Judas, back at that first moment of truth, back when Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life,” at that moment Judas started his downfall. And he wanted to leave with the crowd, but he decided to stay. “I'm going to give Jesus a second chance. We'll just see here.” And he goes along with Jesus for a while and when he realizes that things still aren't going his way he decides to force Jesus to be the Messiah that he wants Him to be, and he sets up his plot to betray Him, but his plan is backfiring and now he's at the table, and Jesus passes out the bread and the wine and the Bible says that when Judas took the bread, a devil came with it. Judas, at that point, even though he ate the bread, he chose to not have the Bread of Life. And later he would watch his Lord, instead of going the way he wanted Him to, meekly accept His doom and Judas, instead of receiving the crown of glory that he wanted, received only eternal shame and a lonely death at his own hands. Such is the reward of those who stubbornly cling to their saviors.
But what an incredible result is in store for those who choose the real Messiah. And we see it in the lives of the rest of the 12. After the whole ordeal with Jesus and letting Him down, they turn around, they receive the Holy Spirit like it's never been received before. They find themselves, soon, the leaders of a movement that rocks their world. Eventually they turn from fearful cowards into real men who die for their Lord. All but one of them are martyred. And finally, at the end, they will receive a reward. And when they show up at the gates of heaven, they're going to look, as they walk up to that city, and they’re going to see foundation stones with their names written on them and they will get to eat from the tree of life for forever.
The promise is for us. We too can experience what they experience. We too can have what they have. We can have the Holy Spirit. We can be made into bold warriors for our King. We! We can have our names inscribed on a special stone, and we can eat from the tree of life. But we must handle our moment of truth and future moments of truth the same way as they did. We need to choose Jesus. And so as we face this test today and as you hold the bread in your hand, and as you chew it, think about Who it stands for. Think about the Bread of Life. Think about all the saviors out there that you could possibly turn to, and turn away from them and turn to Jesus, a true Savior. Choose Jesus, the Bread that came down from heaven. Choose Jesus.
At this time we’ll separate for the foot washing service.
We have this passage from Hebrews that talks to us about the benefits of what Jesus did, represented by the bread and the grape juice. Speaking of the new covenant in Hebrews, chapter 8, verse 10, “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their mind.” We’re transformed by what Jesus did for us. “I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” We are reconciled to God. And then in verse 12. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Our sins are not only forgiven but wiped away. What a blessing. We will now have the prayer for the bread and the grape juice.
Heavenly Father. We’re grateful for the blessings that are represented in these emblems. The bread representing the body of Jesus. The grape juice representing His blood. We think not only of what He did on the cross for us but what He is doing in our lives right now, and what He will do for us one day when He returns. We thank you for that, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I want you to think about this bread again, as I talked about earlier. Think about the Bread of Life and that you're accepting once again the Bread of Life, Jesus, as your only Savior. “And for I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’”
Jesus also said that “He who comes to Me will never thirst.” “In the same way He took the cup also after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.’”
We’re about to sing a hymn together, of praise. I want to encourage you, I like to always say that communion is not a funeral. It's a celebration. It's a somber time, a serious time, but it's also a time that we celebrate what Jesus has done for us. We serve a risen Savior, right? And so we're going to go away from here praising God with a hymn of praise. And after we sing the hymn of praise we’ll say a prayer, and then on your way out the deacons will collect the offering for the poor. Let's turn to hymn number 407.
Lord, we praise You so much for Jesus, for the cross, for eternal life. We praise You that we can choose You once again. Choose You as our Savior and leave all the others behind. We look forward, Jesus, to talking to You and meeting with You in person. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn of Praise: #327, I'd Rather Have Jesus Scripture: John 6:48-51 Hymn of Response: #407, Sent Forth By God's Blessing
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 7/21/09.