John 6. 35, 41-51
It’s not our coming or our believing;
Assumptions. That’s what Luther calls them. They’re the things we think are true. The things we’d swear are true. But then again, might not be. In Luther’s case, he wasn’t talking about assumptions-in-general. But, specifically, assumptions we make about god. Assumptions we make about the bible. Like assuming the gospel is one of the first four books of the New Testament. Or assuming that Jesus is nothing more than an example. A what-would-Jesus-do kind of thing. We think those things are true. We’d bet our life on it. But then, maybe they’re not as true as we think.
Truth is, the gospel is a message – a good message – about a loving god! “In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given ….” That’s the gospel! And before we can take Jesus as an example, we have to receive him as a gift! Unearned! Undeserved!
We make assumptions and those assumptions have consequences. Real-time implications. When we make assumptions about god, about the bible – true or not – we find what we’re looking for! We see what we expect! It’s not interpreting, exactly. It’s not translating. It’s what happens in the church, every day, when we assume. We learn what we already know. We hear what we already believe. And nothing ever, changes. For instance …
Say we assume we’re sinners … And say we assume god is angry that we sin (as we would be if we were god) … Well, based, solely, on our assumptions – not on scripture – we become sinners in the hands of an angry god! And when that happens, we see it everywhere! Heaven and hell! Punishment and reward! Before long, we become nothing more than a spider dangling at the end of a thread over a pit of fire! Unquenchable! Everlasting! And faith becomes our way out. It’s not the book that leads us there. It’s the assumptions. The assumptions we make about god. The assumptions we make about us. Thus, Luther reminds us … the gospel isn’t a book, it’s a message! And Jesus isn’t an example, but a gift!
So, that’s what we look for. What we expect to find. Not just in the book, but in baptism and in the supper and in the sermons and the songs and the prayers! The message and the gift! The promise and the love! And then, we come to John 6. 35 … Or should I say, John 6. 35 comes to us …
Jesus said to them, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
We hear those words, and the assumption we make is that they’re all about us! What we should! What we ought! What we must! It’s natural, automatic! Nothing happens – or so we think – unless and until we come to Jesus! Nothing happens unless and until we believe in him! Sound familiar? Popular opinion has it that it’s our coming that eases the hunger. That it’s our believing that quenches our thirst. But nothing – NOTHING – could be further from the truth! What eases the hunger and what quenches the thirst isn’t a what. It’s a who! It’s Jesus! Jesus and Jesus alone! Jesus isn’t, simply, a loaf of bread sitting on a table waiting patiently for us. He’s the bread of life! The living bread! Coming! Causing! It’s not my coming; it’s his! It’s not my faith; it’s his faithfulness! The bread satisfies! The bread fills!
Crazy thing, we do the same thing with John 3. 16. “For God loved the world so much that God gave Jesus! So that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have life!” The assumption is that god has done all god can do. Everything god will do. And now, it’s up to us! It’s up to us to bridge the gap! To make it happen! We assume it’s all about us. Personally. Individually. But it’s not. It, too, is about god! Jesus! Loving us! Loving creation! Without that, there’s nothing to believe in! We believe … we love … we do everything … because god first loved! We don’t look for chapters and verses; we look for good news! We don’t expect an example; we anticipate a gift! When we do, we see Jesus! When we do, we see the cross! We see love!
“I am the bread of life!” Those are the words John meant for us to hear! “I am the bread of life!” It’s not the manna! It’s not the loaves – the crackers, actually – or the fish! It’s Jesus! Jesus! “I am what satisfies,” he says! “I’m what gratifies! What slakes! What sates!” Not our coming. Not our believing! But Jesus! Jesus and his love! Crazy thing … we had it right, when we were little! We knew Jesus loved us! No questions asked! We took it for granted! Not because the bible told us, but because everyone and everything told us!
Unfortunately, we grew up. And we chased after squirrels. We were distracted by shiny things. And we, too, began to make the same assumptions. Assumptions that just weren’t true. But then, I guess that’s why I’m here. Why all called and ordained ministers of the church of Christ are here. To keep us anchored, rooted, in the message! Anchored, rooted, in the gift! To get us back to how it once was, how it used to be. When faith was simple. And the only assumption we made was true. Jesus loves us! Jesus loves all of us! And that love makes all the difference!
Jesus says to them – says to us, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
It’s not a commandment to be obeyed. It’s a promise! A promise to be trusted! A promise to believe in! A promise to stake our life – our lives – on! Jesus loves me … loves us all … this we know! My friends, that’s the only thing that matters! That’s OUR assumption! That’s OUR message! And that … that is OUR gift!