Banner Logo


Sermon Graphic

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, August 23, 2015

To Whom Shall We Go?

Text: John 6:68-69

Today’s readings are about the choice we have to make as human beings, Joshua is preparing to step down as leader of the Hebrew people, and he confronts them with the famous words, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15) Are you going to serve the false, impotent gods of the pagans in this land, gods made by human hands out of wood and clay and metal? Or are you going to serve the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who reigns over all creation, the God who led you out of slavery in Egypt and brought you to this land as He promised? When you lay it out like that, it is a no-brainer, But you have to choose.

And then we see Jesus in John’s Gospel, teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, The God who reigns over heaven and earth had sent His only Son into the world, And He had attracted a large following of people, They were drawn by His words and His miraculous deeds, But now the time had come for Him to explain who He was, and the choices people were going to have to make, And they began to murmur, People in large numbers said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60) And John tells us bluntly, “From this time, many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

Jesus turned to the twelve men of His inner circle and asked them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) And Simon Peter answered Him:

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. [John 6:68-69]

Let’s take a closer look at the incident in Capernaum, It behooves us to understand just what was so hard for so many of them to accept, and why they made such a tragic choice, For the choice is no easier for us than it was for them.

There was almost a carnival atmosphere surrounding Jesus, He was traveling from place to place, And we hear that He spoke words that captivated people, They hadn’t heard anyone teach with the kind of authority with which Jesus spoke, They wanted to hear more, So they traveled with Him, and many were regarded as His disciples, The miracles attracted even more, Word was out that He had changed water into wine at a wedding feast, He had fed 5,000 people from five scraps of bread and two fish, He was giving sight to the blind and healing the sick, People were in awe of Him, So more came along to see what else Jesus might do.

But then something happened, People turned away and no longer followed Jesus, What was it? They said “This is a hard teaching, Who can accept it?” What was the hard teaching, and what was so hard about it? I can say with confidence that the answer wasn’t the same for everyone, But people being people, when some started to go, others figured they should leave too.

What Jesus said was (See John 6:35, 53, 58),

• “I am the bread of life.”

• “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in


• “This is the bread that came down from heaven,” He told them.

• “Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Now first of all, Jesus was speaking about spiritual realities, And some of the people undoubtedly took Him literally, They took offense, because they thought Jesus was telling them to gnaw on Him and drink His blood, They were thinking zombies and vampires, We always have to be careful to think spiritually when God gives us spiritual truths, When Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:3) that you have to be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, He wasn’t talking about going back through the birth canal and being spanked on the bottom and saying, “Wah!”

When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days,” (John 2:19) He wasn’t talking about knocking down Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, He was talking about rising from the dead.

And when He talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He was talking spiritual truth, He was being graphic about His statement that He is the bread of life; true life is found only in turning to Him as the source of life, Those who took Him literally took offense.

But then there were the ones who were offended for a different reason, They understood that He was speaking on the spiritual level, But what offended them was that Jesus was claiming to be greater than Moses, When Jesus said, “Your forefathers ate manna and died,” they were thinking, Wait a minute, Don’t you talk that way about our great prophet and savior, They had considered Moses to be the provider of the manna, the miraculous food that appeared on the floor of the desert when there was no food to eat, They weren’t willing to consider that God had sent another Savior, a greater Savior, This one who would offer salvation to the whole world, This one would offer not only rescue from earthly slavery, but the forgiveness of sins and the pathway to eternal life.

That day, the people had to choose, Were they going to be stuck in their narrow thinking? Were they going to be offended by the suggestion that there could be someone greater than Moses? Or were they going to stay with Jesus and hear more?

Isn’t it great to be able to sit and look at all this from our 21st Century perch with the Bible in our hands and say, poor folks, how could they have been so wrong? How could they have missed such an opportunity? And yet, what about us? We have to make the same choice, In fact, we have to make the choice more than once in life, And, even though it may be a no-brainer, it is not an easy choice.

You young folks among us are growing up in a world that is increasingly secular, The messages you get are not about choosing, but about making room for every kind of belief, Faith is tolerated as long as it doesn’t interfere with the popular agenda.

You will hear that if something feels good, there is nothing wrong with it, Kids are encouraged to have sex before marriage, The Bible says that is immoral, Adults are encouraged to commit adultery, There is a web site for married people who want to have an adulterous affair, It was recently hacked, and all the secrets of those people seeking an adulterous partner are out in the open, There is a scandal, But the scandal isn’t about adultery, It is about invasion of privacy, But the true issue is one Jesus taught about, He said that adultery is wrong, It is so wrong, He said, that if you even have lust in your heart toward a woman to whom you are not married, it is adultery, You have to choose, Are you going to follow Jesus, or are you going to follow the culture?

You are being told that we don’t have to go by the Judeo/Christian understanding of marriage between a man and a woman, That recent Supreme Court ruling has opened up marriage to two people of the same sex, Jesus addressed this by laying down the order of creation, “Haven’t you read,” He said, “that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife...’” (Matthew 19:4-5) You have to choose, Are you going to believe Jesus? Or are you going to believe the culture? Where you come out on this is not of trivial significance, Our nation has officially, in the highest court of the land, opposed the rule of order laid down by God Himself, So when you take a position in favor of God’s order and against the mainstream culture, you will be standing for what is right, And you will be ridiculed, You will be reviled as narrow minded, It is not easy, But you have to choose.

Forty-two years ago, another momentous Supreme Court decision held that killing a baby in its mother’s womb is not murder, but a choice the mother gets to make freely, Those who support abortion deny that there is a moral issue at stake, But many Christians know we can’t let the issue go, If we choose to keep our mouth shut and accept the way moral values are being tossed aside, it will become harder and harder for anyone to believe our message that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, In fact, the Bible warns us that when sin is held up as good, righteousness will be considered evil, We are seeing that right now, in our present moment, It is not easy to stand for righteousness, But we have to choose.

Every day, we are confronted with choices as to whether we will follow Jesus, or take the easy road, Will we choose to serve the false gods of this world, or will we choose the one who reigns over heaven and earth? Will we choose the passions that sweep us up into ungodly things, or will we choose to be passionate about Jesus?

On that day in Capernaum, when people were walking away in droves, Jesus turned to His shell-shocked twelve disciples and asked them, What about you? “Do you want to leave me as well?” Peter’s answer is where the great power in this account lies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

• To whom shall we go?

• What other teacher should we believe instead of you?

• To what other worldview should we submit ourselves?

• To what other god should we give our allegiance?

• What other pathway takes us to a better place?

• To what other passions should we surrender ourselves?

You are it, Lord, No one compares with you, Nothing compares with the joy of knowing you, And you have the words of eternal life.

What does that mean? We need to know the answer; for it is the whole reason we would choose Jesus rather than choosing the easier or the more tempting road, Only Jesus has the words of eternal life.

First, the “words of eternal life” means Jesus is telling us how to live forever,

• Put your trust in me.

• I am the bread of life, If you eat this bread, you will live forever.

Once you fully appreciate this, you understand what the disciples meant when they said, “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There is nothing and no one who can promise what Jesus offers—life with Him forever.

Many people say they wouldn’t want to live forever, That is because they are thinking of life as they live it now, Yes, it would be boring to spend the rest of eternity making as much money as you can, Yes, it would be exhausting striving madly forever after pleasures that don’t satisfy, Yes, it would be painful to never escape from the pain of losing people you love, or the fear of being sick and out of commission, or not having enough to eat, But Jesus is talking about something much different than that.

And no, He’s not talking about sitting on a cloud forever playing a harp, For when Jesus talks about eternal life, He is talking about a different quality of life—a life in which you are surrounded by love, and in which you are in constant touch with the Lord of lords and the King of kings; a life in which nothing is inadequate, nothing is painful, and nothing is boring.

The word “eternal” thus has two meanings as Jesus uses it, There is the meaning of living forever, as when He says, “...he who eats this bread will live forever.” And then there is the meaning of a quality of life such as He enjoys as the eternal God, On the night before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed to the Father, And in that prayer, Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

That we may know God, Eternal life is to know God, And we don’t have to wait until we die to know God, That is what Jesus offers us to choose, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) To know Jesus, to know God, means to be as close to Him as your tears are to your eyes, When Jesus talks about remaining in us and we in Him, He is talking about being that close, In fact, He is talking about being the air in our lungs and the blood in our veins and the thoughts in our mind, Imagine: to have the one who is perfectly good and all powerful and all-knowing, perfectly merciful and patient and gracious, inhabiting our very body: how incredible is that?

• We can’t see everything He sees, but He does give us new eyes to perceive the world from His perspective.

• We can’t know everything He knows, but He does give us insight that can come from nowhere else than from Him.

• We can’t do everything He can do, but He does empower us by His Holy Spirit, to overcome our fears and transcend our limitations.

To whom would we go, Lord? No one else can begin to offer us this kind of life. Eleven of those twelve disciples chose wisely, Their lives took on that eternal quality that Jesus offered them, The twelfth, Judas Iscariot, hanged himself in despair, The eleven became instrumental in God’s great plan, They were ordinary, weak and fearful men; but when they saw Jesus after the resurrection, they became convinced that they could do what Jesus created them and chose them to do, After the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they went out into the world and spread the good news, and invited the whole world to receive the Bread of Life and enjoy the gift of eternal life, They suffered, as Jesus said they would, They were reviled for His sake, as Jesus had said they would be, Ten of them were killed, as Jesus had said they would, But all of them luxuriated in His promises:

• That He would be with them always.

• That He would answer their prayers.

• That they would do great things in His name.

• And that He would raise them up on the last day.

He makes those same promises to you and to me, And He asks us all the same question He asked them: “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

May our answer always be:

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. [John 6:68-69]

© 2015 The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar

Return to top

Sermon Archives