Whet Your Appetite
The 12 century Muslim philosopher Averroes wrote that no other people on earth were as stupid and ungodly as Christians. Because all other people taught that God should be honored and borne on loving arms. Christians, on the other hand, teach that God should be eaten (LW, 23, 99). He's right, and I want to whet your appetite.
The Jews, says our text, had no appetite for God in flesh and blood. They grumbled about Jesus the same way the Old Testament church had grumbled against Yahweh. Read Moses. The Greek word used here is the same used for the grumbling on the way to the Promised Land. Exodus 15 says they people grumbled because they didn't have something to drink. Exodus 16 says they grumbled because they didn't have enough to eat. Numbers 14 says they grumbled because the Promised Land was full of enemies. And although in each case they were grumbling against Pastors Moses and Aaron, Pastor Moses makes it plain in Exodus 16, "You are not grumbling against us, but against Yahweh."
By grumbling against the ministers of Yahweh they were really grumbling against Yahweh. In the New Testament they escalated to grumbling against Yahweh directly. They grumbled because Jesus said, "I AM" - the name God revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush "the Bread which came down out of heaven." But note specifically why they grumbled. Not because it was impossible in their mind for God to come down out of heaven but because of Jesus' apparent parentage. The old scandal' of the Virgin Birth. The sign that has been rejected since King Ahaz on by unbelief.
That this is what the Jews are grumbling about can be seen by the way the Holy Spirit reports it. Here's a literal translation: "This surely is the son of Joseph, and we know without being told don't we who the father and the mother is? How now after this well-known fact that he was conceived out of wedlock, he says, Out of heaven I have come down'?" His flesh and blood can't be out of heaven because they know where He was from. And make no mistakes all Christianity hangs on this. If His flesh and blood didn't come from heaven it would need redeeming just like ours does. His flesh couldn't be the Bread of life which if anyone eats from they live forever if it came from sinful flesh and blood. To quote that immensely deep lyric. "Whoomph there it is." If you have no appetite for Jesus, you have no appetite for God.
Well, do you? Do you have an appetite for Jesus? Is he in Bach's words the joy of your desiring? Does your soul thirst after Him as deer pants after water or as in a dry and thirsty land? No, I'm good. I'm content with the food and drink I have. Jesus on the Mount of Temptation and the Church in the Old Testament may not have lived by bread alone, but "I'm alright nobody worry about me." This stuff Jesus says here is just a bit too much: that apart from His body and blood I won't be raised to life on the last day and I'm not being taught by God. Jesus is just so exclusive, narrow-minded, insistent that there is no other way to the Father but by Him. That no one reaches the Father except by Him. That there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved apart from His. Boy that's harsh. So much for 1.8 billion Muslims, 1.2 billion nonreligious, agnostic, or atheists, 1.15 billion Hindus, and a half billion Buddhists.
You know how virtually everyone is concerned about what they put into their bodies? I don't know what BPA, Red Dye #2, or high fructose corn syrup is but I know, with no fear of being contradicted I can say, "Woe on to you if you ingest them." And don't get me started on tobacco and alcohol. If you're paying attention, and I'm not saying you should be, but if you are, you are to be very, very concerned about what physical food you're putting into your body. The opposite is true for your soul. You can eat what you what, when you want, as much or as little as you want and it's all good.
You want to eat Islam and chew on the 5 pillars? Have at it. You only want to eat the things of Christ when you feel like it. That's fine. No judging here, right? You want to and this is the most popular diet pick and choose what to eat. I'll eat the Jesus who blesses marriage but not the Jesus who damns living together. I'll eat the Jesus who blesses creation but not the Jesus who says He created it in 6 days. No worries. Just don't go telling anyone else what their spiritual diet should be. You can tsk, tsk when someone picks up a salt shaker, and you can say, "That's disgusting" when someone lights a tobacco product, but don't you dare think anything a person puts into their soul is anything but helpful and God-pleasing.
You do know that your soul could be prospering and your body not, don't you? John tells us that in his Third Epistle. He prays "that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers." This means it can go the other way. Your body could be in the pink and your soul rotting. Think of the scene in a scary movie where the lightning strike reveals to the individual that though his face looks normal and healthy there's rot and decay underneath.
Here's where the whetting begins; here's where we begin to have our diet sharpened, to not be content, as the Old Testament Church, to feast on the physical. Psalm 106 has two of the most haunting verses in the Bible: "They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." The lightening cracks, the thunder rolls and I shudder at what I just saw in my reflection. I need a new diet that insures the Last Day is a whole new day. I need a diet that addresses the disgusting fact that I consume living, fresh vegetables and fruits and turn them into dead, decaying, decomposing stuff. I need a diet "which a man may eat and not die." I need a bread on earth where "if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever." But isn't this the stuff of myth, legend, and fantasy?
Do you see how quickly an appetite for the heavenly, the divine, the things of Jesus can be lost? Jesus says the only way you'll be moved to take a seat at His table is if the Father "drags" you. Your insert translates "draw" in an attempt to give you a warm fuzzy. But this is the word for Peter dragging the net full of fish to shore or for dragging a boat on to the beach. On our own we remain under the judgment of Romans 3: "There is none who seeks for God." We'll run after absurd diets of the body, but on our own we're content to spiritually starve unless dragged to better fare.
So, with His Law God shows you that you ought to be ravenous right now. You've tried to fill yourself on the things of this life. You've been told you will be content if you have this much of this or that much of that. You've been told the empty, aching need in you is for love, for sex, for success, for money, for power. But the truth is what Augustine realized; your soul is doomed to restlessness until it finds it rest in God. But you're not looking there. You're looking here, there, everywhere, and the fallen flesh is like a zombie. It never stops looking. We're always thinking, "Once I have this, I will be full, satisfied". But the devil, the world, and your own flesh ever dangle before you something more, better, different, and you feel that old familiar pain and you're back on the treadmill to fill the hole.
The Law of God shows us we will always be hungry for more because lusts can never be satisfied by the things of God. The Gospel is the food that fills not only life but everlasting life. Isn't that what Jesus says? You come to Me and I will raise you up on the Last Day. No second death, no living death, no everlasting death for you in Jesus. He's the death of death. In Him all are alive. It would've been wonderful to have seen mana in the morning. It was the bread of angels; it was bread that came down from heaven, but no matter how much you ate of that you still died. The same is true about every single thing you eat or drink. It won't preserve you from the Second Death and contrary to what most think, it won't preserve you even from the First Death.
You partake of the sinless life of Jesus which He gave as a ransom for the entire world and you won't only not die, you'll live forever. You partake of the Jesus who kept all of God's Laws perfectly and you get credit for keeping them all. You know how they inject you with dye and see it course throughout your bloodstream? You eat of the Bread come down from heaven who lived a perfect live in human flesh and blood, and the Father sees a kept law, countless good works, and His only beloved Son coursing through your body and blood.
The first part of the meal is Jesus' holy life. The second part is His innocent death. The blood, sweat, and tears Jesus shed on the cross put out the fire of God's wrath against the world's sins, your sins included or your sins especially. Hear His wrath sizzle out, and see His blood, sweat, and tears run down and fill that Baptismal font and this chalice with forgiveness that can be applied to bodies and even be consumed by them.
Remember the woman at the well? Remember how Jesus talked about the water of life until she burst out, "Give me to drink of this water"? Jesus would bring us to this point every Sunday. He is here in liturgy, song, and sermon to show us we're starving to death spiritually. And nothing we have, the world has, or the devil himself has can sate our souls. But He's also here to feed starving souls and dead bodies. And if the food provided by the angel could give Elijah the strength to journey 40 days and 40 nights to the Mount of God, how much more the food provided by God the Son?
What does the waiter or chef or even home cook say right after they place the food? Bon Appetit. Curious. They say good appetite", that is, one that has been whetted. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost (20180812); John 6: 41-51