Have you heard these words before?
I Promise to love and cherish you, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, forsaking all others, til death do us part.
These are promises that we have made or heard at marriage services – and it’s a joy to see many people live up to those promises through thick and thin – some share many, many years together. Some delight in one another and some fight like cats and dogs and yet grit their teeth and keep their promises.
What’s the challenge with these marriage promises? What’s our challenge with promises – not just marriage promises - all our promises? We’re sinful human beings living in a sinful world. We pray and ask God to bless our marriages and to help us with the promises we make. Having a sinful human nature and living in a sinful world doesn’t give us permission to break promises – nor does it give us an excuse to sin. But the problem with our promises is us.
How many of you have heard of Promise Keepers? It was a Christian ministry to men that featured big stadium events. I attended several of these stadium events 25 – 30 years ago. They were a significant move of God all across our country. They had a profound impact on me along with several of my buddies at church. It encouraged many men in their faith and encouraged them to be accountable to other men with regards to the promises we sought to keep. I’m so grateful to God for the ministry of Promise Keepers and yet I believe the focus was a little off. As Christians we are not so much Promise Keepers as Promise receivers. God is the one making the promises and God is the faithful promise keeper.
Did you catch all the promises in our Gospel passage today? We pick up John chapter six with the same verse we ended with last week. (The letter P stands for a promise from Jesus)
35 Jesus said to them, “ I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. P 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. P For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. p
39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. P For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, P and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” P
I figure 6 or 7 promises in these first 5 verses alone. Remember we read our Bibles with an eye to Law and Gospel. Where Law is what we are to do. It’s what God tells us to do or not do as in the Ten Commandments. Gospel is what God has done, is doing or will do for us. It’s a word of promise.
After Jesus dishes up all these promises His listeners grumble and say a few words. Jesus answers them and gets right back to making another six promises.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. P
It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. P
Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. P
I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, So that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; P
and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh P
This is gospel, gospel and more gospel and promise after promise. And what do all these promises have to do with? Your election, your salvation, and your eternal life.
The Father has given you to Jesus and Jesus has you. Think about that for a minute. Jesus is a gift to us that we celebrate most often at Christmas. But you are a gift too. You are a gift from God the Father to Jesus. And you are a gift that Jesus treasures. Jesus has promised not to toss you out. He’s not going to lose you. Jesus has a hold of you and He’s not letting go.
As it says in Romans 8 “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You might think from verse 44 that the Father invites you to Jesus or that he lures you or entices you to come to Jesus. And that somehow you can decide to come to Jesus or not. For it says No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me DRAWS him; This word for draw in the original language is more like drag or haul. It is the same word used later on in John when the disciples are hauling in a huge catch of fish. It’s kind of like the trailer on a semi-truck. God the Father is the tractor part of the semi and you’re the trailer. The trailer is going where the tractor hauls you. And the Father’s hauling you to Jesus.
Election is a mystery that runs through the whole Bible. And Jesus makes it explicit later in John chapter 15 when He says, “you did not choose Me but I chose you.”
God has chosen you to be His treasured possession and He’s promised you eternal life. Jesus promises that you will live forever. Did you notice that in verse 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes HAS eternal life. Jesus is saying that eternal life is not just some pie in the sky when you die. He’s saying that eternal life is a current reality your eternal life is now.
And Jesus has promised that He’s going to raise you on the last day. On that great and glorious day when Christ returns, He’s going to raise your body to meet him in the sky.
Promises are great – some of the best words we share. And we do our best to keep our word.
But nothing compares to the promises Christ Jesus makes to us.
Jesus has Promised to love and cherish you, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and his promise doesn’t end at death. He’s promised to never leave you or forsake you. He’s promised to love you forever. Amen
First Reading - 1 Kings 19:1-8
Elijah had stood up to King Ahab and all of his prophets and prophetesses. But now Queen Jezebel threatened his life, vowing to kill the prophet since he had slaughtered all of her prophets. This not only shows how the stakes are increased when one's life is threatened, it illustrates the weariness and loneliness that comes in ministry when one does not rely upon the Lord in faith. Yet, God is merciful. He provides for his weary servants, drawing them back to faith, often with the simple means of basic sustenance. Even though Elijah ran into a sparse wilderness, God met his needs.
Psalm - Psalm 34:1-8
Though our very lives are threatened, we may exclaim with the psalmist, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” If run away to desolate places, even there we may proclaim that God delivers us from all of our fears. We must taste of his goodness to comprehend the refuge he provides through his patient mercies. Though this day is long and trying, God's mercies are refreshed in the morning. His steadfast love will sustain us forever. (Lam 3:23)
Second Reading - Ephesians 4:17-5:2
The old self is callous and corrupt, full of deceit and desire. Even though that old person in us was buried by God in the waters of baptism, it threatens to resurface and take control again. We are exhorted to put away and be finished with this former way of life. By daily repentance and confession, we put on the new self and are renewed in the spirit of our minds. The old way of life is gone. The new has come! (2 Cor 5:17) We now live as imitators of God in Christ.
Gospel - John 6:35-51
There are two equally bad choices that we might make. One is to look at the world, either with its temptations or its threats. The other is to look to oneself as the answer to these fears. Social media is rife with illustrations of Christians who put too much stock in the threats of the world. We need only look within to see the plethora of temptations. If we focus upon either the fear or our power to overcome them, we have lost the clarity of a Christlike mind. In short order, we will begin to grumble like the Hebrews in the wilderness and the Jews in Capernaum. Our focal point must remain in Christ alone. We must see him in the midst of trials and temptations—and continue to believe and trust. Everyone who looks on the Son and believes will be sustained eternally by him who is the Bread of Life.