First Lesson: 1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43
Responsive Reading: Psalm 84
Second Lesson: Ephesians 6: 10-20
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 56-69
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you a story this morning that we will not find in the history books. We know the “twelve disciples” in Andrew, Nathanael, James the Young, James the Old, John, Judas, Matthew, Jude, Peter, Phillip, Simon, and Thomas. What we maybe don’t know is that Jesus started out with way more than twelve disciples. What happened to these “other” disciples? These “lost” disciples one day came across a teaching of Jesus’ so radical that they were not willing to stay with him through thick and thin. I want to tell the story of these former disciples this morning.
You see Jesus wished to call all sorts of “disciples”. A little while back, Jesus called a couple of John the Baptist’s disciples in Andrew and Peter then Jesus went and picked up a couple of Galilean fisherman in Phillip and Nathanael. Jesus kept traveling to different places such as weddings and throughout all of Galilee along the way, Jesus kept making disciples. Jesus had just done something big, and I mean really big! Jesus had left a crowd of 5,000 people in awe as he fed them with five loaves of bread and two fish. The Feeding of the 5,000 would seem to be the event that would expand the ranks of the Disciples ten, no scratch that, a hundred fold, only it didn’t. What actually happened after the Feeding of the 5,000 is our Gospel lesson for today.
Jesus started to speak and people didn’t like what he had to say.
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”-John 6:56. The crowd immediately began to grumble as they were easily offended.-John 6:60-62.
You see people complaining about God are like people complaining about the weather or Joe Mauer. It’s the easiest thing that someone can do. Only on this day, Jesus was hearing that he was at the center of the people’s grumbles. The thing is that most people when they hear someone grumbling about them are quick to apologize for fear of offending others.
Jesus would not back down from his initial remarks instead he doubled down on his remarks. Not only was Jesus going to give his flesh to eat, but he was going to ascend to the right-hand of the Father. Jesus was going to give the same flesh to eat that he was soon about to give on a cross.
Why was Jesus offering his flesh so controversial?
You see plenty of people in the crowd that day thought they knew how God should work. The crowd that has previously surrounded Jesus as he fed the 5,000 loved his potential as a new Moses or David a unifying force for the whole nation to rise around. The crowd hoped that the feeding of the 5,000 was going to be the first of many miracles that were about to take place within their presence. They were looking for a messiah that would make them healthy, wealthy, and wise. A messiah that would roundhouse kick the Romans right off the holy ground. A messiah could not suffer, nor die. A messiah was supposed to be an invincible hero, a mixture of Superman, Samson, and Dirty Harry all rolled into one. Manly men like these guys don’t cry nor show weakness, men like these are always victorious. When Jesus started to speak though he didn’t offer the prosperity that they sought, Jesus rather offered suffering and death.
Jesus knew that this was going to be a problem. Jesus knew that as soon as he talked about the command to eat his flesh and drink his blood that many would fall away. Shortly after Jesus’ death, one of the greatest critiques of his followers was that they were nothing more than cannibals. They mocked them for making their worship service a celebration of receiving a dead guy’s body and blood. Jesus’ incessant talk about his flesh and blood was going to make people leave and they did. They marched their feet right out of his presence and vowed never to associate with this “flesh-eater” ever again.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”- John 6:66
The loss of so many disciples was one of the hardest days of Jesus’ ministry. Many of their closest friends were no longer going to surround Jesus’ remaining disciples. They were going to be twelve lonely men traveling all alone through the wilderness.
One evening Jesus approached the remaining twelve disciples. These men were in need of a pep talk. The remaining disciples were the team that just lost a game 63-0, they were the bride that had been stood up by the groom at the altar, or the father who had just watched his only son go off to war. Jesus knew that he needed to say something to the men that remained.
You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.-John 6:67
No one wished to be the first one to speak. Finally, Peter spoke up. Peter wasn’t a perfect guy by any means. Peter’s eventual denial wouldn’t stop Jesus though from later promising unto Peter that he would be the “rock” upon whom Christ would build his church. Jesus bestowed unto Peter an awesome promise as imperfect a vessel as Peter might be.
Upon being asked if he was getting ready to leave Jesus, Peter cleared his throat and began to speak. I imagine Peter sounding like the fourteen boy trying to muster up the courage to talk a girl for the first time.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”-John 6:68-69
As soon as the others heard Peter’s words they knew that they were a band of brothers who would stick together no matter what foxholes they might be required to crawl into going forward.
Jesus knew that this feeding of the 5,000 was not going to be the last time that he lost one of his disciples. For he knew one of the men who was still present with them, would soon betray him into the hands of the authorities. Jesus was still going to go forth bringing hope and salvation to the world, no matter how bleak the outcome may be. The Disciples were far from perfect men, but they were the kinds of men for whom Jesus was going to die.
The fact that Jesus was going to remain steadfast till the end reminds me of God’s promise to Abraham as he pleaded to save the Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gommorrah from certain destruction.
The Lord answered “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy them.” For the sake of one man, Christ Jesus would lose his life. Reminding us once again that God’s mercy will always be greater than any individual’s sin.
The story I told is the tale of the twelve lonely men known as Jesus’ remaining “disciples”. Their story does raise an interesting question for us this morning regarding what exactly happened to the former disciples? Were these men saved, only to at one point in time lose their salvation?
This morning is the fifth and final sermon in our Bread of Life discourse from John 6. This morning we consider the radical meaning of Communion. Communion is so radical that many of Jesus’ previous disciples abandoned him.
The men that abandoned Jesus had good reasons for doing so. These men knew the Old Testament well.
Genesis 9:4 “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
Deuteronomy 15:23 “But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.”
These men who abandoned Jesus were pious, religious men. Their story reminds me of the story of Cain and Abel. Abel was the good brother, the generous brother, and the holy brother. Abel was probably considered by Papa Adam and Mama Eve to be the better brother. Cain had heard his whole life “Why aren’t you more like your brother Abel”. So Cain finally snaps in a field one day. Cain kills Abel. We think we should know God’s response, only we don’t. God decided to put a mark of protection on Cain no matter how wicked his previous sins have been. God promised to walk alongside Cain no matter what other people thought God should do.
So what happened to the men that fell away as disciples? The issue with them isn’t that they betrayed or even abandoned Jesus. Each and every one of us leaves Jesus during our lives. We call this sin. The problem with the former disciples that left Jesus is that in the midst of their sin that they did not believe that God’s grace was big enough to save them.
Many people wonder whether one could lose their salvation. What if they commit an especially bad sin? The thing though about the Jesus claiming to be the “bread of life” is that it speaks to people who have their anxieties and doubts as they entertain the biggest questions of the Christian faith. Jesus in giving his supper seeks to assure people that their faith has made them well, regardless of their own self-examination.
The issue with the Lord’s Supper isn’t whether it is possible to fall away from the Christian faith. The issue with the Lord’s Supper is that it is given to us to let us know that we shall perverse no matter how nasty the conditions surrounding us shall be.
The words of 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These words begin to ring true when we consider thinking that it is our heavenly supper that sustains our faith in the darkest and most isolated of times.
“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,”-1st Corinthians 1:23
The thing about the Lord’s Supper is that it doesn’t matter whether it makes one lick of sense to us. We hear “flesh” “blood” “body” and we don’t want to begin to even attempt to sort it out. The thing about the truths of the Gospel is they probably won’t make sense to us. God’s promises are not conditional, but rather they are unconditional. The way that God truly does work as in the story of Cain and Abel is difficult for many of us to grasp. The thing about the Disciples who did stick around is they probably knew there was no one else to turn. The music chairs game that they were playing had seen every chair filled up. The remaining disciples had no other answers up to this point in their life. So they stayed with Jesus for the reasons that Peter says:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”- Amen
 John 1:35-42
 John 1:43-51
 John 2:1-12
 John 4:46-54, John 5:1-18 along with the previously mentioned Wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12) are the previous major signs in John’s Gospel.
 John 6:1-15
 John 6:56-69
 John 6:62
 Hylen, Susan.“Commentary on John 6:56-69”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 23 Aug.2015. Web. Aug.17.2009
 Peterson, Brian. “Commentary on John 6:56-69”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 23 Aug.2009. Web. Aug.17.2009
 Genesis 18:16-33
 Genesis 18:32b
 Background on the “lost disciples” given by Markquart, Edward. “Series B Gospel Analysis: John 6:56-69”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Aug.17.2015.
 Genesis 4:1-16
 Genesis 4:15
 John 6:68