Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:35-51 (ESV)
Who chooses God’s people? Many of us have probably experienced Christian traditions that teach such ideas as, “you have to ask Jesus into your heart,” or pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to become a Christian. These prayers aren’t exactly wrong, but the emphasis in these traditions is on us humans- on our decisions and our fickle emotions rather than on the sovereignty and omnipotence of God. The end result of such teaching is often doubt and despair. How can we know we are really children of God? How many times can we pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” or stay awake nights wondering what we can do to be good enough for God, or wondering if Jesus really is in our hearts? Unless we know that our faith is a gift given by God to us, we will have that lingering sense of inadequacy that comes from knowing we can’t be good enough to earn our way into God’s favor and salvation.
It is truly Good News when Jesus reveals to us in John’s Gospel that He is the eternal Bread of Life. It is the Father Who draws us to Jesus through the means of grace- through preaching of the Word (Romans 10:17,) through the waters of baptism, and in the Body and Blood given in Holy Communion.
When we look at the history in Scripture, we discover that all along that God does the calling, and the choosing. God created Adam and Eve from the dirt of the ground. (Genesis 1-2) God chose Jonah to go to Nineveh to tell the people to repent, even though Jonah didn’t want to. Jonah even tried to go the other way but failed miserably. God wanted Jonah to go, and God made sure Jonah went! (Jonah 1-4) God chose David to be king of Israel over his older, taller and more formidable brothers. (1 Samuel 16:1-13) God chose the Pharisee Saul- a murderer of Christians- by knocking him off his high horse and transforming him into the apostle Paul who wrote a good deal of the New Testament. (Acts 9:1-18.)
The fact that God chooses His people is good news. Our salvation and status as children of God have nothing to do with our feelings or our behavior. God is the one doing the acting- specifically Jesus by His death for us on the Cross. We are the ones being acted upon.
When a child is conceived the child had nothing to do with that process or with that decision. No person has come into being by asking their parents to make it happen! When a child is adopted it is still the parents making the choice, not the child. The same can be said for us when we become children of God. God is the one putting the means of grace out there- by sending His people out preaching the Word, by bringing children (and adults) to the font for baptism, and bringing His people together at the table for Holy Communion.
We cannot make anyone a Christian anymore than we can turn someone into a car by having him or her sit in a garage. However, we are called to preach His Word, whether through direct teaching or teaching indirectly through our vocations. As we serve God as parents, grandparents, friends and mentors, we will spread God’s Word. God is the One Who does the work. Even when we don’t see results, how are we to know the way the Holy Spirit will use our witness?
When we hear God’s Word preached we are reminded Who is the object of our faith: Jesus. We remember that as we read Scripture and as we hear preaching and teaching on Scripture that God is speaking to us.
When we are reminded of our baptism- as we pray in the morning and evening (or even in the shower) and when we take hold of the promises God gives in baptism in times of trial, we can take tangible confidence in saying: We are baptized, named and claimed as Jesus’ own.
When we come together at the communion table, we share in the real Body and Blood of Jesus, Who died to save us from our sins.
God chooses us. Jesus finished the work of our salvation on the Cross.