August 12, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“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.”
Jesus’ words reveal His purpose in coming to the world: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” He comes one sent with a particular purpose. So what is Jesus’ assignment? What is the task that Jesus has been given? And just who was it that sent Him? This is what Jesus discloses: “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.” The task is to bring salvation. The will of the Father who sent Jesus is that people would look at His Son and believe in Him. Jesus’ purpose is to bring all who have been given to Him to the blessed end of life everlasting, losing none along the way.
Jesus’ words also reveal the character of His Father in heaven. The Father is benevolent, caring, desirous of good, protecting, and gracious. This had been revealed in the events of Israel’s history. The chronicles of what the Hebrew people experienced shows a string of actions that the Lord performed for them, acts that brought them deliverance and restoration. This was not always evident, as you heard with the plight of Elijah, one of the Lord’s prophets: “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”
Elijah’s flight into the wilderness is done after facing the greatest degree of opposition. He had done as the Lord commanded, showing the Lord’s supremacy over Baal to His Covenant People who had fallen into apostasy. By this act—the consuming of the sacrifice offered to the Lord, while the sacrifices to Baal went untouched—Elijah was meant to awaken the people out of their state of idolatry, calling them back to the Lord. But what did this bring Elijah? It brought him opposition from the royal house of Israel, death threats from the queen.
In the face of that opposition, Elijah wanders off to the wilderness, seeking an end to his life: “He asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree.” But the Lord’s character is shown in what He does for His beleaguered prophet: “And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” Elijah was not to be lost from the Lord’s hand. The Lord’s will for him was to sustain his life, to bring him to completion of his task, and to lead him to life everlasting. And no threat from anyone, even the pagan queen of Israel, would keep that from happening.
This same will is revealed by what Jesus says and does. It is not just an Old Testament thing from a long time ago. Jesus states that He is meant to do the same: “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.” Jesus acknowledges that He has a people who have been given to Him by His Father in heaven. They have been entrusted to His care. And the will that Jesus has come to fulfill is that none of these entrusted to Him will be lost, but will be raised up at the last day.
So who are these people who have been entrusted to Jesus? Perhaps some of you might think it’s the company of apostles whom Jesus called to Himself. That is a correct answer, but it is incomplete. Jesus’ words give the complete answer: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out…. 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…. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Those who have been given to Jesus’ care are not just a small number of apostles or a group of about 500 or so followers who were with Him at the time of His resurrection. No, it is everyone who has been drawn by the Father to believe in His Son. They are the ones promised to have eternal life, to be raised up on the last day.
This is the definition that describes you. You are here because of your belief in Jesus’ identity, in His words and works. You have been called to be followers of Jesus, recipients of His gifts and merits. You have been given to know about what Jesus has said and done to bring forgiveness, life, and salvation to you—“assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him,” as the apostle writes. You have been granted a new identity, as the Father has drawn you to faith in His Son, “the bread that came down from heaven” to be the source of your life.
You have been transformed by the Holy Spirit who makes known what the Son has done in completing His Father’s will: living perfectly, obeying all the commands that have been placed on humanity, offering Himself as “a fragrant offering and sacrifice,” rising from death to be the source of eternal life. So you have “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” This is what happened for you in your baptisms, as the Holy Spirit was granted to you. It is what happens as you receive the divine words, as Jesus testifies: “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.”
But that transformation is not totally complete. You wait for the day of your own resurrection, when you shall be graciously taken from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. Until that day, you are present among all sorts who want nothing to do with the Father’s will. You have your own sinfulness that arises and makes itself known in your own sins: “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice.” Around you are those “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” There is the pagan monarch, the ruler of this world, who is a liar and murderer, seeking your harm. Encountering these things, the same thought that entered Elijah’s mind runs through yours: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
So how does the Lord answer? He answers with the news of what His Son has done: “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.” The Son has offered Himself for you. He gave Himself up for you, “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” that atones and absolves your sin. He has risen victorious from the grave, routing that dreadful enemy. Jesus is no dead source, but “the living bread that came down from heaven” instead.
But the Father’s answer does not end with the news of what His Son has accomplished for you. No, He provides something else. He says to you: “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” The food He provides is not from the baker, no cake baked on hot stones, but rather the bread from heaven that is placed in your mouths from this altar. The flesh that His Son gave for the life of the world is given to you: the bread that endures to eternal life. This is what sustains you in your time of trouble in this world. It is what you are given as the Lord’s answer to your plight. It is given to you because the Father’s will completed by His Son is that He “should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day.”
So you come here where that bread from heaven is found. You come to eat, so that you may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for your sin, and also learn from Him to love God and your neighbor. You come because of the command, encouragement, and promise that are given. You come because you have been drawn by the Father to believe in the Son and His promise: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”
Eating in faith what is offered by the benevolent, caring, and gracious Father, you will be raised up by the Son on the last day. It is the Father’s will for you, the will that the Son has fulfilled, the will that the Holy Spirit makes known to you: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, He will live forever.” So you will make the same confession as the Psalmist: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.