No Climbing Necessary

Text:  John 6:35-51

To Him who loves us and has washed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Jesus said, ““I am the bread of life, I have come down from heaven.”  In other words, food for the soul does not originate or come from life under the sun—that is to say, from this life in the veil of tears—but rather, it comes down from heaven to us.   Furthermore, the bread of heaven is a ‘person.’  Yes, a person who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.  This person is none other than Jesus Christ.  He comes down to give of Himself because we cannot ascend to Him.

With that said, it seems to me that much of our life is about us doing and us trying to overcome a problem or an obstacle in life. 

When a friend ends up in critical condition in the ICU, we typically say that they are fighting an uphill battle.  In other words, an uphill battle is a fight for life when the odds are stacked against them or where there is going to be tension, work, effort, and a ton of doctoring involved. 

When I used to visit my grandfather he would tease me and tell me how great I had it. He would tell me about the days when he was growing up with the hard farm work, the drought in the 30’s, the great depression, and then he would tell me how he had to walk to school uphill both ways.  According to him, life seemed to always be an uphill battle. 

Otherwise stated, when it comes to making it in life on the farm, in manufacturing, or in a business, the road to success runs what?  It runs uphill. 

What is consistent with all of life is that life seems to be an uphill fight.  It seems that we constantly have to climb, overcome, and reach for victory.  With the challenges of work and life, everything has an uphill battle.  This is the reason why the average person becomes angry when things seem to come so naturally for the guy who just has everything delivered on a silver platter and never seems to work for it.  It just seems too easy.

So, it is very natural for us to come to Christianity with the same mentality.  In other words, often times we place the ideology of having to go uphill upon Christianity and then as a result we get tied up into this mindset that it is up to us to climb spiritually speaking to reach God.

So we climb—upward and onward—trying to become more and more moral through pulling ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps.  Through our will, emotions, and minds we attempt to reach high to fulfill our potential where we will supposedly find eternal bliss, peace, and harmony.  We think to ourselves, “If God is above, all will be better if we can just expend strenuous effort to ascend to Him!” 

Approaching Christianity this way sees God as some sort of treasure that must be discovered, earned, and acquired through our own efforts and climbing. 

The problem with this idea of us ascending to God though is that it honestly doesn’t work.  Are our wills strongest enough to make it to the top?  If so, how will we know if we have given it our all and have summited? Are we emotionally stable enough to make the climb?  If so, how will one know if our mystically experience is genuine enough once we supposedly reach the top?  Are our minds strong enough for the upward journey?

Dear friends, if it is up to us to ascend and go uphill in our spirituality, there will always be one more step to climb, one more degree of spirituality to accomplish, and we will never have assurance.  No matter how hard we try, we can never ascend high enough, we can never be perfect enough, we can never pray enough, or work enough to reach up to God.   He is too high, too perfect, and too grand for us.  Martin Luther once said, “No wisdom, smartness, shedding of blood, giving of alms, or whatever else the human race may contrive in its [cleverness,] piety, or holiness will aid in arriving at this doctrine or salvation in Christ. It is written that no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him.

You see, Jesus Christ turns the tables on us.  Yes, He flips everything around.  In our Gospel reading from this morning we hear how Jesus fought a downhill battle to come to us.  Jesus does not call us to ascend to get the bread of life, rather He shares that the bread of life comes down from heaven to us.  To you and to me!

Sometimes the best thing that can happen to you and me is for us to fail and give up spiritually speaking.  Otherwise stated, we can get so busy trying to be good pastors, good parents, good workers, good students, good church-goers, and good citizens for God that we get tied up into wrongly thinking that we need to do all this huffing and puffing in order to ascend to God or purchase His approval for salvation.  We end up doing good works in order to be forgiven, rather than doing good works because we already are forgiven.  In other words, we can get so busy trying to earn the bread of heaven in the church and community, as well as trying to justify ourselves before God, that we fail to realize two things. 1) That we can never be that perfect pastor, parent, student, worker, church goer, and citizen; we can’t ascend high enough and 2) That we do not need to ascend, because Jesus came down for you and for me. 

This is why Scripture says in the Gospel of Matthew the fifth chapter, “Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are those who hunger and thirst.”  Blessed are those that know that they cannot ascend to God, for they receive the Kingdom of God that has descended to them.

Simply stated, Jesus came down to us because we cannot ascend to Him.  We cannot ascend to the bread of life!  We cannot climb high enough; we cannot purchase Christ; we cannot barter for forgiveness; we cannot obtain eternal life by our will, intellect or emotions, it is that simple.  Quit your climbing.  Rather, the bread of life descends to you and me as gift.

So, God comes down to us because we can’t ascend to him.  But why?  He comes to us for the purpose of wanting to feed us and grant us forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

Dear Baptized Saints, Christ Jesus your Messiah and Redeemer was sent to this world because God so loved the world; He loved you.  Otherwise stated, the whole purpose of Jesus being born in the manger; the whole purpose of Jesus living His life here on earth; the whole purpose of the miracles; the whole purpose of the cross; the whole purpose of the suffering; the whole purpose of His death; the whole purpose of the resurrection; the whole purpose was for you.  The mission of Jesus was for you; the love of Jesus is for you; God’s plan of salvation is for you; the gift of the Holy Spirit coming in the water, the word, the bread, and the wine is for you!  Jesus came down for you and He comes to you and me in and through His Word to feed us the message of the Gospel. A message that announces forgiveness, grants us life, strengthens our faith… right here and right now.  Christ Jesus lived, died, and rose for you; for the forgiveness of your sins.  You are redeemed!

That is the whole purpose of our Divine Services.  You come to Zion Lutheran Church not to ascend to God but to hear, receive, and be fed by a the Lord who comes to you in His Word and Sacraments.

But you may be saying to yourself, my sin is just too terrible.  My sin is just too deep, too nasty, to grotesque to even think of or mention.  My friends, no sinner has fallen so low that the power of the Gospel cannot reach him or her.  Christ died for every single sin the world has ever known on the cross. No sin was left out, not even those hiding with the skeletons in your closet.

It gets better though.

Jesus comes down to us for the purpose of raising us up on the last day.  Permit me to share a story to illustrate what I mean. 

There was a pastor who was teaching confirmation and he put a drawing upon the board.  As he drew he talked about how in the beginning at creation everything was great. Then he talked about how sin entered the world and then drew a big chasm between God and man.  Then he asked what God did.  The kids said, “He sent Jesus and the cross became a bridge between God and man.”  And then he asked, “Right on!  What happens next?”  Several of the students responded, “After God gives us a bridge we simply walk across.”  The pastor was about to move on, that is until a girl with some physical and mental handicaps raised her hand and said, “Pastor, you are wrong.  We don’t walk across, oh no we don’t, for Jesus comes across and picks us up and carries us home.”  The Pastor in the story said that he encountered one of the greatest theologians he has ever seen, a 13 year old mentally and physically handicap girl.

 “Pastor we don’t walk across, Jesus comes across and picks us up and carries us home.”  Good news indeed. 

Jesus comes down to give Himself to us.  He comes to mankind for the cross. He comes to you in the Word and Sacraments to give you everything that He accomplished on that cross, so that you might believe and have eternal life.  And then He promises that He will raise you up and take you to Himself at the end of the age.    

He comes down to feed you and give you life; He promises to take you home.  He promises to raise you up to Him at the last trumpet.  He who came for you will come again and carry you home.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

CLICK HERE to join in the conversation on Facebook.
CLICK HERE to follow on Twitter.
CLICK HERE to Subscribe to Sermons on iTunes.
CLICK HERE to Subscribe to Sermons on Podbean.