Summary: The text from John Chapter 6 is the Gospel Reading for Year B for the Sunday between August 21 and 27 inclusive. The themes are believing and eternal life.
“BELIEVING, THE WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE!”
--by R. David Reynolds
Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, tells this story in his sermon, “Your Ever After Heaven”: “If you ever get the opportunity to visit Egypt and the tombs and pyramids, study what was required to construct some of those monuments. Some of the studies revealed that it required the efforts of one hundred thousand workers for forty years to build one of the great pyramids. As you tour the area there, you can’t help but ask why. Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb, on the afterlife?
“The answer is that the Egyptians understood full well they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life. Granted, some of their conceptions of what would happen in the afterlife were a little skewed. But the point is, they understood to the core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life, and so they prepared for the afterlife during this life. God had placed eternity in their hearts.” (--Bill Hybels, “Your Ever After: Heaven,” Preaching Today, Tape 34.)
Sixty-five percent of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John is Jesus’ discourse and testimony, I am the Bread of Heaven.” The word “believe” is a key word in the Gospel of John. It appears a total of 99 times. In fact, that is the theme of the Fourth Gospel as stated in John 20:31, “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” The purpose of this Gospel is two fold: (1.) That we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and (2.) That believing we might have life in His name. Our text today bears witness to these eternal truths.
All three Persons of the Trinity play a part in our Salvation. The Father sent us Jesus, and Jesus lives because of the Father, and by believing in Jesus we live as well. Not only do the Father and Jesus give us life; we see in verse sixty-three that the Holy Spirit is “The Lord the Giver of life” : “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” I believe in the Living God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who give us life; but how is that relevant to us today, and how can I experience the eternal life that Jesus came to bring?
Believing is the Way to eternal life. The words faith and believe are one and the same in Greek. Faith is a name; believe is a verb, an action word; and John’s Gospel is a Gospel of action. He is always calling us to believe in Jesus. To believe is to trust. To believe in Jesus means I place my confidence for eternal life in Him and Him alone! It means I rely on Him, and not my own good works and self righteousness, for eternal life! It means I depend upon His promise of forgiveness that “If I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).” To believe in Jesus means I commit my life to Him as my Lord. To believe in Jesus for eternal life means that I acknowledge that He is indeed the Son of the Living God and entrust everything I am to Him! I accept His Words, “which are spirit and truth,” and totally obey them as my “way of life.”
In John’s Gospel to believe means that I actively and continually trust in Jesus. It is a total, absolute commitment of myself to Him as my Lord. To believe in Jesus means I commit my life to Him to take care of me forever. To believe in Jesus means I give up all desire for personal power! It means I stop thinking and that somehow my own self righteousness will win my way into heaven. It means I acknowledge with Isaiah that “all my righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). I confess with Paul , “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and admit the all includes me. To believe in Jesus means I accept the fact that only “His blood can cleanse me from my sin.”
Christine Dente of the Contemporary Musical Duo OUT OF THE GREY expresses so well what it means to believe in Jesus for eternal life: “Scott and I are dedicated to pursuing the Lord and His Word in a very God-centered sense, rather than a self-centered sense. Faith is Jesus is based on facts—that fact that Jesus came, died, and rose again; not that He makes me feel good or that He’s healed me from a hard life. Those are all the fringe benefits. The fact is, He is God, and He is to be worshiped, and we need a Saviour because we are all sinners.”