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How to Serve Man
by Pastor Mike Blitz
based on John 6:22-35

I took the title from my very favorite Twilight Zone episode of that name this morning, because it shows a humorous picture of how efforts for perfection in this world, without God, end up in some other direction than we intended. I don’t know if many of you remember that episode, but in short:

A race of extremely nice and cuddly aliens come to earth, appear at the UN, and announce that they have come to help mankind to overcome all of the problems that the human race has. Some people are suspicious of the aliens, especially the two main characters, but most people go along with it.

After hunger and war are erased, there is peace in the world, and everyone is well taken care of. And most people, of course, end their suspicions. Later the two characters find a book by the aliens entitled How to Serve Man, which also puts their mind at ease, despite it being written in the alien language on the inside.

The aliens later set up an exchange program with the humans, bringing people by the tens of thousands to their home world, and bringing many aliens to earth. The movie ends with a neat punch line. The two men are getting on the alien ship, and the one man looks to the other, and says he has finally been able to translate the rest of the book, How to Serve Man. It was, as some of you guessed, a Cook Book. Of course the aliens wanted us nice and plump and safe. Better eating that way!

By our own powers, strengths, abilities, man has constantly tried to better life on earth, and whenever we rely on our own power and strength, we end up leading others into death behind us.

Sometimes we trust in others. Others whom we shouldn’t trust in the slightest, and like in that fictional tale, those roads lead to death also.

One real example of that took place at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. There, moved by what they called the zeit geist, philosophers and theologians decided to throw out Christianity as it was received, and re-invent thought under the belief that modern man has evolved now to the pinnacle of what we can do.

We are smarter, better, stronger than Jesus, and others of that ancient time, and we can remake society in a humanistic idea of perfection in body and in thought. From this, we got the Nazi’s, who took purity of race and thought to mean the obliteration of all others. This may have been extreme, but not new, and from all time, whenever man strives of his own power, and trusts in his own depraved intellect and ability, efforts lead to death.

A third choice is given to us in the Sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel of those who follow Jesus wrongly. Hey, they followed him. Physically. But Jesus says that their attempts to follow him are worthless because they don’t recognize him for who he is, and they followed him for the wrong reasons.

There are two scandals in the Gospel reading from this morning, both having a bearing on each other, and on us as we, as Christians, seek to understand our abilities and our infirmities. So far, in the first lesson in this “scandalous” chapter, we have seen, to the modern mind, the scandal of the miraculous, and the scandal of Jesus’s words not fitting into the grids which man lays down for him to fit into, versus our needs to accept Him at His word for who he is, and not Who we want him to be.

Last week we saw another scandal, one which will be part also of what we look at today. Last week, we saw Christ rejecting those who come to Him. For some, that boggles their mind, and so they either try to ignore it, or explain it away. But the rejection is important, because it states terms of approach to God that we will look at again today, and next week, and for the next ten years or so.

The people this week asked Christ two questions: 28. What may we do that we may work the works of God? 30. What sign do you do that we may see and believe thee? What Work do you do?

And actually, I would like to look at them in reverse order. The first thing that that question probably brought to your mind when you hear them ask what sign do you do is the same first thing that it brings to my mind. Uh…Weren’t you there yesterday when all this stuff went down??

Weren’t you there and weren’t you the ones who had your bellies filled by the loaves and fish?? And the answer is, of course yes. So what was it that they were asking and implying, and what does that tell us about ourselves.

First, this is part of the constant comparison with Moses that permeates this chapter. Moses, at least according to the people here, fed the Israelites, millions of them for 40 years. If Christ is better than Moses, then certainly he can do better miracles, maybe feed them better food for much longer???

Christ rebukes their point on several counts. First of all, Moses didn’t do anything, but rather God did it all, which is clearly one of the themes of this chapter. God performed the miracle, says Christ, which fed the people temporally, and then the Father sent Him, Christ, to be the True food for the people, the one upon who’s feeding brings life eternal.

Second, Christ sees through their sin, and, as he refuses to respect those who have come to him, because they came on their own terms, Here he also refuses to grant their request, because even in granting their request, he would not help them in their faith, as a true faith.

One of the neat things in the Bahnson debate tape with an atheist that Jay Holston gave me, was the atheist’s statement that he would accept as proof of the existence of God his podium levitating with no strings attached. Immediately I wanted to shout at him exactly what Greg Bahnson later said to him, that he wouldn’t really accept, but later on down the line he would figure out some way to explain it away, because he wasn’t really looking for faith.

The atheist, as we do so often, relied on himself and his own wisdom. Which brings us to the next question from verse 28.

Here the people ask “What must we do to be doing the works of God.” In the Greek line there you have “doing” emphasized 3 times. In a sense, they are asking “What must we be doing to be doing the doings of God?” They are thinking that it all depends on their doings, their works. Jesus answers them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom he has sent.”

He is telling them here not to trust in their own selves, in their own works. The Lord is going to do some wondrous things and you people are simply going to have to accept them, and if you don’t accept them, and you do everything possible to do on your own power, you are going to miss altogether what he has to offer.

In verse 37, Christ says that the way in which they are to come to Him is that the Father brings them to Him. In verse 40 and 41, Christ says “For this is the will of my Father that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” The Jews then murmured at him because He said I am the bread which came down from heaven.

They said is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know. How can He now say I have come down from heaven. This is another of the great scandals of this chapter, which centers on the divinity of Jesus.

There is no way for human reason to ever reach the conclusion that God became Man. That’s just something that lies beyond the realm of human reason alone. It goes beyond sense experience and scientific experimentation. In other words, if Jesus, as he came to earth in the incarnation, were to walk into this room, and you were to conduct scientific experiments on him, measuring him, testing him with your senses, there would be nothing about him which would indicate that He is THE GOD, the creator of the universe.

So on the one hand the fact that Christ is God and man tells us the limits of our own intellect and our own common sense. On the other hand the scandal of God becoming man also humiliates us.

Because our sinful nature so often tends to lead us to believe that we can save our society, and ourselves with a little help from our divine friend. In other words, if we have better education, if we have better legislation, transportation, if we just run our government more wisely, then everything we really need deep down will be provided.

Deep down we consciously understand something humiliating when we hear a Gospel that says the only way we can be saved is for God to become man. Well that’s humiliating, but if God only became man to instruct us better in the ways of good government and education, that might not be so humiliating. It may be problematic but it wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem.

But the Gospel goes a lot farther. It says, “NO!” You guys can’t save yourselves; in fact you can’t even save yourselves with God just helping you. God became man not just to help you, instruct you, and guide you but the only way for you to be saved is for God to become man and then die. He has to die because your sins have so corrupted you that there is no possibility of you saving yourselves, there is no possibility of you even working a deal with God that he will come down and make the teachings a little clearer, so you will work a little harder and save yourselves.

It isn't a 50/50 proposition. God has to do everything and before we can even begin to do a single work that pleases Him, God has to completely fill us with his own life and his own power. So when verse 29 says “This is the work of God that you believe in Him, whom he has sent.” recognize that merely natural human belief is not enough.

Back in chapter 2 vs. 23 we read many believed in his name when they saw the signs he did, but Jesus would not believe himself to them. So merely natural human belief is not what Chapter 6 vs. 29 is talking about. The only way for us to be saved is for God to become Man, and then die and then rise and then pour out his Holy Spirit to completely give us a new nature. His own nature. Anything less just won’t do.

And that is insulting. It is an insult to the intelligence to say that this 33 year old Palestinian Jew, this Galilean, is the eternal all powerful creator and sustainer of the universe. It is a slap across the face to our intellect and any claim our minds may have of sufficiency in and of themselves in the realm of reality.

But then to make to make matters worse, to add insult to injury, the Lord says, it is not enough for me simply to become one of you, you need to rip me to shreds. I have to let you crucify me. And even then, you are not going to wake up.

“apart from me, you can do nothing.” “On your own, you are incapable of doing what I made you for.”

You are not really going to be saved until I fill you with my nature, not just in a spiritual, ethereal misty sort of way, but it isn’t until you are done eating my flesh and drinking my blood that you will be sufficiently filled with my nature for you to finally be saved.

This is what Peter speaks about in Second Peter 1:4 when he speaks about becoming partakers of the divine nature. If you have a Bible with you turn to that, and we will come back to that in a second. Adam and Eve have given us a legacy, a lethal legacy of spiritual death, ignorance, weakness, sin, and Defilement to their progeny. All of us as offspring of Adam need to be united to a new family, a new covenant and new Adam.

That is how Paul describes Christ in Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15. A new Moses, a new Adam, a New Covenant, a new family, which means new Flesh and Blood, which means that you all have to get out of the Trap known as the Human Race. Adam’s family. Think of the old TV show. The Adams Family. A bunch of lovable monsters. Well that is what Adam’s family is in reality. A bunch of lovable monsters. And we have got to yolk ourselves to become part of the family of God.

But in Christ, says Peter, he has given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the DIVINE NATURE.

If you remember from our Thursday night study on the Lord’s Supper, we spoke about the ideas of what a nature is, which laid the background not only to the writing of the Creeds, but even for the New Testament writers. A nature is something external to us, a universal, which we are partakers of through our birth.

In the Fall, in Adam, all of human nature is corrupted. It was not just those two who ended up guilty, but all of human nature has been depraved and corrupted, and we all by birth are partakers of a fallen, sinful and depraved nature.

BUT IN CHRIST, who recapitulated, who lived through all the life that we lived through except, as Hebrews says, without sin, we are given a new nature. In Him, we are BORN, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, our will, our efforts, but of God!

And we are born into Christ’s nature. We become partakers of his Body and Blood. As we come to His table this morning, we seek Him, not as the crowd sought him on their terms, for their ends, but we follow and obey Him, that we may receive and be partakers of His flesh and blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His body, and that our souls may be washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us. Amen.