Sermon – John 6.1-15 (Lent 4 – 2021)

To Be Citizens of His Kingdom

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You fed five thousand men in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish, showing that you nourish our bodies: We beseech You to nourish also our souls with Your gospel, that by the redemption of Your Son, we may be freed from sin, and be led with believers from every nation to our eternal inheritance by Your merciful Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.

 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.

 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,

 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”

 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

These are Your words, heavenly Father, sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

On Wednesday night, we focused on Jesus as King. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament kingly office. I’ll touch on that briefly.

But, today we will consider how Jesus becomes our king.

One of the themes of Jesus’ preaching was the kingdom of God. The first words that Mark records Jesus saying is, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Many of his parables began with, “The kingdom of God is like…” or “The kingdom of heaven is like…”

Jesus is the king of this kingdom. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). Plus, Jesus admits that He is king before Pilate. And Pilate was trying to determine if Jesus was a threat to Caesar’s rule.

Jesus is the King and He preached the kingdom of God. John’s gospel reading only speaks about the miracle Jesus performed, but Luke’s accounts speaks about what Jesus was doing before He multiplied the food. Luke records, “the [multitudes] followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.” He preached to them the kingdom of God.

After their bellies were full, they wanted Jesus as king, not understanding the kind of King Jesus is and what is the nature of His kingdom. Nor did they know the way of entrance into His kingdom. And so they sought to make Jesus king by force. But what did Jesus do? He did not let Himself be seized by them, and escaped to a mountain to avoid their plans.

It is clear that the crowd’s intentions to make Christ king were foolish. Yet there are many who attempt to seize Christ and make Him their king.

They claim Christ and claim citizenship in his kingdom. They might think that entrance is through external ways. Entrance into His kingdom is different than entrance into kingdoms of the world. To become a citizen of state you take residence in the state. To become a citizen of a nation you, by law, must either be born of a citizen, or go through the naturalization process and make an oath of citizenship before officials. But these methods are external. They do not take into consideration what lies inside, what is in the heart of the person. But Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual, heavenly kingdom, a kingdom of hearts and souls.

Outwardly, a person may regularly attend church. He may know and defend the doctrines of Scripture. He may be a fierce worker or defender in Church, fighting for the freedoms of Christians in the legislature, he might go to war for the freedom of religion, he might go to impoverished communities with church missions to do all sorts of works of charity and mercy. Yet, inwardly, if he remains impenitent, allowing sin to remain and rule him, if He does not believe that Jesus is his Savior from these sins, he remains outside of Christ’s kingdom. In such a heart, Christ has not established His throne, where He rules, guides, and sustains with His gospel. Such a person, though outwardly may seem to be among the number of believers, but they are like those about whom Jesus spoke, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!

They may want to be a citizen of the kingdom. They seek to seize Jesus and make Him their King. They claim Him as their own, and call themselves Christians. But all their external works come to nothing. They cannot enter the kingdom in such a way. Christ will not allow Himself to be seized by them.

And lest you become secure in your sins and take for granted your Christian faith, consider yourselves. Do you seek to enter the kingdom and seize Christ by your external works? You may deny yourself, do much for the church, stand side by side with Christians, yet you still live as children of the world, do not imagine yourself to have Christ as your King. If you do not have a heart where the sinful flesh is crucified and Christ rules, then you have nothing to show for your works. You may even claim to be baptized, hear the sermon, and take communion, but if you do not receive these gifts with a repentant heart that believes Christ’s forgiveness and salvation offered in these gifts, you are swine trampling on pearls. You are still outside. Christ will not be seized by you.

How frightening it is to be outside the kingdom, still under sin’s bondage and God’s wrath! But “do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Isn’t this what Jesus taught you to pray? “Thy Kingdom come.” He taught His Church to pray that because He wants you to have the kingdom. He wants you to be seized by Him with repentant and believing hearts.

He says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent…”. See your poor condition. Pray the Holy Spirit that He may help you see it more clearly. The people in the wilderness with Jesus were sick and hungry. They needed health and food. Their need was external. They easily saw that. Rather, see the internal need, which is not as easily noticed. See the sin that rules in your hearts the sin that hides and stubbornly sticks in the corners of your heart. Our hearts in their fallen state are deathly sick and empty of righteousness. Acknowledge it before the Lord.

And then He says “believe the gospel.” Believe the good news. What good news it was for the sick multitude that Jesus had health to give them. What good news it was for the hungry that Jesus had bread and fish for them. They only knew their need, and trusted in Jesus to provide for them. Yet, this didn’t give them the kingdom, nor did this make Jesus their King, because their minds were only on the external things, the temporal needs of their bodies.

But see the good news of who Jesus is. Jesus’ is the Physician for the desperate and sick soul, and He is the Bread of Life for the sinful soul who hungers for righteousness.

Jesus is the Physician of your soul. By His stripes you are healed. By His suffering and death, your sin is atoned for. Through faith in Christ, your heart is cleansed of every sin. So see your need, and see how He gave up His life to be your Savior. Trust in Him to heal you. Bring before Him your sins, even those hidden faults, and those stubborn sins that don’t easily stay away, and He removes them all from you! You are cleansed. You are healed!

He is the Bread of Life. In Him is full forgiveness, and the righteousness that justifies you before the Father. You poor souls, who see the hunger of your hearts, partake of the Bread of Life through faith. He gives you eternal life in His kingdom.

That is how He desires to be seized: through faith in Him. We bring nothing to the table. We do not seize Him by our works. But simply recognize your need in repentance, and believe in Christ who is your help and salvation. He is the Great Physician and the Bread of Life. He gave up His life unto death that He may be your gracious King, and that you may dwell in His kingdom.

And He gives you His Word, baptism, and the Sacrament that inwardly faith may be created and sustained, so that faith may from those same means of grace receive Christ with His healing and righteousness.

And thus Christ, your Physician and Bread of Life, comes to you through the gospel, is received by faith, and thus enters into your hearts, to establish His throne, rule in it as a king. And thus His rule inwardly, will also show through externally, as you live in this world, not as children of this world, but as children of God and citizens of His kingdom of righteousness and life. God grant this to us. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

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