What Miraculous Sign?

What Miraculous Sign?

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

you ever have the feeling that, no matter what you do, it’s just not good
enough to satisfy somebody? That no matter how hard you try, or even how much
you accomplish, it’s not going to matter? Maybe they’ll think you didn’t do
enough. Maybe they’ll think you didn’t do it right. Maybe they’ll just
complain that you didn’t do it the way they would have done it. I’m
sure you’ve all had this experience at some time during your life, probably
many times, even.

might have been a parent whose unreasonably high expectations always seemed to be
higher than you could achieve. Possibly, some particularly tough teacher at
some point in your schooling. Maybe a difficult supervisor or manager
someplace you worked.

even could have been a spouse, or child, or someone else close to you—someone you’d
hope would be reasonable, and tolerant, and have an understanding that you
couldn’t do everything, perfectly, right when they wanted it. I’ll bet, if you
think hard enough, or look back far enough, and can muster enough honesty
within your heart, you probably could even come up with a time or two that you
were the overly-demanding one.

you didn’t think so at the time. You probably thought you were being completely
reasonable. What you were asking wasn’t impossible, just difficult. Maybe it
caused someone to have to get outside their comfort zone, to try something that
was a little bit out of character. It might have even been good for them in
the long run, but they didn’t think so at the time.

the other hand, maybe you were just being difficult. Maybe you secretly hoped
the other person would fail, just so you could lord it over them. See them squirm
a little bit under the pressure you were applying. Show them who was in
control of the situation, or at least give that illusion—if only to yourself.

all had it done to us. Someone’s been demanding of you in spite of all you had
already done. And you’ve done it to others, too. You’ve been demanding of
them, regardless of how much they’d already done for you. Come on… you know
it’s true. Admit it!

yeah, that’s right. We already did admit it, back at the beginning of
the service, when we confessed our sins of thought, word, and deed. “But,
wait a minute,”
you say. “Didn’t I confess my sins against God back
then? Being overly demanding of others—that’s talking about my sins against my
neighbor, isn’t it?

yes, you’re right in a sense. We did confess to God that we’d sinned
against Him in thought, word, and deed. But you’re also wrong in another
sense. Because when you get right down to it, all sins, even those
against our fellow human beings, are breaking the First Commandment, the one
that says “you shall have no other gods.” Demanding somebody else do
something, unless it’s something that God has commanded they do for you—well, that’s
setting yourself up as God. That is most certainly breaking God’s Law.

though he’d caused great harm to many others with his selfish demands, David
had it right when he wrote in Psalm 51, “Against you, you only, have I
sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”

was certainly no stranger to having demands placed upon Him. Demands to heal.
Demands to speak. Demands for His time. Demands to tell people certain things
they wanted to know about. Demands to identify Himself, to give answers about
who He was and what He was doing, and by whose authority He was doing them.

In our gospel
lesson today, Jesus is once again faced with demands. First, a demand that He
account for His whereabouts: “Rabbi, when did you get here?” [2]
To this question, Jesus gives no direct answer. He’s not accountable to this
crowd. He’ll let others answer the question, “When did you get here?”

St. Paul answers it
well, in chapter 4 of his letter to the Galatians: “But when the time
had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to
redeem those under the Law, that we might receive full rights as sons.”


knows why they’re really looking for Him, of course. He’d just fed more
than 5,000 of them out of boy’s lunch of five barley cakes and two fish, and
they’d all eaten plenty! This Jesus fellow, He’s a pretty good meal ticket!
Let’s hang around with Him; he’ll make our lives a lot easier than really
working for a living.

calls them out on it: “you are looking for me, not because you saw
miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
He quickly points out that they should not come to rely on this food which
only temporarily satisfies their needs, and then is gone.

they ought to strive to obtain a more enduring gift: “Do not work for
food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of
Man will give you.”

offers to give—to freely give them—the food of eternal life. Yet, they
come up with another demand of Jesus, again demanding information: “What
must we do to do the works God requires?”
That is, what does God demand of us, Jesus? What’s the bottom
line here, God? We want eternal life; who doesn’t? There’s got to be
something special, some sort of secret, to receive such a tremendous blessing.
The crowd didn’t hear Jesus clearly. They didn’t catch that he had said, “which
the Son of Man will give you.”

We sometimes don’t
hear Jesus clearly, either. We get demanding of Him, and we expect Him to be
demanding of us as well. We sometimes doubt or question how, and when, and
where, and who He is, and why He came to where we are. But when we get
demanding of God, when we begin to question Him and insist that He justify
Himself to us, we’re treading on dangerous ground. He has every right to
bellow sarcastically back at us, as God did to Job questioned His reasoning: “Where
were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who
marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

But Jesus doesn’t berate
the crowd, in spite of their demands and their less-than-respectful tone. He
doesn’t place a huge list of demands on them—demands that would be impossible
for them to follow, demands that are impossible for us to follow, as well.

He simply says, “The
work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”
It’s as simple as that. Yet it is more profound than anything we could
possibly come up with on our own, much less been able to perform. Jesus offers
the key to eternal life, a simple key that requires nothing of us that God
Himself doesn’t provide to us. Yet they still aren’t satisfied: “What
miraculous sign will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will
you do?”

Jesus must have thought to Himself. “Are they kidding? What more do they
need to see?”
Just in this sixth chapter of John alone, we are told that “a
great crowd of people followed Him because they saw the miraculous signs he had
performed on the sick.”

And a short time
later, after He had fed them all with the five loaves and two fish, we read, “After
the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely
this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

What more did they
need to see? What more could possibly convince them that He was the one sent
by God? It truly is as St. Paul would write years later: “Jews demand
miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a
stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

Like the crowds
who tracked down Jesus because they had their own motives and their own
demands, we sometimes demand miraculous signs, too: A spectacular event that gives
us an overwhelming feeling of God’s presence. A direct communication that
ensures us that God is truly God, and that we are truly saved.

And sometimes we
want wisdom: A Savior who makes sense. One who gives us something we can
comprehend. One who assigns a list of chores we can complete, so we can check
them off and say, “There, got them all; now I’m sure I’m saved.”

But God doesn’t
work that way. He doesn’t have to respond to our demands. And in spite of the
fact that we can’t possibly meet His demands, He comes to us anyway, to meet
our most pressing needs. He gives us our daily bread, the forgiveness of our
trespasses, the ability to forgive others. And, yes, even the ability to be
less demanding of others. He gives us the strength to withstand that
particular temptation—and all others—if we look to the cross of Jesus and trust
in it alone.

Jesus meets our every
need—not with the miraculous signs that some demand, but with water and word
that washes us clean and adopts us as His own. With the simple words, “I
forgive you all your sins.” With bread and wine that convey the body and blood
of Christ, the bread of God and the Bread of Life that came down from heaven to
give life to the world.

In Christ, God
does not satisfy your demands. Instead, He heals your deepest wounds, through
the wounds He suffered for you. The wounds He willingly suffered. The wounds
that should have been yours.

Eventually, the
crowd by the lake that day seems to realize what we so often fail to
acknowledge: That we need more than the perishable bread that keeps us going
from day to day; bread that will, in time, spoil and no longer satisfy.

Finally, their
tone becomes more respectful; more earnest; less demanding: “Sir,” they
said, “from now on give us this bread.”
No longer a demand, but a request. A plea. A change of heart: from now on,”
they ask. To those that believe in the one God has sent, Jesus does exactly
that: From now on, wherever the Church is—wherever the Gospel is purely
preached and the sacraments are properly administered—Jesus gives His people
the bread of life: the forgiveness of your sins, the salvation of your
immortal soul, and eternal life in the joy of heaven.

Whether He is
providing the temporal gifts that sustain us physically, or the spiritual gifts
that uplift us and keep us firm in the faith, none of the blessings we receive from
our Lord and Savior are because of our own doings. They are not the work of
men, any more than the food which fed the Israelites in the desert was the work
of Moses.

Instead, all our
blessings come upon us from the generous hand of our heavenly Father, who views
us not as the ungrateful, demanding sinners that we are, but rather sees us in
the righteousness of Christ. It was He who thanked His Father without
fail. It was He who humbled Himself in complete obedience.

This, then, is the
work of God: To believe in the one He has sent—His only-begotten Son, Jesus
Christ. A crucified God may be a stumbling block to those who demand
miraculous signs, and foolishness to those who demand wisdom, but He is the
power of God and the wisdom of God, to save those who believe on His name. Let
us not be demanding of God, lest He be demanding of us. Instead, come humbly
and thankfully to this altar this day, to receive the food that endures to
eternal life. Come to Christ and never hunger; believe in Christ and never
thirst. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 51:4

John 6:25

Galatians 4:4-5

John 6:26

John 6:27

John 6:28

John 6:27

Job 38:4-5

John 6:29

John 6:30

John 6:2

John 6:14

1 Corinthians 1:22-23

John 6:34