Things to Do in Austin
Google's newsfeed for Austin has "Things to Do in Austin" every week sometimes multiple times a week. When I see this I think, "Do people really go here to find out what to do in Austin?" Well if you're wondering about things to do in Austin, I have some suggestions based on our text, but you won't like where I start.
I'm starting where Jesus and a 1995 movie did. There is a 1995 movie titled "Things to Do in Denver when You're Dead." This is where Jesus starts and we need to as well. Jesus tells the grumbling Jews that the reason they were unbelieving was they weren't dead. The insert, and most translations, have Jesus saying, "No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him." No, it's "no one can come to Me unless the Father drags him." The word Jesus uses denotes drawing a dead weight such as Peter dragging a net load of fish to shore. There is a Greek word for "draw" but it's never used for being attracted to Jesus.
There are important things to do in Austin, but first you need to be dead. This is what Jesus is saying because He finishes the sentence that starts with dragging a person to the Son with "and I will raise him up on the last day." But the resurrection Jesus gives doesn't wait till the last day. A few sentences later Jesus says the One who has been dragged to faith in Him by the Father has, present tense, everlasting life. But that life starts with you being dead for only the dead can be dragged by the Father to Jesus.
And you are dead, if you believe what Scriptures say. By nature, that is as you come into this world naturally, Scripture says you are dead in your sins. Dead, not wounded. Dead, not sick. Dead, not half dead. Don't be zombies; don't be dead and not even know it. Don't be vampires; dead and think this is life. Be dead for then Jesus can raise you. Be dead for then you don't look for any life in you. Be dead for then you stop grumbling.
Our text only gives one side of the discussion among the Jews. It says the Jews "began to grumble about Jesus because He said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." Some believed that and were arguing for it because Jesus says, "Stop grumbling among yourselves." He explains why it is useless to argue someone in or grumble about their not being in the faith: "No one can come to Me unless the Father drags Him." Those grumbling against Him weren't dragged as dead weight because they weren't dead yet. They were alive and kicking in their thoughts, their opinions, their idea of what was life.
So the first thing you can do in Austin when you're dead is stop grumbling. This is the onomatopoeic Greek word: gon-gu'-zo. You don't need to know Greek to realize that it bespeaks sullen, dark, discontentment. This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the grumbling of the Old Testament Church in the wilderness against Moses, Aaron, and the Lord.
What they are specifically grumbling about in our text is who Jesus is. "How can this Man have come down from heaven? Isn't this Jesus the Son of Joseph whose father AND MOTHER we know?" Put "and mother" in all caps because that's their point. They don't just know Jesus as the supposed son of Joseph; they know His mother, the one who came back pregnant from visiting relatives. This Jesus can't have come from heaven because His history is even more earthy than most. Hah! Imagine Him from heaven. Why He didn't even come from a legitimate marriage!
Next week you'll see that not only did the undead gon-gu'-zo about who Jesus is, but they grumble about what He came to do, i.e. they not only grumbled that Christmas couldn't be true; they said Good Friday and Easter couldn't be either. The verse after our text says: "Therefore the Jews quarrelling with one another were saying, "How is this one able to give His flesh to us to eat?" Some Jews argue for Jesus; some against. There's the dead who are being dragged toward Jesus for life and the undead who don't think they are dead and have no need for the life Jesus gives.
Does this even apply to us? Who among us grumbles against the faith confessed in the 2nd Article of the Apostles' Creed? Every one of us believes in Jesus Christ the only Son of the Father who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Every one of us has been raised to the living confession of who Jesus is. And every one of us believes in what He came to do. Every one of us lives from the fact Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, buried, descended, resurrected and ascended. Who among us grumbles about this?
I do. I'm not dead enough. My undead mind picks apart who Jesus is the same way the unbelieving Jews did. The Greeks have cooler stories of the gods coming down. Hercules does miraculous feats of daring and strength so that no one can deny the gods are with him. Hercules as an infant strangles snakes in his crib that someone put there to kill him. Jesus fled to Egypt when His life was threatened. Hercules dies a miserable death by fire, but it was heroic. Jesus died a crucified criminal.
I grumble about what He came to do, too. Since I don't think sin, Death, and the Devil are my biggest problems no man living ever did I don't think Jesus taking my sins upon Himself; Jesus dying the Death I deserve, and the Devil not being able to accuse me because Jesus kept every Law, is enough. Where as the Jews said "How is Jesus able to give us His flesh to eat?" I say "that's not enough to eat."
There is a reason you don't hear much preaching on who Jesus is and what He came to do. That's not where people live today. Only the dead live here. Only the dead know they need One who is more than a man to save them. Only the dead know that Sin and the Devil are using their death as proof that they belong to them. The undead, the zombies who don't know their dead and the vampires who think their living death is life, grumble that God doesn't do more for them: give them more health, more happiness, more wealth. But that's not all. Not only doesn't God do enough for them, the undead never have enough to do. They want not only more blessings, but more things to do, to contribute, to pull their own weight so they can feel better about themselves; feel more alive.
Things to do in Austin when you're dead. Stop grumbling and eat. It's hard to grumble while eating. But you can't be dragged to Jesus by the Father unless you're dead. Only the preaching of the Law can show you you're dead. It holds up a mirror before you and then you see not a living face but the decayed face of a zombie or the white face of a vampire. But the Law showing you're dead in your sins can no more give life than the mirror showing your dirty face can give a clean one. But once you know the real problem the answer can be applied to you. No one lets a doctor put a cast on an arm that isn't broken. Those who know they are dead know that nothing less than life is the answer.
Jesus drives home the answer in our text like a well-hammered nail. Three times He claims the title of Yahweh, the One who fed and led the Church in the wilderness. "I am, I am, I am" Jesus says. "I am the bread that came down from heaven." "I am the bread of life." "I am the living bread that came down from heaven." "I am, I am, I am" tolls over this text like a bell. The Greek "I am" who appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, who spoke to Elijah in a still small voice, who walked with Adam in Eden is here on earth again visibly.
You need Him. All the bread on earth won't keep you alive or answer the death you feel growing in your body. You need the Bread come down from heaven. Earthly bread is not life it molds, it goes stale, it becomes inedible. The Bread from heaven is the Bread literally of the Life. Not just any life, not just the thump, thump going on in your heart or the billions of neurons firing in your head, but the Life Adam and Eve were first given. The Life that they lost when they sinned. The Life that can only be imparted by the Living Bread that Jesus says I am.
Yes, the thing to do in Austin when you're dead is eat. A song written in 1931 and covered in every decade since expresses it well. "Why not take all of me?" This is what Jesus stands before the Jews and us saying. You can't get anymore of anything than by eating it. And note who Jesus says He's for: His flesh is for the life of the world. There's no one whom He's not here for, and there is no life for anyone in this world apart from Him.
That's a big statement, but it is not an overstatement. You are what you eat. We eat predominately dead things. The beef, pork, chicken, fish we consume are all dead. Even the vegetables we eat are dead. We have to pick them from their source of life in order to eat them. The only thing we eat that's still living is "live and active cultures" in yogurt. But they are byproducts of fermentation; that is a breaking down not a building up process.
Eat only dead or dying things and you die. Eat the Bread come down from heaven that is not only living but is the Life and you live, and not just for today or tomorrow but for a thousand billion tomorrows and always plus one. That's what Jesus says, "He who believes has not will have but has everlasting life." Everyone who does not believe is dead no matter how much they might want to live, think they live, or plan to live.
All this from eating Jesus the Bread of Life? Yes, if God-given bread baked over coals could give Elijah the strength to travel forty days and forty nights, how much more wonderful, powerful, helpful is the Bread of Life come down from heaven? He's all one needs to live forever in Austin when you're dead. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (20150816); John 6: 41-51