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As for Me and My House
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
August 16, 2015
Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18, 25-28 John 6:56-69 Psalm 34
The passage from John this morning is touching to me. We see people leaving Jesus. Then we have those poignant words Jesus asks His very disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” But speaking for all the twelve, Peter says powerful words in response,
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe that you are the Holy One of God (John6:68).
I take two themes from this statement. First there is the issue of Jesus words. Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John6:63). Peter affirms this when he says, “You have the words of eternal life.” This means that Jesus’ words are powerful and give eternal life. These statements point to Jesus’ teachings as the power for eternal life. Then there is the second message from the words of Peter. This is a really difficult idea for some. Peter calls Jesus, “The Holy One of God.” The term “Holy One” is a very specific term from the Old Testament. In many, many passages, the Old Testament speaks of The Holy One. And in those passages, The Holy One is Yahweh Himself. I will cite 22 of those passages here:
Daniel 4:10, 13; Habakkuk 3:3; Isaiah 1:4; 5:19; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30: 11, 12; 41:16; 43:3, 11, 14, 15; (here the Holy One is also called “your Savior,” vs. 3, 11; and “your Redeemer,” vs. 14 ); 47:4 (where Holy One is called “your Redeemer”); 48:41; 49:7; 54:5 (“your Redeemer”) Psalm 78:41; Jeremiah 51:5; and in other places.
Luke also uses this term for Jesus when His birth is prophesied. In that Gospel, we find Gabriel telling Mary, “The Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). So Jesus, as “the Holy One” is none other than Jehovah God in human form.
This idea of Jesus as God in the flesh is difficult for many people. This is the reason why many Jews deserted Jesus. In our story for this morning, Jesus claims that He is the bread that came down from heaven. This means that Jesus is Divine. And Jesus said these things in a synagogue. This means that by saying these words, Jesus is no longer just another rabbi. It means that Jesus is God in the flesh. This is what caused many of the Jews to fall away. John tells us that,
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven?’” (John 6:41-42)
The words of Jesus, then, have two points for our consideration. First, that His teachings give eternal life. Second, that Jesus is God in the flesh.
It’s interesting how people react to these two points. Many of the people I talk to, believers or non-believers like the words that Jesus speaks. That is, they agree that Jesus’ teachings are beautiful and that a person would do well to follow them. I would agree that it is Jesus’ teachings that matter most. What makes a Christian is not so much what he or she thinks about Jesus, but rather the way a person lives. Robert Frost said it so well,
If you would learn the way a man feels about God, don’t ask him to put a name on himself. All that is said with names is soon not enough.
If you would have out the way a man feels about God, watch his life, hear his words (Edward Connery Lathem 1967. Interviews with Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 149).
I concur completely with Frost. Don’t ask people to put a name on themselves. I know Sikhs who are as Christian as I could hope to be. And I have known Christian who don’t impress me with the way they go about their business. It is how a person lives that matters. It is how a person responds to Jesus’ words that matter. And if one finds Jesus’ words spoken by some other prophet or sage, it matters not. What does matter is how a person relates to those words and how a person lives them in their daily life.
Now we come to a very curious phenomenon. That is how we view Jesus the Person. Many westerners have a hard time with the idea of Jesus as a Divine Human. Likewise there are leading Bible scholars who doubt that Jesus actually rose from the grave. But what I find curious is that Buddhists and Muslims have no problem with Jesus’ resurrection. It is a prominent doctrine in Muslim writings that Jesus was both born of a virgin and that He rose from the grave. And I was just reading a book of interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama said that a Buddhist would have no problem believing that Jesus rose from the grave. Furthermore, there are Buddhists who see Jesus as one of their celestial demi-gods called bodhisattvas. So even to a Buddhist, Jesus is a special kind of being.
So I think about the words of Joshua. Joshua is talking to the Israelites about which God to serve. I think of Joshua because Jesus is also talking about which God to serve. Joshua takes seriously the idea that there are other gods in the region of Palestine and Mesopotamia. Joshua lays it before the Israelites,
Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living (Joshua 24:14-15).
So Joshua lays out a choice before the Israelites–whom will they serve. Then Joshua says a line that I love, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15). Joshua is basically saying that it is up to every individual to serve whichever God fits them best. But Joshua makes a stand and declares that his God is Yahweh.
That is how I view my Christianity. As for me and my house, we will follow Jesus. This church is open to every person’s free decision which God to follow and how to conceive of God. But we also have our ideas about God. We see God as the Divine Human Jesus Christ. As for me and my house, that is how we see God. But we accept and welcome varieties and diversities in the way a person conceives of God. Due probably to my upbringing and my education, I find that this church’s doctrines about God make the most sense to me. I have shopped around and come back home to the church I was raised in. Thinking of God as the Divine Human Jesus Christ simplifies all the complexities surrounding the trinity. The history of Christianity can well be considered a history of trying to figure out the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I think John says it all. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:57). Jesus has life from the Father living in Him and we have life from Jesus dwelling in us.
So we live when we feed on Jesus’ wisdom. We live because of the words Jesus spoke. Taking them to heart gives us spiritual life. Believing that Jesus is God will not by itself save a person. As Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” As for me and my house, we believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, spoken of by the prophets. And we believe that His words, coming as they do from heaven, give eternal life.
Lord, we praise you this morning for your wonderful words of eternal life. You have taught us the ways that lead to heaven, and to company with you and the angels forever. Your words are Spirit and they are life. If we feed on the teachings you gave us, we will come into your kingdom, whether here on earth or in the life to come. Lord, we know that you are God. We know that you came to earth to save the whole human race. And we are forever grateful that you do save all who call upon your name.
And Lord, we pray that you bring peace to this troubled world. May those who harbor ill will for their neighbors learn to understand and see the fellow humanity that they share. May those who strive against each other see that they are like in their wishes and in what they want for their land and nation. Lord, we especially ask that you be with the people of Egypt and of Syria. Comfort those who have been harmed, and pacify the hard hearts of those who use violence to obtain their own will. M may all warring factions find their way to peace.
Lord, we ask for you to heal those who are sick. As you worked miracles of healing when you were on earth, how much more can you work healing miracles now that you have risen and have all authority in heaven and on earth. Grant all who are in need your healing love and power.