?August 23, 2009
Proper 16
John 6:56-69

On Sunday, members of a house church in a city of the old Soviet Union arrived inconspicuously in small groups throughout the day so as not to arouse the suspicion of the KGB informers. By dusk they were all safely inside, windows closed and doors locked. They began singing a hymn quietly but with deep emotion. Suddenly, the door was pushed open and in walked two soldiers with automatic weapons, loaded and ready to fire. One shouted, “All right-everybody line up against the wall. If you wish to renounce your commitment to Jesus Christ, leave now!”
Before we discover the decision they made and the consequences of their actions, let’s talk about a fact: Entering into a relationship with Jesus is risky and radical.
In John 6 Jesus draws a line in the sand and asks those there that day to choose sides. 

I. Christ
Jesus was attractive. The common folk enjoyed being with Jesus. People followed Him. But Jesus was controversial, and that forced people to withdraw.
The most controversial subject one can engage another in is not politics, not AIDS, not the death penalty, and not the type of music preformed in worship. The most controversial discussion centers on Jesus. Why? Jesus, because of His teaching and His character, forces people to take a side. He leaves as no option a decision regarding Him. With Jesus there was no fence-straddling. With Jesus it is all or nothing, life or death.

II. Crowds
As the events in John 6 unfold, Jesus is center stage; but He has a supporting cast-the crowds. John begins this episode of Jesus’ life with a huge crowd, but it ends with Jesus and His small band of disciples.
The crowd is the fringe folk. They came for the show. They need to be entertained. And a miracle or two doesn’t hurt. They love to gawk and to see the spectacle.
The committed, on the other hand, are the fanatical few, a radical bunch, loyal to the end. They have crossed the line. They have given their all. They follow Jesus not just because He is attractive; they follow Him because they love Him.

III. Commitment
The difference between the fringe folk and the fanatical few is found in a single word-commitment. The crowd is involved but not committed. What’s the difference? Did you hear about the Kamikaze pilot who flew 25 missions? He was involved but not committed.
The committed are those who have given their lives to Christ. They express their commitment like Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century theologian and preacher: “Resolved: To follow Christ with all my heart. Resolved als Whether others do or not, I will.”

IV. Confession
The committed are those who have taken a stand and publicly confessed their allegiance to Christ.
There were many things Peter did not understand; he was just as bewildered and puzzled as anyone else by the miracles and teachings of Jesus. But there was something about Jesus for which he would willingly die.
In the final analysis, Christianity is not a philosophy that we accept or a theory to which we give allegiance; it is a confession of the mind, heart and will to Jesus Christ.
If you have crossed the line, you join an elite group of people who know and understand commitment, like the Russian believers in the house church. They were lined up against a wall with Russian soldiers’ semi-automatic rifles pointed at them. One soldier shouted, “All right, if you wish to renounce your commitment to Jesus Christ, leave now!” Several people left. Those who stayed fully expected to be gunned down or, at best, to be imprisoned. But the soldiers leaned their rifles against the wall and said, “Keep your hands up-but this time in praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters. We, too, are Christians. We have learned by experience, however, that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted.”
The line has been drawn. The choice has to be made. The question Jesus asked the disciples, He asks us as well, “You do not want to leave, too, do you?” (John 6:67).

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