|This is an opinion article from a user of WikiChristian.|
Over the last couple of weeks at church we've been looking at the issue of work
We looked at the blessing of work two weeks ago and the curse of work last week
When we looked at the blessing of work, Frank spoke about 3 aspects of work that are reflections on the way that God works
Can anyone remember what those 3 aspects were?
(Wait for answer)
Tonight we're looking at the relationship between our work and the work of Jesus, especially the work of redemption
Of course Jesus was creative in his work - he probably worked with his father Joseph to create furniture and other works of carpentry; then think of the brilliant stories he created
He also was involved in sustaining work - think of the times he went fishing to sustain his disciples with food
But without a doubt, his main work was to bring redemption
Redemption encompasses the idea of saving a person who is unable to save himself; freeing a person who can't get free by himself
I like this movie poster
To me it speaks about redemption
Reaching down and heaving up a person to safety
Or perhaps reaching up and being pulled up to safety
Who's seen the film Schindler's List?
It's one of my favourite movies
It's about man called Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler was business man who, if you and me had met him during the height of his business empire, we probably wouldn't have been impressed with him
He was an ambitious and greedy man and he joined the Nazi party during the Second World War
And he became rich by owning a factory that made military weapons for the German army
He even filled his factory with Jewish prisoners because they were cheap, slave abour
But he was a remarkable man
As the war continued, more and more he began to see how badly the Jews were being mistreated and began to understand that they were being murdered in one of the most evil mass genocides in history
And so he began to shield his Jewish workers
He would claim that even his unskilled workers were essential to his factory to stop them from being removed and executed
He increasingly had to call on all his skills of persuasion and bribery to protect the Jews who worked for him
He started losing a lot of money because of this, and his huge fortune grew smaller and smaller with the increasing bribery that was required to keep his Jewish workers alive
And so in the end Oskar Schindler bought 1,100 Jews - he redeemed and saved the life of 1,100 people
(Play the movie clip)
I wanted to begin the sermon with a light-hearted story to grab attention but I couldn't
Because this is really serious stuff - redemption is about life or death - it's that important, it's that serious
The work of redemption is the thing that this world needs more than anything els
It's about life and death
If you've got a Bible in front of you, it would be worth opening up to our first Bible passage, which was John 6
In this chapter, John described something amazing
Jesus had been travelling the countryside of Galilee, which is in modern day Israel, and a huge crowd of thousands of people had been following him as he healed people and taught them about God
It was getting late in the day and Jesus knew that the people were hungry
But he only had 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread
Hardly enough for 5 people, let alone 5,000 people
But he called on the crowd to sit down anyway and he began distributing the food among the people
And everyone ate
Afterwards he collected the left-overs and filled 12 baskets
What a cool miracle that is - with 5 loaves of bread, Jesus fed 5,000 people
No wonder people followed Jesus everywhere
Anyway, the next day, as Jesus talked with some of the crowd that had managed to keep up with him, he spoke about what his work was
Take a look at verse 35
(Jesus said) I am the bread of life
Without physical bread, without food, our bodies waste away and die
I'm reminded of James Scott - he was an 80 kg 5th year medical student from Brisbane who decided to go Nepal for his end of year medical elective
For your fifth year elective, you tend to go somewhere that you think is going to be fun
But James Scott got more fun than he bargained for
Because whilst on a trek around Mount Everest he got lost from his group
And after finding some shelter under a big rock, he waited for 41 days before someone found him and rescued him
Luckily there was plenty of snow to drink but his entire food supply consisted of two Mars Bars
Although, he did afterwards write: "A caterpillar happened by and I ate it"
Still, two Mars Bars and one catepillar in 41 days isn't much food
During those 41 days he wasted away, and he lost 20 kg
Now without physical bread, our bodies do waste away and we die - it's obvious; it's visible
But when Jesus said "I am the bread of life" he obviously wasn't talking about physical bread - he's talking about something spiritual
We may not be able to measure the weight loss and to see it, but like our bodies waste away without physical food, without spiritual nourishment, our souls waste away and die
So Jesus was saying, that he's the bread who will provide the spiritual nourishment that our souls need to live
I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry
The role of Jesus, his work on earth, is to be the food that our spirit needs to live
And this something something that is also the work of God the Father
In verse 38 that's what Jesus said
I have come down from heaven to do the will of God
And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.
So the work of Jesus, the Son of God was to do his Father's work
And this work is to provide the spiritual nourishment that is needed so that we aren't lost, our souls don't die, but instead we are raised up to safety and given new life after physical death
This a huge and mysterious thing to get our heads around
Particular for people who haven't had a chance to hear the message that Jesus taught
How can Jesus be the bread of life?
How can he raise us up and give us new ever-lasting life?
How can he really be on a mission of redemption?
Well, if you've ever thought that, you're not alone
Because many of the people that Jesus said those words to, didn't believe him
They had just seen him feed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread so they had no excuse not to trust what he said
If he could do something that miraculous with physical bread, then surely we should listen to him when he speaks about spiritual bread
Somehow he does provide all the spiritual nourishment that we need; somehow he does give eternal life after death
Jesus spoke about his work of providing a way for our hearts and souls to be redeemed quite a few times whilst he was on earth
The final time he spoke about was as he hung on the cross with 3 simple words
Open your Bibles up to John 19:28
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.”
A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.
When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!”
Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
The final thing Jesus said before he died was that it was finished - his work was complete
He had done all the work that was necessary for our redemption
He had died so that our sins - the times we've turned our back on God or slapped God or other people in the face - so that they could be forgiven and we could be spiritual nourished and raised up for life forever after physical death
And Jesus proved all of this beyond a shadow of doubt by rising to live again
All of this was the work of Jesus and it was finished on the cross
Now this a huge and mysterious thing to get our heads around
But acknowledging this and trusting in Jesus as the one who feeds us spiritually and gives us life is the most important decision we can ever make
Believing in Jesus is our primary work in life
Go back to chapter 6, and look at verse 39
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
That's our primary work in life
What does it mean to believe in Jesus?
It's kind of hard to put into words isn't it
But it's easier to say what it isn't
This is what it isn't...
Believing in Jesus doesn't mean simply one day saying: "Oh yeah, I believe in Jesus and that I'm forgiven and have been redeemed" and then walking away and getting on with our lives whilst forgetting about Jesus
Jesus had already said that he is the bread that we need to eat
If I was starving and was given some bread, it would be pointless for me to say - "I believe that this bread can save my life" and then not do anything
If I really believed it could save my life, then I would eat the bread - in other words, there is an active part to believing
When Jesus calls us to believe in him so that we can be spiritually nourished, there's something deeper than simply saying "sure, I believe" - there's an active part to it - we have to actually take him in and eat this bread
What that looks like, I guess, each one of us has to discover for ourselves
One further thing is obvious about food - when we eat it, it changes us - we grow, we develop - it has an impact
Believing in Jesus means that he will have an impact on us - we'll change, we'll grow and develop
And we'll become partners in his work of redemption
And that leads on to our second Bible passage for tonight - Luke 10 - which I'll read again and paraphrase a little bit
Now Jesus chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.
These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.
So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.
I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.
Don’t take extra baggage with you
And don’t stop on the way
Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’
Don’t move about constantly but stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide, building friendships
Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.
If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you.
Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’
Believing in Jesus means becoming one of his disciples - making him our Lord
And as our Lord, our boss, his work of redeeming the world becomes our work
In some small, but still really significant way, we're called to be partners in this redeeming work of Jesus
So although these instruction that Jesus gave were to 72 specific people, I'm sure they apply to us too - not all of the details of the instructions, but the principles of them
As we look at some of these principles, ask yourself, how do they apply in my work
Whatever work you do, how do the principles of being involved in the redeeming work of Jesus fit in?
As a student, where does redeeming work fit in?
As an office worker? As a nurse? As a shop-assistant? As a parent looking after young kids? As a carer? How do we play our role in God's redeeming work?
I'm sure that I don't have all the answers, but I do know that wherever we are in life, our most important work is to be involved in the redeeming work of Jesus because it's a matter of life and death
The first thing that jumps out at me is in verse 2 - the harvest is great
It's a big field out there - there is a lot of work to do
But as the passage says, God is the Lord of the Harvest and he'll complete the work
Still he wants us to be workers for him in that work
And he wants us to pray for even more workers
There is plenty of work out there to share around and we all need to be praying
So at a very practical and easy level, that is something that we can all do
We can all pray for each other
We can all pray for missionaries overseas
We can all pray to see the church grow in numbers
The second thing that jumps out to me is in verse 3 where Jesus said
I am sending you out as sheep among wolves
What images does that conjure up in your mind?
(Wait for responses)
I think most people will think about the danger of being a sheep because of all these wolves
And that is undoubtedly true, but I think there is something deeper, something more to the metaphor
Wolves are violent creatures that bring destruction but we're commanded to be sheep
When we go out to do the work of redemption, we go out as shee
The focus is on the sheep, not the wolves
Sheep are peaceful creatures
They don't bring destruction or violence
They certainly don't bring fear
They are peaceful
So in our work, forget about the wolves and what they can do to us
Let's focus on our role as sheep
When I'm at work am I a sheep? Am I a peace-maker?
When I'm at home do I create an atmosphere of fear or of love?
As I study, do I help people or do I trample over people?
They are the sort of questions that I think we should ask ourselves
Because if in our daily work we are working as partners of Jesus then we will be bringing peace like sheep, not destruction like wolves...
One final thing about thing about sheep is that they follow their shepherd
And you thought being a sheep was a bad thing!
But it's not until verse 9 that I reckon we reach the heart of the matter
As disciples working for Jesus we're commanded to tell people that the kingdom of God is near
The kingdom of God - what is it?
It's funny language
I'd be interested to hear what people think?
Tell me something about the kingdom of God...
(Wait for responses)
The kingdom of God encompasses everything and everyone who has God as its king
At the moment only some of the world recognizes God
Much of the world does not recognize God as king - and because of this, the Bible speaks about the whole of creation groaning and decaying
But remember, the work of Jesus was to redeem the world - to snatch up people for himself, for God, for ever-lasting life
And so one day there will be a new world, a new universe, and a redeemed people who will know God personally and there won't be any of the destruction and decay that marks this current world
And so this is the kingdom of God that is near - it has actually already begun and is growing daily as more people are redeemed for God, but it hasn't fully arrived yet
So, the central part of our work as believers of Jesus, is to tell people and to show people this redeemed kingdom of God
In every aspect of our life, in every aspect of our work, we are meant to be partners of Jesus in spreading this redemption
It's helpful to notice that this redemption is for people
It's about people
And to have an impact on people, you've got build friendships and develope relationships
Perhaps that's why in verse 7 Jesus says to stay in one place and not move about from house to house - if you are going to tell people about the redemption Jesus brings, you really need to know them and they need to know you
It's also helpful to notice that part of telling people about the redemption Jesus brings means showing them his love and bringing peace and healing
In verse 5 Jesus says to bring peace
And in verse 9 he says to bring healing
So being involved in the work of redemption isn't just about telling people things - its not just an intellectual pursuit - it's also about actions - about being a peace-maker in a world of wolves and a healer in a world of destruction
But it isn't just about actions - it is also about words - and it does involve telling people about Jesus
So, how does all this fit into our working lives?
Well, it is easy for me to stand up here as speak about the redemptive work of Jesus - because that is my role here - so in one sense I have it easy
It's perhaps a bit harder to work out how you can point people to Jesus and be involved as part of that redemptive work in your work and life
But if we remember the principles that Jesus taught we're half way there
It doesn't matter whether you are a teacher, a nurse, a mother, a father, a carer, a student, whatever - think of the principles
Prayer is essential
Know that we are working for Jesus
Remember that people matter
They could be work-mates, friends who study with us, our children and other parents...
How are we treating them? What impact are we having on them?
Be a sheep - bring peace; treat people with forgiveness; demonstrate redemption
Talk about Jesus - speak about the gospel
I want to finish with a few stories of what it might look like to be a partner in in the work of Jesus
The first story is a personal one and it relates to paid work
I work in a palliative medicine ward
You would think that this would present many opportunities to talk to people about Jesus
But I'm not very good at taking these opportunities
An opportunity arises and I often find reasons not to take it because I lack courage
I suspect that there are some people here who can identify with this
But I want to encourage you to be courageous when an opportunity to talk about Jesus does arise
Recently I did have such an obvious opportunity that even I couldn't miss it
There was a woman who was very sick - she was very near death
And she was so anxious and scared
I asked what her biggest concern was and it turned out that she was sure that she was dying because of a lie she had told, and she was now being punished for it
I asked her if she wanted to speak to a chaplain about it but she said "no"
But then she said that she would like someone to pray for her
And so I prayed with her
What an opportunity it was to pray to Jesus for forgiveness and to tell her about his love and redemption!
Now I don't know what eternal significance that conversation has had, but at least when I saw her the next morning I could see that she had less fear in her face and she told me that she slept well for the first time in two weeks
The second story is a fictional one and it relates not to a paid job, but to the unpaid work of a parent
Nicole and I watched the movie Juno recently
It was really interesting
In the movie, the main character is a 16 year old school-girl called Juno who falls pregnant
And she comes to her parents, very anxious of course, to tell them the news
Now I can imagine news like that could cause a major eruption with raised voices and parents pushing their daughter away
But Juno parents didn't act like that - instead they got on with the task of trying to help Juno redeem the situation
In the film, Juno's mum reflected with these words right after hearing the news
We have to move on from here and help her figure it out.
If we're going to be true to being a partner for the work of redemption, then the way we treat someone who has made a mistake is so important
Do we try to help grab the person out of the mess they've got themselves into?
I haven't been a parent for long, but I can see that this is something that is especially applicable to parents - because kids and teenagers make a lot of mistakes
But of course, it is also applicable to people we come across in our paid work or studies
The third story is a from a friend of mine, and it relates not to a paid job, but the job of being a student
My friend knew another student who, we'll call him Bob, was working on a PhD
Bob was very political in his thinking and was a strong Marxist or Communist
Now my friend spent many months trying to tell the gospel to Bob
But he couldn't make Bob understand it at all - Bob couldn't really see past the ethnical living side of Christianity and thought that Marxism and Christianity weren't really that different
Now Bob had a big presentation to give about his thesis, and he realized how hopeless his thesis was and how poorly prepared he was for his presentation and he knew that he was going to fail - he was sure of it and realized that he deserved to fail
So my friend sat down with Bob and prayed to Jesus that Bob would pass
The next day he heard from Bob how the presentation went - it had gone brilliantly and Bob had passed with flying colours
Because of this, Bob could see God at work - that he was real and powerful and merciful - and Bob became a Christian
Hopefully these three stories have reminded us that we can be involved in the redemptive work of Jesus whatever our work is - paid work, parenting or being a student
And hopefully tonight has been a chance for us to remember again how important the work of redemption is - it is a matter of life and death - for us and for others
Let's finish with a prayer
If you're not sure if you can believe Jesus when he says that he is the bread of life, can I encourage you to think to think about it - it is important enough to spend time thinking about
If you do know Jesus as the bread who gives you life, can I encourage you to ask him now to show you ways this week that you can be involved in his work of redemption
Return to John 6