This sermon is not found in the edition of the Church Postil edited by Creuziger, and in some of Rodt’s editions it is found in the festival part of the Church Postil of 1528.
German text: Erlangen Edition, 12:397; Walch Edition, 11:1533; St. Louis Walch, 11:1137.
Text: John 6:44-51: No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he that is from God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth hath eternallife. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. and they died. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: yea and the bread which I give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
ON FAITH AND COMING TO CHRIST, AND THE TRUE BREAD OF HEAVEN.
1. This Gospel text teaches exclusively of the Christianfaith, and awakens that faith in us; just as John, throughout his whole Gospel, simply instructs us how to trust in Christ the Lord. This faith alone, when based upon the sure promises of God, must save us; as our text clearly explains. And in the light of it all, they must become fools who have taught us other ways to become godly. All that human ingenuity can devise, be it as holy and as luminous as it may, must tumble to the ground if man be saved in God’s way — in a way different from that which man himself plans. Man may forever do as he will, he can never enter heaven unless God takes the first step with his Word, which offers him divinegrace and enlightens his heart so as to get upon the right way.
2. This right way, however, is the LordJesusChrist. Whoever desires to seek another way, as the great multitudes venture to do by means of their own works, has already missed the right way; for Paul says to the Galatians: “If righteousness is through the Law,” that is, through the works of the Law, “then Christdied for naught.” Galatians 2:21. Therefore I say man must fall upon this Gospel and be broken to pieces and in deep consciousness lie prostrate, like a man that is powerless, unable to move hand or foot. He must only lie motionless and cry: AlmightyGod, merciful Father, now help me! I cannot help myself. Christ, my Lord, do help now, for with only my own effort all is lost! Thus, in the light of this cornerstone, which is Christ, everyone becomes as nothing; as Christ says of himself in Luke 20:17-18, when he asks the Pharisees and scribes: “What then is this that is written. The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth on that stone shall be broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust.” <19B822>Psalm 118:22. Therefore, we must either fall upon this stone, Christ, in all our inability and helplessness, rejecting our own merits, and be broken to pieces, or he will forever crush us by his severe sentence and judgment. It is better that we fall upon him than that he should fall upon us. For this reason the Lord says in this Gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day.”
3. He must surely perish whom the Father does not draw. Thus it is decreed, that whoever does not come to this Son must be condemned forever. The Son is given to us only to the end that he may save us; besides him, nothing saves us, either in heaven or on earth. If he does not help us, then nothing will. On this Peter says in the Acts of the Apostles ( Acts 4:11-12): “He is the stone which was set at naught of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner. And in none other is there salvation; neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.” Where, in the light of this, are our theologians and professors who taught us that we become pious through our many good works? Here the great master Aristotle is put to shame, who proclaimed that reason strives for the best and always follows after the good. Christ says to this: No; if the Father comes not first and draws men, they must forever perish.
4. Here all men must confess their incapacity and inability to do the good.
Should one imagine he is able to do anything good of his own strength, he does no less than make Christ the Lord a liar; he would rudely and defiantly come to the Father and in all rashness ascend to heaven.
Before he could not obtain any help or counsel from God, nor did he ever desire it; but now he finds the first comfort and promise of God, which Luke 11:10 records thus: “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” From such promises will he ever continue to gaincourage as long as he lives, and will ever win greater and greater confidence in God. Just as soon as he hears that grace is the work of God alone, he will desire it of God as from the hand of his gracious Father, who wishes to draw him. Now, if he is drawn by God to Christ, he will certainly experience what the Lord here says: “He will raise him up in the last day.” For he has laid hold upon the Word of God and trustsGod. In this he has a sure sign that he is one whom God has drawn, as John says in his First Epistle ( 1 John 5:10): “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him.”
6. Hence, it must necessarily follow that he is taught of God, and that he knows now in truth that the meaning of God is nothing more than Helper, Comforter, Savior, as we say of those who rescue us from danger: Thou wast today my God. From this it is now clear that God will be to us nothing less than a Savior, a helper, and a giver of all blessedness, who neither demands nor desires anything from us. He only gives, he only offers to us; as he says to Israel in Psalm 81:10: “I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Who would not be kindly disposed to such a God, who approaches us so lovingly and graciously, and offers us his favor and blessings if we only acknowledge him as God and are willing to be taught of him? They cannot escape the severe, eternaljudgment of God who ignore such grace, as the Epistle to the Hebrews ( Hebrews 10:28-29) says: “A man that hath set at naught Moses’ law dieth without compassion: of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing.”
7. Oh, how diligent and earnest St. Paul is in all his Epistles that we may always grasp the knowledge of God aright! How often he expresses the wish for growth in the knowledge of God! As if he would say: If you only knew and understood what God is, then you would be already saved, then you would gainlove for him and do only those things well pleasing to him.
10. Now, when one comes to Christ, that is, to his Gospel, he hears the personal voice of Christ the Lord, which confirms the knowledgeGod taught him, namely, that God is nothing but a very gracious Savior, who wants to be gracious and merciful to all who call upon him. Therefore, the Lord adds: “Verily verily, I say unto you, He that believeth hath eternallife. I am the bread of life. Your lathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: yea and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
11. In these words the soul finds a well prepared table, at which it satisfies all hunger; for it knows for a certainty that he who speaks these words cannot lie. Therefore the soul falls upon the Word, clings to it, trusts in it, and also builds its dwelling-place in the strength of this well-prepared table.
This is the feast for which the heavenly Father slayed his oxen and fatlings and invited us all to it.
II. THE BREAD OF HEAVEN.
12. The living bread, of which the Lord here speaks, is Christ himself, of whom we partake. If in our hearts we lay hold of only a morsel of this bread, we shall have forever enough and can never be separated from God.
15. Therefore, a Christianlife is a life of bliss and joy. Christ’s yoke is easy and sweet; the reason it seems to us galling and heavy is that the Father has not yet drawn us, and so we have no pleasure in it, neither does this Gospel lesson ministercomfort to us. If we, however, rightly appropriated the words of Christ, they would be of much greater comfort to us. By faith we partake of this bread that has come down from heaven, Christ the Lord, when we believe on him as our Savior and Redeemer.
16. In this light I now remind you that these words are not to be misconstrued and made to refer to the Sacrament of the Altar; whoever so interprets them does violence to this Gospel text. There is not a letter in it that refers to the Lord’s Supper. Why should Christ here have in mind that Sacrament when it was not yet instituted? The whole chapter from which this Gospel is taken speaks of nothing but the spiritualfood, namely, faith.
When the people followed the Lord merely hoping again to eat and drink, as the Lord himself charges them with doing, he took the figure from the temporal food they sought, and speaks throughout the entire chapter of a spiritualfood. He says: “The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.” Thereby he shows that he feeds them with the object of inducing them to believe on him, and that as they partook of the temporal food, so should they also partake of the spiritual. On this subject we will say more at some other time.
17. Now let us here notice that the Lord approaches us so lovingly and graciously, and offers us himself — his blood and flesh — in such gentle words that it should in all reason move the heart to believe on him; to believe that this bread, his flesh and blood, born of the VirginMary, was given because he had to pay the penalty of death and suffer in our stead the torments of hell, and, besides, to suffer the guilt of sins he never committed, as if they were his own. This he did willingly and received us as brethren and sisters. If we believe this we do the will of the heavenly Father, which is nothing else than that we believe on the Son. Christ says, just before our text: “This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternallife; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40.
18. It is now evident that whoever has faith in this bread of heaven — in Christ, in this flesh and blood, of which he here ,speaks that it is given to him and that it is his — he also accepts it as his own, and has already done the will of God and eaten of this heavenly manna; as Augustine says: What do you prepare for your mouth? Only believe, and you have already eaten.
19. The whole New Testament treats of this spiritualsupper, and especially does John here. The Sacrament of the Altar is a testament and confirmation of this true supper, with which we should strengthen our faith and be assured that this body and this blood, which we receive in the Sacrament, has rescued us from sin and death, the devil, hell and all misery.
Concerning this I have spoken and written more on other occasions.
20. What is the proof by which one may know that this heavenly bread is his and that he is invited to such a spiritualsupper? He needs only to look at his own heart. If he finds it so disposed that it is softened and cheered by God’s promises and is firm in the conviction that it may appropriate this bread of life, then he may be assured that he is one of the invited; for as one believes, even so is it done unto him. From that moment on, he loves his neighbor and helps him as his brother; he rescues him, gives to him, loans to him and does nothing for him but that which he would desire his neighbor to do for himself. All this is attributable to the fact that Christ’s kindness to him has leavened his heart with sweetness and love, so that he has pleasure and joy in serving his neighbor; yea, he is even in misery if he has no one to whom to show kindness. Besides all this, he is gently and humbly disposed toward everybody; he does not highly esteem the transient pomps of the world; he accepts everyone as he is, speaks evil of no one, interprets all things for the best where he sees things are not going right. When his neighbors are lacking in faith, in love, in life, then he prays for them, and he is heartily sorry when anyone gives offense to God or to his neighbor. To sum up all, with him the root and sap are good, for he is grafted into a rich and fruitfulvine. in Christ; therefore, such fruits must come forth.
21. But if one has not faith and is not taught of God — if he never eats of this bread from heaven — he surely never brings forth these fruits. For where such fruits are not produced, there is certainly no true faith. St.