Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 15, 2014
“Tell them that Jesus is everything!”
My friend John Felton was on his deathbed. Cancer would claim his life within a few days. John knew he was dying and he was not afraid. He was ready to meet his Maker.
Visiting him in his home I said to him, “John, next Sunday is Easter. Do you have a message I could give the congregation on your behalf?” Tears welled in his eyes as he pondered my question. During the silence I wondered if I had embarrassed him.
Moments later, with a strong voice John said to me, “Pastor, tell them that Jesus is everything!” Then my eyes filled with tears.
Taking his hand I said to him, “What a beautiful testimony, John. I will tell them what you said. I will give them your message.” On Easter I did just that.
Marghanita Laski was a novelist and a secular humanist. Though a professed atheist she wrote mostly about religion. Not long before her death Laski said in a television interview, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”
Her sad words remind us that while God is knowable, he does not barge his way into our hearts. He comes to us. He knocks on the heart’s door. But he waits for each of us to open the door and invite him to come in. Blaise Pascal, the brilliant Christian philosopher of the 17th Century, said it succinctly, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
Laski spent her life without ever inviting Jesus to fill that vacuum in her heart. She chose not to believe there is a God like Jesus who could satisfy the emptiness of her life. She knew a lot about religion but did not know God.
Jesus said the Pharisees were in this same predicament. They were up to their eyebrows in religion but they did not know God. They were looking for a Messiah who would recognize their authority and their righteousness, not one who would boldly declare that he had come down from heaven to be the living bread and the living water for all people.
The Pharisees wanted a Messiah who would do their will, not one who would upset their apple carts by doing the will of his Father. The claims of Jesus were preposterous; what right did he have to say that he was the bread God had sent? Or the living water? Or the light of the world? Such absurdity they could not accept!
Yet Jesus declares that he is indeed the true bread that satisfies and the water than quenches the thirst of all who come to him and drink. Some in every age find this hard to believe just as the Jews balked at believing it. Admittedly no one can accept Jesus’ claims except by faith. But that is exactly what God asks of us – faith! Genuine faith enables each of us to believe that Jesus is everything he says he is and that he has the power to do all that he says he can do.
Seven times in the Gospel of John Jesus says emphatically “I am.” Each of us has to decide how to respond to his claims. We can decide that he was confused or crazy to make such statements about himself. We can decide that this was the Gospel writer John talking, not Jesus. Or we can decide that what he said is absolutely true. This is the choice of faith. This choice enables each of us to receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, thus to be reconciled to God and saved from our sins.
The word “whoever” in our text is a beautiful word. By using this word, Jesus tells us that it is God’s will for all people to be saved – that salvation is available to anyone who repents and receives Jesus as Lord and Savior. “Whoever” includes everyone! This means that God sent Jesus to be the bread of life for all people everywhere, including all those who have embraced other “religions” or no religion like Laski the atheist.
As long as there is still one person in the world who has not received Jesus as Savior, the church must remain in mission. Every person should have the opportunity to receive the salvation that comes from accepting Jesus as the bread of life.
Bread can satisfy physical hunger. Jesus satisfies the spiritual hunger for peace with God. Once it was my privilege to host a gracious Methodist bishop from India on a visit to America. His words still ring in my ears: “In my land many are starving; they are hungry for bread for their bodies. But hungry people need even more to know Jesus so their souls can be nourished by the Bread of heaven.”
The good bishop was right. People need food for the soul as well as the body. The missionary enterprise then must be holistic – focused on the spiritual as well as the physical needs of people everywhere. We shall not be faithful to the gospel if we neglect either one.
The satisfaction of a good meal will soon give way to hunger. Yet when we partake of Jesus the living bread, we experience eternal satisfaction. We discover that nothing satisfies the soul like Jesus. The word for this soul satisfaction is peace, the sweet peace that only Jesus gives when he fills that vacuum in the heart. This peace is God’s assurance that our “eternal life” has begun and that it will last forever!
When my dying friend told me, “Jesus is everything,” I sensed that he had no fear of death. He was at peace and filled with peace. His whole countenance reflected peace. How do you explain that? The explanation is simple. John had Jesus. Jesus had John. When we have him, and he has us, we have everything we need – now and forever! + + +