It would seem that as of this week, the new test of Christian orthodoxy has to do with whether or not you eat at ChikFilA. I am sure you have heard of the controversy. Dan Cathy, CEO of the Atlanta-based fast food chain, told a small obscure Christian Newspaper that he supports traditional marriage and all of a sudden he has been labeled as a hate-filled bigot and his restaurants are no longer welcome in at least 3 major cities around the country.
In response to these actions, supporters of free speech and the free exercise of religion showed up in droves this past Wednesday to give their patronage to the maligned restaurant chain. It was not unusual to wait in line at least an hour if not two. The restaurant drew protests on Friday from those supportive of the gay rights agenda. Clearly Chik Fil A has become the dividing line of the controversy and those who consider themselves defenders of Orthodox Christianity and orthodox constitutional America have a new favorite restaurant.
Yet one can’t help but wonder if Jesus wants more from his faithful few.
The community of faith and faithful belief was divided all these generations ago when our Lord himself walked the earth. They were divided by their allegiance to Jesus. Some sought to make him their king while others wanted to be rid of him, to never hear his name spoken out in the public square (or really even in private for that matter). Does that sound familiar to our world? Yet for those who considered themselves to be faithful to Jesus and to his cause, for those who were bold to speak, bold to listen, and bold to follow Jesus, the Lord, the Son of God, Jesus wanted more from them. Jesus urged them to great understanding. Jesus sought to push them, to move them beyond their public allegiance to private devotion and private understanding. Jesus sought to push them to faith.
In our text today, the orthodox Jesus followers came looking for Jesus. The Apostle John shows us that these believers came in search of their long awaited prophet, a repristinated Moses. Moses came with bread from heaven, food from the skies that filled their empty bellies and wowed them with great works and signs from God. The Lord worked through Moses and through Moses the people were saved from slavery and secured in the land promised to Abraham. And so now, all these generations later, the people were empty, they were hungry for a new prophet, a new Moses who would save them from slavery and fill them with food from heaven.
Enter the Lord… Jesus who teaches and heals and performs the signs associated with the office of prophet, who teaches the people and leads them. And the people took notice. This must be the long awaited prophet. This must be the promised salvation of the Lord’s people, Israel. He taught them on the hillside. He fed them with bread from heaven. They were ready to take him then and there and make them their king.
But Jesus didn’t come to be Israel’s king.
This story parallels our own. Ancient deliverance from oppression and foundation of a religious society. Contemporary controversy fueled by a secularly minded few. A people hungry for a leader to stand behind and stand up for. And Jesus is at the center.
Yet when the people thought to make Jesus their king – they saw how he fed the crowd 5000 strong with only a few loaves and fish – Jesus withdrew. He didn’t come to be Israel’s king. He hasn’t come to be America’s king. He isn’t fighting for cultures and societies. He isn’t fighting to uphold family values and traditional morals. Jesus doesn’t want to be the king in a kingdom that we have built, that we have established and created and defined. Jesus already is king. High King! Of Heaven no less. And the issue is not whether we call him King or if we make him King in our Kingdom. The issue is whether or not we are worthy to be called servants in his.
Whether you eat your chicken from ChikFilA, KFC, or even McNuggets at McDonalds – this food is earthly food. These kingdoms are earthly kingdoms and they are doomed to fall.
“Do not work for the food that perishes,” says Jesus, “but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
The food that matters is the food that we receive from Jesus. The kingdom that matters is the kingdom that is ruled by Jesus. It is not that we fit Jesus into our kingdoms so that he thinks like we do and so that he joins our battles on our side. What matters is that we think like he does and we join his side.
His side is not traditional marriage and family values. It is not a Judeo Christian based morality. And, if we were honest we would say that is a good thing. Because traditional family values condemn us just as much as they condemn anybody else. We talk about traditional definitions of marriage. We talk about how the family is falling apart. But then we go out and participate in the things that tear apart the family. Did you know that divorce rates among Christians are virtually the same as they are among non-Christians? Did you know that unmarried Christian young people are just as likely to engage in sex as non-Christian young people? Did you know that Christian men and women are just as likely to use pornography as non-Christians? Are these family values?
Or we talk about the free exercise of religion as though it were an absolute value. Christians should be able to exercise their faith in the public square! How regularly do we exercise that faith in private? We have freedom to worship God as we choose, yet in spite of that great freedom, how regularly do we choose to do something else? All the things we fight for in public condemn us in private.
And so Jesus gives us a better way, a better work for us to do. Jesus said, “This is the work of God; that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Jesus gives us a better work to do; the work of God is faith. The work of God is that we believe in the one whom he has sent. The work of God is simply to confess that Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Son of man is Lord. It is to confess that he has saved you from your sin through his perfect and innocent death. And that because of his resurrection and ascension to heaven you will live under him in an eternal and heavenly kingdom. This is the work of Jesus. This is what Jesus commands for us to do.
And Jesus’ heavenly kingdom is a much better kingdom than any kingdom we could concoct. Earthly kingdoms fights for dominance and dominion, they go to war over earthly food and daily bread. God has those in abundance and he gives them out for free. The eyes of all look to the Lord and he gives them their food at the proper time. He opens his had to satisfy the desires of all living things.
Earthly kingdoms fight to set us free from those who would hurt us or oppress us, but only Jesus can truly set us free. There is no law that he has not fulfilled and no requirement from which he has not set us free. There is no enemy that he has not conquered.
The work of God is that we swear our allegiance to the one who came to die for the sins of the world. He does not command that we jump on board an earthly bandwagon or support and earthly cause. In fact, He commands that we die to this world, that we deny ourselves in this world, because this world is perishing and passing away. He commands that we lay it aside and leave it behind and in its place we bow our knees and our hearts to him.
Psalm 2 asks the question: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:1-6 ESV)
The Lord has set his king in heaven. He is the eternal king of an eternal kingdom. We are not worthy to be called his servants but he has called us to believe. Let us do the work of his heavenly kingdom.