In the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John we are presented with the struggle between faith and unbelief, or, the struggle between trusting in God to strengthen our faith, the gift we need the most, and relying on the things of this world. The chapter begins with the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand. The people who witnessed and ate wanted to make Jesus their king because He satisfied their physical hunger. As we read on in the rest of the chapter, we find that the people weren’t very interested in Jesus as their spiritual Bread. They wanted to be comfortable in this life. They wanted someone to feed them, to make them wealthy and comfortable. They wanted a bread king. So when Jesus tells them that He came to give eternal life, to reveal the temporary nature of this world, to awaken a hunger and thirst for eternal righteousness in the Kingdom of God, they reject Him. He tells the people that the bread He fed them in the wilderness will not keep them alive, but whoever eats of Him, that is, whoever believes in Him, will live forever. The people’s response was “This is a hard saying; who can understand it” and then many were offended and walked with Him no more. But the Twelve understood a little bit. St. Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But before he made that good confession he spoke words that instruct us still today: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life.”
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.