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Lent 5 Sermon – John 8:46-59

by pastorjuhl ~ March 25th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The showdown in John chapter eight between Jesus and certain Jewish leaders is like a gift promised by forebears to the generations after them. The gift is rejected out of hand by future generations as not a gift but as something blasphemous. The future generations reject the gift because it doesn’t look or act like they think the gift should. Something else, or someone else, has corrupted the gift. Now the gift is worthless and should be cast away to die.

By now, you’ve guessed the gift is Jesus Christ and His Gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. The generations before are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The future generations are the Jews who refuse to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. If you look a little closer at those who reject the Gift of Jesus, you might see a few faces in the crowd that you recognize. You might even see a flash of your face or perhaps mine.

When we despise Jesus’ Words, we taste death and wish we hadn’t. We can’t help but give death our full attention. Death is something unknown to a Christian. Jesus has taken care of eternal death for us. However, tasting the unknown is much more adventurous than tasting the same old-same old we’re used to having. Who doesn’t like an adventure? So we no longer keep Christ’s word and jump into the unknown.

That leap into the unknown brings us face-to-face with our worst nightmare: eternal separation from God. We might make the excuse that it’s a leap of faith. We know God will be there for us when we need Him. So we’ll take an adventure away from God for a while and see if there’s anyone else we might fear, love, and trust above Him.

You might call Abraham and Isaac’s journey to the mountain of sacrifice in Genesis chapter 22 an adventure. God tells Abraham to take his son to a mountain and sacrifice him on an altar. No wonder so many agnostic or atheistic people despise the one true God. He is a God Who asks the impossible. Who would want to sacrifice their beloved son? But isn’t God the God of love? Why would a loving God demand the death of Abraham’s only son?

Perhaps Abraham knew more about God than we think. Notice the use of first person plural when he says to his young men, stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you. Abraham takes this adventure with faith. He trusts that God will not do as He says. God will find a substitute for Abraham’s son. And that’s exactly what happens when he finds a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.

The Jews are people of the Old Testament. You would think they would notice Jesus being the ram caught in the thicket, especially when they see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns! They don’t get it. They try every trick in the book to trap Jesus in his speech. Two weeks ago, certain Jews said Jesus casts out demons by the prince of demons. Today they accuse Jesus of being both a Samaritan and demon possessed. That’s a double curse hurled by the Jews! What makes it worse is Jesus saying phrases like most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death and before Abraham was, I AM.

Jesus’ words shouldn’t make things worse. He speaks the Truth. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Long before Abraham was born, Jesus was, is, and is to come. Nevertheless, the Jews cannot take it anymore. They take up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus gets away. His hour has not yet come.

There is nothing worse for the Jews than to stone their Messiah. They will do much worse than stone Him. They will sentence Him to death. Jesus will die an innocent Man on behalf of the sins of countless guilty people. The Jews see Christ’s death as politically expedient. No one now stands in their way of doing business and keeping power. However, Peter proclaims on the Day of Pentecost: let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Peter’s words in Acts chapter two should end any adventure away from Christ that we might take. Still we take them. We venture into sin because the way is broad. It’s easier to sin boldly than to keep God’s Word so we will never see death. Death seems to us like our age. Age is merely a number. It’s not how old you are, it’s how old you feel. If that were the case concerning sin and death, we would never live because Paul proclaims the wages of sin is death.

But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s a big conjunction there, that but. Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One from God. The Anointed One from God comes not to destroy the Jews but to save them. This Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, also comes to die for the Gentiles. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Even if Abraham were to put the knife to Isaac, his sacrifice would not have made atonement for sin. The blood of the ram caught in a thicket would do just then. The blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world goes beyond all sacrifices ever made on Jewish altars. No wonder Jesus said your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. How could Abraham see Jesus’ day and rejoice? Abraham saw Jesus’ day by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

God would raise Isaac from the dead, if need be, to keep the Promise He made in the Garden a sure thing. If God provides a sacrifice in place of Isaac, how much more He provides a sacrifice for our sin in His Son Jesus! Jesus escapes the Jews’ trap because His hour had not yet come. That hour comes soon for us. Next week we return to hear how Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death. As He suffers agony on the cross, remember that His agony is for you and for me. The Promise is fulfilled in Jesus. Satan has no claim over us. Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Psalm 124 says Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. The psalmist’s words may be taken two ways. We hear many of our troubles in that verse. Great are our afflictions; even our earliest memories are painful ones. However, pain and loss have no claim anymore because of Jesus. The psalmist’s words are more about Jesus than they are about us. Jesus knows nothing but sorrow all His life. He is born in a feeding trough, carried to Egypt to avoid a mass slaughter, lives far away from His earthly family’s home, and is nagged every step of the way by unbelieving Jews. Jesus then suffers and dies, only to rise from the dead. Evil does not prevail. God’s goodness always has the final say.

That’s the bottom line as we enter the last two weeks of Lent, sometimes called “Passiontide”. We focus with great intensity on Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. The best way to meditate on the Passion of Christ is to participate in Word and Sacrament around His altar. We hear the Word, eat His Body, drink His Blood, receive Absolution, and revel in the forgiveness and life given to us because of Jesus. From this showdown of good and evil, we receive vindication. We are judged worthy of eternal life because Jesus was judged worthy of death.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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