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Lent 5 – John 8:46-59

by pastorjuhl ~ April 9th, 2011

I am indebted to Rev. Craig A. Meissner of Immanuel Church in Steger, IL for his thoughts on the Hebrew word for “see” that is also translated as “provide”. Soli Deo Gloria!

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

Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death. Perhaps it was this statement of Jesus that led the crowds of the Jews to take up stones to throw at Him. Perhaps this statement even more than before Abraham was, I AM troubles the Jews. How dare the son of a carpenter from Galilee who surely has a demon, who accuses those questioning him as sons of the devil, and who takes the Holy Name of God upon Himself, how dare this Jesus claim if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.

Though the crowds of the Jews claim to be children of Abraham, they are no more children of Abraham than the stones they want to throw. The strange thing is God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Ironic, isn’t it? God can raise up children of Abraham from stones, but those who call themselves children of Abraham and sons of Moses have no idea what it means to be offspring of these holy men of God.

Consider Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac in the Old Testament reading. Abraham keeps the Word of the Lord. We see his unquestioning faith in the words Abraham spoke 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. We. First person plural. The lad will return safe and sound.

Isaac asks Abraham, Where is the lamb for a burnt offering? My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering. The translation doesn’t do justice to Abraham’s response to Isaac. The Hebrew word רָאָה that is translated as “provide” may also be translated as “see”. Abraham’s response to Isaac then may be translated roughly, My son, God will see Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ dialogue with a crowd of Jews? One little word common to both the Old Testament Reading and the Holy Gospel: see. Abraham says to Isaac, God will see to it Himself the lamb for a burnt offering. Jesus says to the Jews, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death. The crushing blow to the power play that the Jews attempt on our Savior is that they see the Lamb that their, and our, heavenly Father sees to Himself, or provides, for a burnt offering. Nevertheless, their eyes are blind to see, their ears are deaf to hear, and their tongues are possessed by Satan, who accuses Christ through their claims to be children of Abraham and sons of Moses.

Jesus is able to make the claim that He was before Abraham because it is true. He is the eternal Son of the Father, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made. Those who blaspheme Jesus in John chapter eight would rather boast in blood relations with family forebears rather than boasting in believing the Promise made to their family forebears. They must keep the Law and all its attending ceremonies. If there’s any salvation to be done, they must see to it themselves. This is consistent with what they told Judas Iscariot after he confessed his sin of betraying an innocent Jesus to the authorities. What is that to us? You see to it!

Imagine if we came to Divine Service, confessed our sins, and instead of receiving the Absolution, we hear, “What is that to God? You see to it!” Not a comforting thing to hear, is it? Nevertheless, how often do we try to see to it? We want to save ourselves. We do not want to plead to the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin. We must do it ourselves. We try to keep the Law and all its attending ceremonies. We claim to be as righteous as Abraham and Moses. We love the Ten Commandments so much that we want to see them everywhere. As long as we try to live by them, we will get along just fine with God.

If we see to salvation ourselves simply by doing the Law, then we must despair with Judas Iscariot, who hanged himself because he could not see to the matter himself. His guilt was so great, but when he went to see the men who could pronounce God’s mercy over him, they commanded him to see to his own forgiveness.

The irony of the conversation in today’s Holy Gospel is delicious. The Jews convict Jesus of sin. They say He has a demon and is a Samaritan. They ridicule Him for seeing Abraham. They are ready to stone Him for blasphemy. However, the tables are turned. Jesus convicts the Jews of sin. Jesus convicts them of dishonoring the heavenly Father…that’s blasphemy. Jesus says they do not know the heavenly Father. Jesus says Abraham has seen the Savior’s day and has rejoiced. If anyone should be stoned, it is the Jews who convict Jesus of sin.

The Jews will have their day to rejoice soon enough. They will finally catch Jesus, thanks to Judas Iscariot. They will use the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate as their accomplice to get rid of the Troublemaker. While they think they are offering God service in crucifying the King of the Jews, His blood will be on them and their children…but they won’t believe it. Christ’s blood is upon us and our children too, but not by family ties. His blood is on us and our children because our heavenly Father has seen Himself the Lamb for the ultimate burnt offering.

God our Father sees us in our sorry state of sin. He hears our penitent cry for justice. His answer is the Ram caught in the thicket; His only-begotten Son caught in a crown of thorns. Abraham called the name of the place where God spared Isaac and provided a substitute offering יְהוָה יִרְאֶה, the Lord has seen. Only the Lord God sees to it that sinners do not die, but live by faith in the Word of the Lord. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes: 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.

Jesus predicts the violence by which the Jews will try to take away the Kingdom. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Though the Jews want to use the force of stones to take away the Kingdom, it remains ours because of Jesus, who keeps His Word and comes into His Kingdom upon the cross as 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.

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

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