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Heermann on Lent 5 / Judica (John 8:46–59)

by Matthew Carver ~ March 20th, 2012

Johann Heermann on Judica Sunday (John 8:46–59)

Translation © Matthew Carver, 2012.

Sure cure and remedy
Against death’s potency

In the name of Christ Jesus, our Physician, who has prescribed for us a tested remedy against death’s potency, and by His honest mouth assures that all orthodox hearts who use this medicine shall not taste the bitterness of death: Who for this precious work of art is adored and Blessed both now and forever. Amen.

When Agag, the heathen king of the Amalekites saw that the prophet Samuel wanted to cut him to shreds, he went out to meet him with a warrior’s courage, acted sincerely, and spoke: Thus must a man drive off the bitterness of death. This, however, was not the right means by which the fear of death can be driven away. It is only a pretend courage. When it is tested, there is no effective consolation, no certain hope at hand. Today we hear a much better counsel from Christ’s mouth, a far more salutary remedy against the terror and taste of death. It is thereof that I will speak somewhat on this occasion. Wherefore, pray a devout Our Father, beseeching the assistance of the Holy Spirit for me and you. First, however, sing: “Lord Jesus Christ, True Man and God…”

Hear today’s Gospel from the 8th chapter of John, which reads as follows:
“The Lord Jesus said unto the Jews, Which man among you…but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple”


After Joshua, the mighty hero, diligently surveyed the Promised Land, he extolled its glories to the Israelites, offering to lead them into it himself, with God’s help. He spoke to the whole assembly thus: “The land through which we walked is very good. If the Lord is gracious to us, He will bring us into this land, and give us a land wherein milk and honey flows. Depart not from the Lord, nor fear the people of this land, for we will devour them as bread, Their defence has deserted them. But the Lord is with them; fear them not.” Yet what kind of reward did he get for such true service? All the people called for him to be stoned.

Elect children of God! Look at the Gospel that was read. Did not the same thing happen to our heavenly Joshua, the Lord Jesus? Did he not frequently extol to the Jews the glories of the eternal life from whence He had come to them? Did He not admonish them with all faithfulness, that if they should acknowledge and receive Him as the true Messiah, and not reject Him, He would lead and bring them into the land of the living, wherein everlasting joy would be upon their heads? What gratitude did He receive for such faithfulness and manifold benefits? They blasphemed Him, suggested that He was a Samaritan, and had a demon. And when the Lord Jesus showed with all might that He was sent from God and was the true Messiah, they picked up stones to stone Him.

But just as the first group in the wilderness did not miss their punishment, and were prevented from entering the good and glorious land, nor more did the second group, the blaspheming Jews, escape punishment from the Most High at last.

Now, our Gospel text today is very comprehensive and rich in teachings, and it would not be easy to give it a full exposition in one sitting, even if we were required to do so. At this time, then, let us assign ourselves no more than the verse: “Verily, verily, I say to you, if any man shall keep My Word, he shall not see death forever.”

Brenz says that this one verse is more excellent and more to be desired than all gold and silver. Wealth is to be sure God’s particular blessing important for the maintenance of this life. Yet if one should have the whole world, silver and gold and all money, what strength and comfort would it give him at the point of death? Could it ease the sorrows of dying, or dispel death itself? What did the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus lack? Did he not have all the riches and walth that he could want? But when he saw death before his eyes, he lamented the misery and inconstancy of this life, and said, “All that I am, all that I have had— / Now I find nothing that refreshes with comfort.”

But if we look at, consider, and weigh this verse rightly, we find in it a glorious and admirable means by which all the bitterness of death can be turned to sweetness, nay, even dispelled. Though there is no herb in the garden that can counteract death, yet here we are shown a Flower that has such properties and power. “This Flower is the heav’nly Word / Whom God Himself hath given / To be our Guide, our Light, our Lord, in Whom ist stored All hope for earth and heaven.”

In order then that we may not only believe this even now, but also, when the hour of our death appears, not be terrified by death, let us carefully examine this central verse, considering for the time being (1) What a certain remedy or medicinal draught it is against death’s power, and what is the right way for us to use this remedy so that it may have a good effect on us.

Assist me, O Lord my God, and help me according to Your grace, that I may thank You well with my mouth and extol You among all people. Amen.


  • There are many medicinal herbs, if only we knew which ones and what their use.Horophilus: “Many ailing men trample their medicine and physician underfoot, and run over the herbs that could cure them of their bodily disease.”
  • Pliny: “Panacea” is good for all maladies.
  • King Mithridates of Pontus had a tested concoction for treating poison by which he preserved his body. When he was led to his death, he could not poison himself, but had to suffer the ignominy of execution.

I. The nature of our remedy against the taste and terror of death
A. It is the Word of Christ, the Preaching of the Gospel.
1. He came in love from heaven to earth for your salvation, crushed the serpent, destroyed the devil’s works, stole death’s power, restored life, so that if you repent and trust in Him, you have everlasting life.

B. It is trustworthy by virtue of its origin and the oath of the Physician.
1. It is not the work of a mere man.
a. King Solomon knew many kinds of plants
b. Isaiah made a wholesome poultice and applied it to dying Hezekiah to remove all the poison.
c. Philipp, the Greek physician, claimed his teaching would keep psomeone alive, but his example shows how vain that boast was.
d. Acesias tried to heal a paralytic, but only multiplied his pain.
e. Critobulus won renown for removing an arrow from King Philip’s eye.
f. Joannine Sanguinacius could detect a patient’s malady from his eyes.
2. Christ is a far more excellent Physician, our Savior.
a. I am the Lord your Physician. (Luke 5:31).
b. “I am a Master to save.” (Is. 63:1, Luther).
c. Through His death he became a poison to death and a pestilence to hell. (Hos. 13:14).
3. He assures us of this help.
a. “Verily, verily…” a solemn double oath.
b. No deceit was found in His mouth. (Is. 53:9).
c. It is impossible that He should lie. (Heb. 6:18).
d. Who then can doubt Him?

C. It is prescribed for all men without respect of persons.
1. He suffered and was crucified for all men.
a. “Christ died for all.” (2 Cor. 5:14).
b. He gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6).
c. He is “the Savior of the world.” (1 Tim. 4:10 Luther).
2. He offers this proven remedy to all men.
a. “Go and teach all peoples, preaching the Gospel to all creatures.” (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; [cf. Matt. 24:14]).
b. “Their voice is gone out into every land, and their word into the whole world.” (Ps. 19:4).
3. He uses the words “si quis” [or the Greek for it] which exclude none.
a. “If only all the world would do it, what joy would fill my heart!”
b. “Come unto Me, all you who labor…” (Matt. 11:28).
4. The heavenly Father also wants all men to be saved.
a. He ordained His Son to be the salvation “unto the ends of the world.” (Is. 62:11).
b. “He is good to all, and has mercy on all His works.” (Ps. 145:9).
c. “The Lord sustains those who fall, and raises up the downcast.” (Ps. 145:14).
d. “Do you think that I delight in the death of the ungodly, and not rather that he turn and live?” (Ezek. 18:23).

II. The proper use of this spiritual remedy.
A. It should be used with a believing heart, trusted in, relied on in life and death.
1. The word of the Gospel comforts the afflicted.
a. Christ came to call sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32).
b. He graciously forgives sins and promises salvation to repentant sinners.
c. He confirms this with the highest oath: “As surely as I live…” (Ezek. 33:11).
d. “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).
2. It is appropriated by the believer.
a. Christ loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:25).
b. “I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25).
c. “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28).
d. The thief on the cross. “Today you will be with Me…” (Luke 23:43).
e. “Can a woman forget her child, and not have mercy…?” (Is. 49:15).
f. “Behold, in My hands have I graven you.”
3. Trust in this sure promise on every occasion.
a. “When my spirit is in anguish, You come to my aid.” (Ps. 142:3).
b. In prayer: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask…” (John 16:23).
c. In death: “I live, and you also shall live…” (John 14:19).
d. I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:54).

B. It should be used with heart and mouth steadfastly.
1. It should not be stolen, forced, or enticed away.
a. Satan uses inner tribulation and outward persecution.
b. “Be faithful unto death…” (Rev. 2:10).
2. It should be confessed with joy.
a. “Be ready to give an answer to everyone…” (1 Peter 3:15).
b. Augustine: “The faith of the heart is invalid without the confession of the mouth.”
c. If you lose your life for the Gospel, you will keep it. (Matt. 16:25; Luke 17:33; John 12:25).
d. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Lord, and believe… (Rom. 10:9).
e. The apostles defiantly preached in Jesus’ name, etc. (Acts 4–5).
f. Matthias and his sons, Old Eleazar [= ? Eleazar Avaran] (1 Macc. 6).
g. The mother with seven sons. (2 Macc. 8).
3. Those who do not remain steadfast forfeit this remedy.
a. “Woe to those who despair of God and do not hold fast…” (Sir. 2:13–14).

C. It should be used with deed and willing obedience to what He commands in it.
1. Obedience to His commands and instructions follows.
a. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:10).
b. “Be not only hearers, but also doers…” (James 1:22).
c. “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).
2. When you hear the preaching of Christ’s Word, do willing obedience.
a. “Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant…” (Ps. 143:2).
b. “Whoever would follow Me, let him deny himself…” (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).
c. “Blessed is the man who endures tribulation…” (James 1:12).
d. “A new commandment I give you…” (John 13:34).
e. “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matt. 5:9).
f. “Wash, cleanse yourselves, put away your wickedness from My sight…” (Is. 1:16).
g. See, you are healed. Sin no more. (John 5:14).
h. Present your members as weapons of righteousness. (Rom. 6:13).
3. Though this obedience is imperfect, yet it is pleasing to God through faith.

III. The power, benefit, and effect of this spiritual remedy.
A. It cures man’s present estate of spiritual death.
1. Man is spiritually dead in sin and persists in wicked desires.
a. All his works are an abomination to God like a rotting corpse.
b. “The mouth that belies slays the soul” (Wisd. 1:11).
c. “My son was dead…” (Luke 15:24).
d. “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matt. 8:22; Luke 9:60).
e. “Widows that live in their passions, it is a living death” (1 Tim. 5:6).
f. “While you were dead in sin…” (Eph. 2:5).
g. “Arise from the dead…” (Eph. 5:14).
2. He who keeps Christ’s Words dies to sin and lives to righteousness:
a. “Men must give an account at the last judgment.” (Matt. 12:36).
b. “Bring forth fruit of repentance…” (Matt. 3:8–10).
c. Bernard: “Keep from sin as much as possible; work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (cf. Phil. 2:12).
d. He offers his body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. (Rom. 12:1).
e. He puts off concerning the former converstion the old man… (Eph. 4:22).
f. He denies ungodliness and worldly lusts… (Titus 2:12).
g. He shall be as a tree planted by streams of water… (Ps. 1:3).

B. It gives comfort in physical death, and undoes it.
1. Natural death cannot be escaped.
a. “All flesh is grass…” (Is. 40:6).
b. “How wretched is this life, alas…” (hymn by John Gigas)
2. Christ took away death’s power so that believers cannot be held.
a. “Death where is your sting?…” (1 Cor. 15:55).
b. “You will sleep with your fathers…” (Deut. 31:16).
c. The soul is “bound up in the bundle of the living” (1 Sam. 25:29)
d. “Enter into your chambers’ (Is. 26:20)
e. Simeon’s joyous departure.
f. The true fatherland, where our citizenship is.
g. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
3. You wil be transferred from the prison of sin and valley of tears to joy and glory.
a. Joseph in Egypt, when he was freed from prison and raised to honor.
b. Such joy as no man has tasted, nor any heart encountered.

C. It protects against and prevents everlasting death, i.e., eternal damnation.
1. The ungodly seek death, and death flees from them.
a. Lake of burning sulphur.
b. Their worm never dies.
2. You who believe are freed from this, so do not fear when death comes.
a. You will see heaven open, like Stephen.
b. You will be given the crown of righteousness.
3. You know this because
a. You put on Christ in Baptism.
b. You are absolved of sins in Absolution.
c. You are assured of God’s grace and salvation in the Supper.

IV. Conclusion.
Behold, the excellent remedy, which is the Word of Christ, does all this. “Whoever tastes such divine sweetness in his heart will not be concerned with the world and the bitterness of death,” says Ambrose. Let this be enough discussion on this point of teaching.

Lord Jesus, grant me constantly
To keep Thy Word and trust in Thee,
That I may not be then condemned,
Nor have to taste death without end;
Nor ever to destruction fly,
Though here in time I well must die;
But wrest me with a mighty hand,
Lord Jesus Christ, from death’s strong band,
And to Thy kingdom take Thou me,
And in it let me dwell with Thee,
In joys that nevermore shall cease;
This, this, O grant me in Thy grace,
And I Thy praise will e’er sustain.
Amen, Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

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