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Lent 5/First Sunday in Passiontide – John 8:46-59

by pastorjuhl ~ March 17th, 2010

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

The bitter irony is lost on the Jews tormenting Jesus in John chapter eight. The Psalms are their prayer book. Some knew every one of them by heart. They prayed frequently, Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! You delivered me from my enemies; You rescued me from the man of violence. Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. The Lord is righteous; He has cut the cords of the wicked.

The bitter irony is that the words they prayed frequently mean nothing to them now. They have set their hearts on ungodliness because they have set their hearts against the Messiah. Instead of praying the Psalms to strengthen faith in the Promise of the Savior, they pray these Words to defend a tradition, a way of doing things that they have grown comfortable doing over many years. They have separated Scripture from the Holy Spirit. The Jews who persecute Jesus commit the unpardonable sin.

They claim Abraham as their father, yet reject everything Abraham believed. They saw Him cast out demons, yet say Jesus casts out demons by the prince of demons. They call Jesus a Samaritan even after hearing a parable about a Samaritan coming to the aid of a Jew. Jesus is that Good Samaritan, yet they reject His parable as demonic because it goes against the letter of the Law. The Jews take up stones to stone the King of Kings because He supposedly commits blasphemy by saying, before Abraham was, I am. All these things the Jews do not knowing or believing that they are offering up the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

The Lamb of God tells the Truth and you do not have ears to hear Him. Today begins the most difficult part of the journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. The Jesus you know from Holy Scripture rips apart the Jesus you think you know from your reason and senses. Perhaps you have approached Christ’s Passion and Death not believing what you hear. That’s not my Jesus. My Jesus wouldn’t call anyone a liar. My Jesus would never tell pious Jews they are not of God because they do not hear God’s Words. My Jesus would welcome anyone who believes in any sort of higher power. Though someone may deny every Word Jesus says, that person receives eternal life simply because God is love. A God Who loves would never deny eternal life to anyone. Doesn’t Jesus say so when He tells the crowds of the Jews, most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My words he shall never see death?

You have fallen prey to the foolish wisdom of the world. It is not the mere keeping of the words of Jesus Christ that brings eternal life. If it were, then Jesus would be the greatest moral theologian who ever lived. You could string every sentence He says about holy living into a chain of sayings like those of Confucius. All those parables would end up like Aesop’s fables: great stories with a moral that preaches virtues and values rather than repentance and faith.

Take another look at your Jesus. Today He does exactly as the Jews, and you, pray He does. This is your Jesus, the High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Though His Words seem like salt rubbed in wounds, they are Spirit and they are Truth. Jesus’ Words to the crowds of the Jews convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Only the Holy Spirit preaches these Words. Jesus will have more to say about this preaching of the Holy Spirit before He ascends to heaven. Nevertheless, He convicts them of sin because they refuse to believe Him. He convicts them of false righteousness, trusting in a way of doing things as a people rather than seeing in these ways of doing things that one greater than Moses and Elijah stands among them. He convicts them of judgment because when they call Jesus a Samaritan and demon possessed, they judge themselves straight into hell.

Perhaps you are worried that you have done the same thing as the crowds of the Jews. Perhaps you wonder whether you have committed a sin against the Holy Spirit. Take heart. Do not fear. Wondering about the unpardonable sin and whether or not you committed it is a sign of repentance. Contrary to those who question our Lord in the Holy Gospel, you have heard His pardoning Word and have not hardened your hearts. It is a sign that you trust in the Savior Who vindicates you against the accuser who never stops accusing you. The Savior stands before you and accuses the accuser. Jesus is the ram caught in the thicket of thorns Who dies in your place to make perfect atonement for your sin.

Here’s how the author to the Hebrews puts it: 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? There’s deep comfort in those words. What was once a shadow of the good things to come is now before your eyes. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sin and delivers a clean conscience before God. You are vindicated. You are delivered from your accusing enemies. You are rescued from the man of violence by the Man of Sorrows Who takes on your accusations, your stripes, your dirty conscience, and the violence you deserve because of sin. Jesus takes on all these things and much more for you. He takes on your sin and gives you His righteousness. Jesus cuts the cords of the wicked and frees you from their snare. You are free.

Now comes the difficult part: keeping His Word. What does it mean to keep the Word of Christ? Keeping the Word of Christ means to hearken to it, to listen carefully, to make His Word your Word through total trust in what Jesus says. It is as if you are blind to everything except Christ. Your eyes remain on Him though you are tossed back and forth. Hearkening to His Word means to let the Holy Spirit through the Word direct you to the places where the Lord gives His undeserved love. He brings you to the font, to the pulpit, and to the altar to receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life. These are the holy places where the Savior calls out to you to walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death into the light of eternal life. The One Who is greater than Abraham kept His Promise to Abraham and his offspring. He will keep His promise to you as well. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

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