Updated: Apr 4
Sermon - Lent 5 Judica
St. John 8:46-59
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Dear Fellow Redeemed who are loving your neighbor by sheltering in place on this Lent 5 Sunday, or, perhaps are loving him by providing necessary aid according to your vocation at work:
What a strange time we’re in now, huh? The worst of this pandemic has yet to reach us like it has some. We feel for those who have suffered great loss because of it.
Even for us, though, over the last few weeks everything has changed. We are people who relish freedom, and an ability to go out and do things around other people; and we find ourselves staying home. No doubt, you have experienced, like I have, that in those times when I’ve had to go out for some reason, it’s difficult to stay clear of people. We have this heightened sense that we should; but - even though we’re always hearing of peoples’ cruelty to one another - people tend to be friendly! They like to shake hands. They like to maintain a social distance of less than six feet. They like to gather in groups of more than ten.And that’s good! (ordinarily)
But now, you find yourself shifting around to try to stay far enough away not to get it (if you don’t already have it), or give (if you do) - this Coronavirus to someone else. Many have died from it, after all.
Jesus talks about death in our text for today. He says, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. This is puzzling to his audience. It becomes a point of argument for them; everyone dies, after all. God said this would happen in the beginning, after the first people sinned. Within this conversation, Jesus’ listeners point out that even Abraham died; the prophets too. What does this guy mean that anyone will never see death?
The answer to this question is that there is another death that is even worse than the one we know. Jesus had said earlier (often misquoted and misappropriated): “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Free from the consequence of sin is what He’s talking about.
Free from the death St. Paul means when he says, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Free from being separated from God in hell forever, and being at the mercy of the devil, who Jesus calls in this same chapter, a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
And it’s clear in our text, that the Father has caused you to know Jesus for this very reason; that you might be set free, that you might never see this eternal death, that you might, instead, be of God.
In this health crisis, in which we are asked not to gather for services anymore, you might have noticed that in my early communication, I said, we have not suspended spiritual care of the congregation, and will continue ministry even if it should become limited solely to electronic means.
This wasn’t an effort to overachieve in some way.
We aren’t just looking for ways to spend our time.
God’s people need to abide in [His] Word, to keep [His] Word, if they are to continue to be God’s people. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,” Jesus says.
You need to hear and keep (or treasure) God’s Word by any means necessary even in the midst of a time when we must be physically apart from one another. The worst thing that could happen would be for you to drift away from that Word, and ultimately have Jesus say to you (referring to the Father), like He does to His hearers in our text: “you have not known him.”
The strangeness of this time can kind of promote this drifting, though. Before all of this talk of social distancing, you may have been in a habit of going to church. Good. Through your desire and through your actions, you have said with the Psalmist, O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells (26:8). You have been eager to come to this place where the font still reminds you of your Baptism (your adoption) into Christ’s family. You’ve longed each week to receive along with bread and wine, the Sacrament of Christ’s true body and blood, given and shed for you for the remission of sins. You have found comfort and joy meeting together (Hebrews 10:25) with other believers to be uplifted as you pray with them, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16), as St. Paul writes.
But now you’re at home. When you get up on Sunday morning, you aren’t getting dressed for church. You aren’t preparing an offering envelope. You aren’t going through the Christian Questions and Answers on pp.38-39 of the hymnbook to ready yourself for Communion.
In many ways, it isn’t a day all that different from these other days (after all, you’re stuck at home). You’re listening to news all the time that can be frightening (nobody’s talking about God’s grace and providence there). You’re around all your comfortable things. You may have set up a number of new things to keep you occupied - especially if you are trying to work from home like I am. You might have already been tempted to take a break from spiritual things (like you have from work, and from shopping, and from the beach). Your prayers might have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the things being seen to at home.
The devil might have deceived you into actually becoming distant from God at a time of crisis, when His comfort might be most pronounced to you.
But think about this Word of Jesus’ that you’re going out of your way (by electronic means, even!) to hear and keep. Think of what this Word says to you in this moment in which all control you thought you had has been lost. This Word speaks of the One Who is before Abraham. Abraham’s faith was in Him as the one God was sending to bring salvation to the world.
If you’re wondering in this difficult time in our nation and in our world, does God still love us? The answer according to our text is, yes! You can be sure of His love because He has caused you to know this One Whose very presence in this world is to save you from the worst death. The devil’s attempts to deceive Him, and to distance Him from His Father never worked and never could work. He came for the purpose of putting your guilt on Himself so that you no longer have it.
And He has done just that. He tasted death for you - the worst kind, the kind that had Him sweating what were like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44) as the Father’s silence said to Him as loud as war that He must drink this cup of suffering down to the dregs. He tasted the kind of death that caused Him to describe Himself as forsaken (Matt. 27:46). He did it instead of you. He did it for you. He did it so now, you are forgiven.
And since He is the One Who is before Abraham, the eternal Son of God (God Himself), the grave couldn’t hold Him. He rose from death as the One Who will cause you also to rise from death to Iive with Him eternally in His kingdom.
We can shelter in place for a while, can’t we? We can love our neighbor in whatever ways we might be called to do so in this time (whether providing some sort of heroic care or service, or just doing our part not to keep spreading this virus around). We do so abiding in Christ’s Word that reminds us of His love, and of His provision of our greatest need, that strengthens our faith in it. We abide in His Word as His disciples. We live and we die in Him. So, we need not fear virus or any other thing. Amen.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.