Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sermon: Judica (Lent 5)

21 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 8:42-59 (Gen 22:1-14, Heb 9:11-15)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Jesus had to contend with liars, and this has not changed one bit in the last 2,000 years. This should not surprise us, for as our Lord told His hearers: “You cannot bear to hear my Word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because he has no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

We poor miserable sinners are so enamored of Satan because we like the lie. The truth hurts, and so we take shelter in that which is untrue. For the truth is that we are sinners deserving of death. In our sins, we do serve Satan as though he were our father, and we allow lies to roll off of our tongues with no fear of the consequences.

The truth hurts because it cuts us to the quick. Our initial reaction against the Lord when He tells us the truth is to lash back at Him – when the right thing to do is to repent. And calling us to repentance, forgiving us, and giving us everlasting life through His blood – not the mere “blood of goats and calves, but my means of His own blood” is truly what secures “an eternal redemption” for us. The truth may hurt, but only in the way that medicine tastes bad for a moment, or a cure may cause temporary pain to an injured body part. Instead of accusing Jesus of having a demon, we Christians know that Jesus has conquered the demons, and that we, not He, are the ones infected with their evil and their lies.

And, dear friends, what comfort there is in the following question (which is really not a question at all): “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?”

There are still servants of Satan lying about Jesus today. They tell us Jesus did not rise from the dead. They tell us God did not create heaven and earth. They tell us the devil did not tempt the first man and the first woman into sin. They tell us that Jesus is not God. They tell us that Jesus did not shed His blood “for us men and for our salvation.”

They tell us Jesus was merely a man, not born of a virgin, who died and remained dead. They tell us Jesus did not atone for our sins. They tell us Scripture is unreliable (while quoting it themselves). They tell us that all gods are equal, and that which is evil is good, and that which is good is evil.

Some things just never change.

But here is the good news, dear friends: our Lord Jesus not only calls Satan a liar, He defeats the liar Satan at the cross. And what’s more, He will remove Satan from existence at the end of time, according to the Scriptures. For Jesus is eternal. When the diabolical skeptics mocked Him by asking another question that was not really a question: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?,” our Blessed Lord confessed who was, who He is, and who He ever shall be, saying: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

And the liars and the critics knew exactly what He meant by this – which is why they sought to murder Him. Jesus was saying: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” They could not abide this truth. They still cannot today.

Jesus is the “Lamb of God, pure and holy, who on the cross didst suffer,” the Lamb provided by the Lord as a substitutionary atonement to redeem us. He is the “high priest of the good things that have come,” the “greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation).” Jesus is uncreated, because He is God. He is the priest, the sacrifice, the atonement, and God all rolled into one. “He entered once for all into the holy places… by means of His own blood.”

Dear brothers and sisters, the blood of Christ, shed for you, has secured your redemption, has forgiven your sins, has exposed the devil as a liar and a fraud, and confessed Jesus as God, – and this same blood is given to you as a free gift, poured into your mouth without charge and without guile to purify your conscience.

And “let God be true though every man be a liar.” Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am,” just as He said: “This is My body… This is My blood… for the forgiveness of sins.” The liars and the mockers and the cynics and the unbelievers can rant and rave and roll their eyes, but they cannot change reality, they cannot recast a lie into a truth.

For this is the truth: Our Lord Jesus Christ “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.”

The death of the sacrificial Lamb places us into a covenant, a New and Greater Covenant, a covenant made not by human hands, but by God Himself and carried out in the bloody redemption of God the Son Himself. For the promise to Abraham is a promise to the children of Abraham – including all the adopted children of Abraham: “The Lord will provide.” The Lord provides the sacrifice, the Lamb, the forgiveness of sins, the payment necessary to redeem us from our sins, save us from death, and bring us into holy communion with the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, unto all eternity.

The Lord does not ask Abraham to do anything that He Himself is unwilling to do. In love for His creatures and in His determination to redeem all creation, the Father is willing to sacrifice His Son, His only Son, His Beloved One in whom He is well-pleased, His miraculous Son born from a womb that nature and reason tell us should not be fruitful. The Father allows the Son to climb the mount of sacrifice, headed to the bloody altar atop the hill carrying the wood on His very own back.

The Son allows Himself to be bound to the wood, to be offered as a holocaust, a burnt offering to atone for the sins of the people, the sins of the whole world – “ever patient and lowly,” Himself “to scorn didst offer” – even suffering His sacred head to be entrapped in a thicket of thorns. But unlike Abraham – upon whom God had mercy by calling off the sacrifice – God the Father allows this sacrifice to happen. God the Son willingly takes His place on His cruciform throne. And from this cross, God the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, sanctifies, and enlightens the Church under the Son’s cross according to the Father’s will.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the kind of High Priest we have who sprinkles us with sacrificial blood. This is the kind of sacrifice that has been made for us for the forgiveness of sins. This is the mediator who bears God’s wrath in our place, making us righteous. This is the covenant under which we live forever. This is the truth, the truth that the liars and the devils and the critics cannot abide: the truth that sets us free.

And nowhere do we see this truth, this sacrificial truth, this divine truth, this truth of love and redemption – with more clarity than on the cross:

Lamb of God, pure and holy,
Who on the cross didst suffer.
Ever patient and lowly,
Thyself to scorn didst offer.
All sins Thou borest for us,
Else had despair reigned o’er us:
Thy peace be with us, O Jesus.
O Jesus.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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