Lent 5 Judica
March 13, 2016 A+D
St. John 8:42-59
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus is really piling it on at this Feast of Booths. He didn’t go up to this Feast at first, because He knew the Jews were trying to kill Him. His own brothers did not believe that He was for real and chided Him for not going up publically to the Feast. He finally goes up quietly with His disciples and John chapters 7-9 give us great detail about what happens while He is there. And according to John’s report, He really went after Jews’ false belief and idolatry.
As soon as He makes himself known, the Jews flocked to Him to test Him. In these interactions with the Pharisees, we get a most clear and profound confession from Jesus’ own mouth about who He is. The Jews keep throwing Moses and Abraham in Jesus’ face as if that proves that He is a heretic, and our Lord preaches to them how He is rather the fulfillment of what Abraham believed and what Moses wrote. In these discourses from the Feast of Booths, Jesus expounds upon the OT doctrines of worship, the Sabbath, Feasts, the Temple, the God-head, the Messiah, and of course Salvation.
But first, in order for us to understand the profundity of what Jesus was saying, our Gentile, American ears need some OT history.
When Moses came upon the burning bush and God called to him to go deliver His people out of the hand of the satanic tyrant Pharaoh, Moses was extremely reluctant (for my tastes, uncomfortably so), using every excuse he could think of not to go. One of the excuses was that he didn’t know what name to use if the people asked him who sent him. This is where we get the great revelation of the name by which God, the creator of the heavens and the earth wants to be known—God says: tell them that “I am” sent you. God, from the burning bush, clarifies and expands His name this way: “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” This was the most important title in the OT by which God wished to be known—The Lord, the God of Abraham. (From there flows by lineage the God Isaac and the God of Jacob, etc). This is because the promise was first given to Abraham that he would have heirs, land, and (most importantly) that the Messiah would come from him to bless the whole world. Moses was the author and recorder of all these things in the first five books of the OT. Every Jew knew this. This is the stage onto which Jesus enters in the Temple at the Feast of Booths.
In our Gospel this morning, we have the NT parallel to the burning bush revelation of God’s name. This is monumental in the history of the world. Twice in the temple, Jesus professes that He is the “I am.” (8:28, 59)—the Lord God of Abraham, creator of the heavens and the earth. The first time is in relation to His death by being lifted up on a cross. The second time, what we have this morning, combines the themes of 1. the eternity of the Son of God and 2. the resurrection of the flesh (Heb. 11:13ff). This is what our Lord said: “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, I am.” It was crystal clear to the Jews—He was telling them that He was God in the flesh.
This is supposedly what they were waiting for, what their entire national history revolved around. God had promised deliverance to them and now it was taking place in front of their eyes. This should have evoked rejoicing and praise to God never-before heard or experienced. But what did they do upon hearing this? The Jews took up stones at once to murder Him. They did not want to believe Him, even though everything Jesus did and said proved His claim true. They would not believe. They rejected Him because of their broken spirit (Ex. 6:9).
Now, we have to jump back to Moses, so we don’t miss this important parallel. After Moses finally went to Egypt to do as God told him, he spoke to the people all the promises of God. He retold them about the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—about the Promised Land, the inheritance, and the Messiah. He showed them miracles and preached to them things they knew to be true. They should have rejoiced and praised God for the deliverance He was about to give them. But how did the children of Israel, slaves in Egypt, receive this word of good news? Exodus chapter 6 says “They did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Ex. 6:9). They refused to believe. Yet God gave them deliverance through the man Moses.
The old Adam is astoundingly consistent. He is hopelessly irrational. He refuses to believe the miracles and preaching of Jesus even in the face of undeniable proof. The pride of the old man refuses to soften even in the presence of God Himself. These effects of the old man are not limited to the children of Israel in Egypt or Pharisees in the Temple. That old man is alive and active in you as well.
You are the redeemed, baptized children of God, born anew in the waters of Holy Baptism. You are His chosen people, receiving His very words of Absolution and taking part in His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. You know that the Holy Spirit dwells in you for your salvation, and that God is present with you in all circumstances.
Yet you allow your eyes to wander to things that do not belong to you. You lust after what you do not have. Usually an impossible ideal. Your carnal mind seeks to grasp onto the fleeting excesses of this world, whether it be in gluttony, drunkenness, sexual lust, or covetousness. But always in pride because you think you deserve it. Your old man rears its ugly head against your loved ones at the drop of a hat. Fury burns in your heart (and usually comes out of your eyes and mouth) at the slightest infraction against you. Your anger and your sense of entitlement wound the ones you love the most. All of these sins are done in the presence of the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth. Every intentional sin is completely inconsistent with what you believe and who you are.
And even with all of this, the great “I am”, the Lord in the flesh does not abandon you or leave you to rot in your slavery to sin. He comes to you to rescue you. The old man cannot be converted. He must be drowned. This is a daily necessity. Your Lord wants you to humble yourselves, confess your sins, and be forgiven. He wants your new man to daily emerge and arise to live before Him in righteousness and purity forever. He does not take any pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather desires that they turn from sin and live (Ezek. 18:23).
All of the abuse that your Lord suffered at the hands of evil men, He did willingly for you. His entire march to the cross was on purpose and done in obedience to His Father. No one took Jesus’ life from Him. He gave it up freely of Himself when it was time. He sacrificed Himself outside the city gates for Jews and Gentiles, for His accusers, executioners, and for you. Lent gives way to Easter—repentance to forgiveness, sorrow over sin to rejoicing over salvation. The next two weeks are most solemn because you get to see just how much your Lord loves you. The God of heaven and earth submitted himself to death so that you might be delivered and go to the Promised Land He prepares for you even now in heaven.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.