March 21, 2010 A+D
St. John 8:42-59
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hearing Our Lord make the bold claim in the bloody place of sacrifice that He is before Abraham was, that is, that He is eternal, without beginning, the One who is, sinful men, full of themselves, picked up stones to throw at Him. God was present in their flesh, as one of them, in their midst. He had taken on their mortality, could bleed and die. Thus did they see not the love of God for humanity, joining Himself to them in humility, for mercy’s sake, but their chance to kill God. They picked up stones to throw at Him, to torture and kill Him. But His time had not yet come.
Thus it was for Our Lord every moment that He endured the burdens of our fallen world. He spoke, and they contradicted. He taught the Truth, and they perverted it, twisted it, sought to use it as a trap. He performed miracles, and they maligned. He cast out demons, and they accused Him of being in league with demons. He had compassion and mercy and they chided Him as a companion of sinners. He ate and He drank and had fellowship with them and they labeled Him as a drunkard. He rebuked or chastised, and they laughed at Him.
His time had not yet come, there in the Temple, where God poured out His Grace in Blood, but it would. He was accused by the Jews, condemned to death by the Gentiles, that His blood would be poured out in Grace. He was forsaken by His friends, by the disciples, and tortured by His enemies. He was humiliated in front of the Jewish soldiers of Herod with the scarlet robe and in front of the Gentile soldiers of Pilate with the scourge and crown of thorns. He was humiliated in front of Pilate’s wife and also in the court of Caiaphas by the Jewish woman’s questions which led St. Peter to fall away. He suffered, was a spectacle, before rulers, high priests, and their servants, before men and women, in the face of Pharisees and common people of the land, before friends and enemies, family and stranger, and there was no one to help Him who helped everyone.
His time had not yet come, there in the Temple, but it would. Before Abraham was, He is, and before Abraham was, He pledged His life for Abraham, for Adam, for Moses, and David. For when Adam fell, and plunged all his descendents into the grips of Hell, the eternally and solely Begotten of the Father presented a petition to the inner counsel of the Holy Trinity. Before the throne of Grace, God the Son, volunteered to pay for the human race, to be their Substitute, to redeem them out of death, to die in their place, thus taking on immediately their guilt and setting the course of all of history, sparing Adam from his just fate and bringing back all the universe from the brink of chaos and into His providence. For this pledge and perfect love, for the shedding of His blood, the Father smote and tormented His only-begotten Son. The Spirit lit upon Him in Holy Baptism, anointing Him as the Sacrifice, marking Him the Promise in the Flesh, the Messiah, and the Father spoke, “This is My Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.” Then the Spirit handed Him over to fasting, deprivation, and temptation at the hand of Satan. He would endure all that Adam had endured, be tempted in all the ways that Adam had been tempted, and worse, but do what Adam failed to do, be what Adam failed to be. The Father would let the Son struggle and flounder in the agony of death and Hell that we might see the Father’s zealous, burning wrath against sin, and know the cost of our rebellion, greed, pride, and lust. The Father handed Him over, forsook Him there, left Him alone and did not aid or comfort Him, that we might also see that His wrath has been appeased, that the sacrifice is complete, that His righteousness has been accomplished. and there is no more of Hell to ask, of Justice to demand, that death has lost its sting in the death of Jesus Christ, whom death, now dead, cannot hold, and that by that holy grace we might drink thereof, the Blood of God, His Life, and be made whole, cleansed, forgiven, and joined to Him. Thus do we proclaim His death until He comes again, without shame, in the eating and the drinking of His holy, risen Body and Blood.
His time had not yet come in the Temple, the place where God poured out His grace in blood, but it would. He would go in His own time. No one takes His life from Him. He is the Lord. He goes as a lamb to the slaughter, without complaint, in perfect love, seeing always to the needs of others, speaking as He does compassion to the daughters of Jerusalem, to His mother and St. John, to the penitent thief, and to us all, when He says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He goes as a lamb but in power. He lays down His own life. He is the victim but also the priest. We know not what we do. But He is fully conscious and aware. He knows what He is doing. He does it on purpose, willfully, gladly, without regret or grudge, in perfect, serving, self-giving love. And He knows what is coming. He knows He will win. He knows how to defeat the strong man. He knows how to love. He knows how to rise.
The Lord provides, on the mountain made of a skull, on the place where death ruled, where men met execution for crimes, where the Law got what it wanted, the Lord provides. If anyone keeps His word, that is, if anyone holds His word, keeps it, treasures it, guards it, loves it, in his heart, then he will never see death, that is, he will never see Hell, never pay for his sins, never face the accuser. For the Lord Jesus Christ has come from God, was sent from the inner counsel of the Holy Trinity, to deliver us out of the hands and will of demons, not for His own glory, but for for our salvation, for our glory, to open our mouths, to make us His. He is our God. By Grace, we know Him and His Father and have fellowship with Abraham. By grace, we receive the Blood of His crucifixion, the Body raised again to life, which is before Abraham was and say, “Amen.”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Some material taken from An Explanation of the History of the Sufferings and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Four Evangelists by Johann Gerhard, trs. Elmer M. Hohle, ed. David O. Berger, published by Repristination Press, Malone, Texas, 1999, pp. 17-27.