22 March 2015
St. John 8:42-59
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ, Our Lord, takes up His sorrows willingly. The conspiracy against Him will only come to completion when He is ready. When it is time to drain the cup, He will offer Himself to the Father in obedience and out of love for us. Though the pain and sorrow are real, He is glad to do it. This is the cost of our salvation and He willingly pays it.
Today’s Sunday takes it name from the Latin word: “Judica.” That is the first word in Psalm 43, today’s Introit.
Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Judica means vindicate or judge. The Psalmist puts the following words into the Messiah’s mouth. The Lord prays: “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!”
The Christ asks for vindication because He is innocent of any wrong doing and has been falsely accused. He will be vindicated by His Father in the resurrection. The resurrection proves that His Word is true. What He said happened, and what He taught is right. His resurrection also proves that His Father has accepted His sacrifice and judged Him innocent. This means that He is a worthy sacrifice for our salvation and the payment has been made in full.
The Christ prays, “Vindicate Me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people” as He suffers the abuse of evil rabbis in the Temple. It is easy for Him to pray “Judge Me.” He has nothing to fear from an inquiry into His morality. He has no skeletons, no past indiscretions, no internet history to delete. Surprisingly, however, the judgment doesn’t go that way for Jesus. Before He is vindicated, He is judged guilty. He becomes sin and a curse, a stench and offense to heaven.
Thus does He pray: “For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” It is a rhetorical question. He knows why He suffers, why He is rejected by the Father and endures the oppression of the enemy. He has been declared guilty because God is merciful and desired a way to take our punishment and declare us righteous.
Thus He prays next: “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!”
Wicked men slander and plot to kill the Lord and He asks to be judged for it. His response to the plot is also to say to His Father who is rejecting Him: “Let them bring me to your holy hill.” He means: “Let them bring Me to Calvary. Take Me to the Cross. Make Me the ransom. Let’s get this over with. Judge and declare Me guilty for their sake, O God.”
That leads Him directly to say: “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.”
He will go to the cross. He will be sacrificed for the sins of the world. He will lay down His life of His own accord, gladly and with joy. Thus He praises His Father. He praises Him not for the rejection, the pain and sorrow, but for the mercy and love that didn’t spare Him in order to spare us.
In all this, He also expects the Resurrection, the vindication He began with. He says to Himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
He knows the cost and the sorrow He must endure for our sins in order that we would be forgiven. But He also knows the promise. He waits for the Resurrection and the bestowal of His inheritance. He shall be given the Gentiles, the ungodly nations. He will be given us as an inheritance and bride. That makes it worth it to Him.
This isn’t a Psalm only for Jesus and only about Jesus. It is also our psalm. We are to pray it. It is about us. We do ask not to be judged by our works or our faith, but we do ask to judged and vindicated by Christ’s sacrifice. We do not fear judgment because we know mercy. We know Christ. We know that He has declared us righteous. That righteousness can withstand an inquiry into our morality, a search of our internet histories, and even the darkest secrets of our fallen hearts.
God declares you righteous. That righteousness will not fail or prove false. The demons are liars. There is no one to accuse you.
We also ask, with Jesus, to be separated from the ungodly, from those who persecute us, and to be delivered from our own evil thoughts of self-pity and despair. When we say: “I will go unto the altar of God” we also mean that we will go to the cross of Jesus. Without that altar, no other altar makes any sense or is of any use. We will go to the cross of Jesus, the altar of God, to God Himself, our exceeding joy. And where is that? It is the Holy Communion. The Holy Communion delivers to us, in time, the crucified and risen Body and Blood of Jesus. The Holy Communion brings the fruits of the cross to us for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith and the bestowal of exceeding joy. So then do we also hope in God and confess that we will not stop praising Him, our salvation and our God.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.