Lent 5 2022 Judica

John 8:42-59

April 3, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Today in the Church year is called Judica Sunday. These next two weeks mark a clearly defined period in Lent, our third step in preparation in commemoration of our Lord’s Passion and to celebrate the paschal feast at Easter. 

This confrontation reaches a climax today when the Jews seek to stone Jesus for claiming to be the preexistent Son of God and that His Word is the word of life. While the Jews think Jesus as blasphemous, for us, it is highest comfort and proof to know that Christ is the true and eternal Son of God.  This is the basis for His Word being able to save everyone who believes.  Because He is true and eternal God, the God of the living and not of the dead, He is able to give eternal life to all who believe in this Word and keep it.

The Jews couldn’t understand what Jesus was saying, much less believe or bear to hear His Word.  They couldn’t understand Jesus’ teaching because they lacked spiritual discernment. And spiritual discernment only comes through the work of the Holy Spirit.  St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that those who do not have the Spirit cannot understand spiritual things.  Jesus says, “whoever is of God hears the words of God. They reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus goes on with an even more damning indictment, “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 there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44).  The physical ancestor might have been Abraham but their spiritual one is the devil.  What counts is not genetics, nor ethnicity, nor language, but faith in the Word of God, the Very Word that the Jews have rejected.  St. Paul wrote the Romans, “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are accounted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8). 

The Word says that those who are children of Abraham by birth yet not by faith are not children of God, but children of the devil, and in league with the devil, knowingly or not.  Now, this has some pretty serious implications.  First, this means the children of God are born of the Word and the Spirit, not of the flesh.  It doesn’t matter if you were born a Jew, or a cradle Lutheran.  Not everyone is a child of God, but only those who believe in the promise of God fulfilled in Jesus.  In other words, it is by faith alone.

This was incredibly offensive to the Jews.  The truth is offensive, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.  To the Jews, this is blasphemy, the worst of the worst thing that could be said.  Still today, opposition to Jesus, to His Word, to His Church is born from the father of lies, from the devil.  He attacks the truth.  When the truth is attacked, it is an attack on Christ and on His Church.  An assault against the Church is an assault against Christ which is a devilish assault against God Himself.  

That is why it actually is a big deal when people reject the Word. The Jews complaint comes in the idea that death will not come to those who hold onto this Word of Christ. And so Jesus says, “Because I tell you the truth you do not believe Me” (John 8:45).   It is not a lack of understanding, but a lack of faith in the truth of the Word. And they misbelieve about death, and therefore about life. Abraham and the prophets are dead, and they want Jesus to be the same. They have plans to kill Jesus and put an end to His Word.  Who does this Jesus think He is anyway, greater than Abraham?  They fail to believe that Jesus is the Lord of life, that He Himself is the God of the living, and that He has specifically come to defeat death and its cause-sin-upon the cross, that He is the Great I AM who was before Abraham, who was the object of Abraham’s faith, the one who is the Truth.

The Word of truth is that God is the eternal Creator who created not by evolution, but by His Word; that He made male and female, only two sexes, which are not interchangeable; that sexuality is designed for marriage of one man and one woman in one flesh union, and that the marriage bed ought to be kept pure; that the family is foundational relationship, not the government; that one is saved only through faith in Jesus’ cross and resurrection not by good works or good intentions or good ancestors; that the Bible is God’s Word, which cannot be revised, reformed, reinterpreted, rejected. 

It is because this Jesus is the eternal Son of God that His Word and not the word of others that makes alive.  He was before Abraham because is the One true God.  “God could not send Christ out into the world in any other way.  He had to put Him into the Word, and thus spread and present Him to everyone.  Otherwise Christ would only be for Himself and remain unknown to us. Then He would have died for Himself alone. But because the Word presents Christ to us, it presents Him to us as the one who has overcome death, sin, and the devil. For that reason, whoever grasps and holds onto [the Word] grasps and holds onto Christ—and through the Word is set free from death eternally.”[1]

This is what Jesus means when He says that anyone who keeps His word will never see death.  This is not the kind of keeping as in obeying the 10 commandments, but keep in the sense of holding onto, keeping in possession the Word of Christ in the heart by faith. 

Christ means that whoever clings to His Word, will in the midst of death, still have the life of Christ.  For He is the God of the living, not of the dead.  In our Lord’s death, He took on the true death of hell that should be ours.  On the cross, the enemies of God were truly destroyed, the devil’s plan backfired, and death and sin overcome. Through His death, you who hold onto Christ’s Word are now free from the death of hell, free from the fear, free to believe.  For as your death is His, so His life is yours.  For Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  

[1] LW 76, 411.