Holy Tuesday St John 12:44-50
Preached at Trinity LC, Millersburg, IA
John 12:44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
AND JESUS CRIED OUT.
The Light of Christ's Words, shattered the darkness in the hearts and minds of those who heard Him that day.
After departing and hiding Himself from the crowd for a short while, / with what BOLDNESS does He come back onto the scene.
The whole world was going after Jesus; even some of the Jews were believing in Him, even many of the authorities, perhaps even Pontius Pilate himself. What a strange phenomenon. Was Jesus shocked by this? It would seem that they were actually on His side. So much for “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” They were receiving Him, even those who were supposed to reject Him the most. What now? Is this just a worldly kingdom teaser? Was this “believing” the work of God, or a temptation from Satan?
Whether Jesus was confused or not, we do know that He departed from the crowds for a while. Probably to pray. But whatever happened in that interim, the focus and depth of Jesus' next teaching / hits an absolute high point.
Spoiler alert! What Jesus is about to teach was, and is, quite offensive to the world. On account of this Truth, the faith of many, if not all the Jews, especially the authorities, would flounder, if not die altogether.
With this short sermon, Jesus puts it all out on the line; He draws back the curtain so that the people can have a peek at the eternal mystery. And that mystery is this: who occupies the Holy of Holies.
And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me / sees him who sent me.”
Blasphemy of blasphemies! / Unless, of course, this One, Jesus, is the One He says He is. Do you get this? “Whoever sees me / sees him who sent me.” “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” “I and the Father / are One.” Or as St Paul would later teach, Jesus is the “εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ”; the icon, or image of the invisible God.
With these Words Jesus draws back the temple curtain / and the people / see Jesus Himself. And, as Christians, we listen to Jesus, and confess Him, that is, we say the same thing as He says. We say in the Nicene Creed: “very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (essence) with the Father.” We say this because Jesus first said it. And He said it here in His very last public teaching: He revealed that the Father and the Son are of the same divine essence.
Perhaps this analogy will help:
“Let us imagine that a spring of water represents the Father; the river flowing from that spring, [represents] the Son, [Jesus]; and the water itself, is the divine nature. A man who draws water from the river is ultimately taking water from the spring, which is its source.”
And so Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.” That is, the Source, the Father. To believe in Jesus / is the same thing as believing in the Father.
Now this is not to say that there is no distinction between them. The Father, for example, did not take on flesh, but only the Son did. So there are distinctions, but the essence is only One, that is, divine. That is why at the beginning of the Nicene Creed we say: I believe in One. And who is this One in whom you believe? This One is Father, Son, and Spirit.
And notice I didn't say that we believe the One God, but rather that we believe in the One God. “Believing in someone is not the same as believing someone. If you believe someone, you believe, for example, that he is telling the truth. If you believe in someone, you trust in him as God. For example, it is accurate to state that we believe the apostles, but not that we believe in the apostles.”
“Well, then, preacher-man, then why do we state in that same Nicene Creed that we believe 'in' the one, holy Christian and Apostolic Church?”
“Well, then, parishoner-man, / Who is the Church? (Not, what is the Church, but who is the Church?) / The Church is the Body of Christ. Of who? Of Christ, who is God.”
When you were Baptized, that is, when you were born, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” when you were born of God in Baptism, you were brought into the Body of God, for you were Baptized 'in' the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, you became that man who stands at the River edge, and drinks from that very River of Life, whose Source is nothing less than th eFather's divine Life. / And you are what you drink. Beginning at Baptism, you take on divine attributes and characteristics. Just consider what “church” means: gathering. God is gathering for Himself, a bride for His Son. In the book of Revelations, then, we get a little glimpse of that Bride. How perfect and pure she is. In other words, how god-like, how divine!
Of course, individually, you are not the church, but you are a part of the Church, a member of the eternal Bride of Christ. This is also a mystery, that, even though the individual members of the Church (such as the Apostles, such as you) it is a mystery that, even though the individual members of the Church are unholy and sinful, yet the whole is perfect, blameless, and yes, to be believed in, that is, One with Christ.
We, together, as the Baptized, bear the name of the God, and thus possess His divine attributes. This is why the early church (that is, those who were first brought into this union with the One God), this is why, through the mouthpiece of teachers like Clement and Athanasius, would say such absurd sounding things like this: “God became man, that man might become god,” or to say it in another way: “What God is by nature, we become by grace”.
Blasphemy of Blasphemies! / Unless, of course, you really are / who God says you are in Baptism, / for the early church teachers were simply teaching what St Peter himself taught in 2 Peter, chapter 1(:3-4). He wrote, “[Christ's] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us [Baptism] to his own glory and excellence, / by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature/essence.”
The Word of Christ does that. So let the Light of Christ's Words shatter the darkness in your heart and mind. But let us not fall away like many of the Jews. Let us repent of ourselves and hear the Word of God and keep It. For Jesus has a warning for those who do not listen. And these Words are the last recorded words of Jesus' public teaching, so mark them well. He said, “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
What the Church says, is what the Father has told Christ. It is offensive to the world. It must be. Let us become as children, and receive Christ and His Word gladly. For as much as you receive Christ's Word, you also receive the eternal Life that He has come to bring from the Father. And this Life is true Life; life now, and life in the eternal Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.