St John 8.42-59
Judica (Lent 5)
St John's Ev LC, Victor, IA
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus could have made those stones into bread, you know. How foolish those despisers would have looked, throwing pieces of bread at Jesus. But He didn't. He let them have their sticks and stones. / Rather than miraculous self-defense, Jesus simply trusted in the Word of the Father which says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Ps 18.2).
Jesus lived out the prayers of the Psalms. Jesus prayed as we just prayed in the Introit, “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge.”
Sticks and stones are only sticks and stones. They hurt / for a while / but eventually your black eye or your scraped arm heals up.
What are a few pebbles against a bolder, against a fortress made of solid rock? In other words, what are the assaults of Satan against the strength of God Almighty? Can Satan's lies overcome the Truth of God's Word? No, even one little Word can fell the father of lies.
εἰμί. That means I am. When Jesus was confronted with the lies and betrayals of those who were supposed to be His people, His friends, even His relatives, when lied about, Jesus told the truth, for He is Truth. He said, “εἰμί ”, “Before Abraham was, εἰμί / I AM.”
Abraham knew. He knew because He trusted. Was the Lord really going to make him slay his son, his only son, Isaac? Yes. He was. And Abraham was going to do it. Why? Because Abraham was some crazy delusional, religious nut? To the world, yes, probably. But Abraham knew something else. God had told Abraham that his name would live on through the offspring of Isaac. And what's more, Abraham knew that the Savior Himself would come through Isaac. God said that. Abraham believed that, and it was counted to Him as righteousness. Righteous Abraham was believing Abraham. And so he gave his son, his only son, away to death.
But then, something miraculous: a resurrection, of sorts; but not technically a resurrection. At least, not the kind of resurrection where someone who was physically died / physically rises. But to Abraham it was a resurrection. God had spoken. God had commanded the death of his son, his only-begotten son; it was a sure thing, done deal. Isaac was dead. Then, suddenly, the whole thing came to a screeching stop. A ram was provided for the sacrifice / Abraham's son, his only son, was now restored to him, alive, a kind of / resurrection.
In that moment, Abraham saw the “Day” of Jesus. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it / and was glad.”
Not “glad” like crack a little half-smile glad. More like, absolutely floored, astonished, speechless kind of glad. Content, at peace, harmony restored.
But only by faith.
We're told that He wasn't much to look at, this carpenter's boy. Not ugly, but just not how you or I would fashion our own son if we were God. A face only a mother could love. And love Him she did. She loved Him like she loved God Himself. She shared one thing with God, that no one else will ever share with God: an only-begotten Son.
A sword would pierce through her own soul also as she watched her son, her only Son, get beaten beyond human resemblance. She was powerless. But there was One whose power could stop this. Would he? Would the Father allow it? Would He allow His Son, His only Son, to die? Yes. He would. It was a done deal, already decided before the foundation of the world. His Son, His only Son, would die / (not by a knife) / but on a cross / and there would be no ram to take His place.
Jesus said, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me...” A cross? What kind of glory is that? / It is the glory of love. The glory of sacrifice. The true glory of God that forsakes His own, / in order to love and receive and defend the enemy. That's you. You were enemies of God. Jesus was crying out against you, “You delivered me from my enemies; you rescued me from the man of violence.” How? By making his enemies into His friends, his family, his brothers and sisters
Rejoice, O children of Abraham, O sons and daughters of the King. See the Day of Jesus. It is today. It is resurrection day. The risen Lord is your Rock, your God, in whom you trust, who will never let you fall. Go ahead, ask Him. He'll tell you. Ask Jesus, “who is this King of glory?” He'll tell you: εἰμί. “I AM,” He says. Even before your father Abraham was, the Lord God was calling you to be His child, his only child. He loves you like you're the only one.
So put down your stones, put down your sticks, put down your insults and gossip and murder and lies, lay them all at the feet of His Son, Jesus. He is your fortress now, He is your deliver. You have no need to defend yourself. Only: take refuge in Him. Trust Him. Hide yourself / in Him alone. He might not turn stones into bread, but He will give you the bread, which is really His Body.
In the name of +Jesus. Amen.