Monday, April 03, 2017

Sermon on John 8:46-59, for the 5th Sunday in Lent, Judica (Judge), "Vindicate Me"

Sermon Outline
  • Judica Sunday—Introit: Vindicate me against the ungodly, deceitful, and unjust. Ironically, the most truthful and only innocent man (Jesus) also needs vindication. Truth and uprightness don’t stop slander from coming against the innocent. Jesus also appeals to God as Judge…was He promoting His own glory, or God’s? Telling the truth? Unjust accusations against Him. “God, be Judge!”
  • “The words of God” and “truth” interchangeable here. Dividing line—two sides of humanity—hear and believe vs. don’t hear and don’t believe. Keep vs. reject. Believe and have life vs. hate Jesus, seek His death.
  • Jesus’ words and bold confrontation make it impossible to remain undecided as to who He is. Fall down on the side of Truth or error. Cannot long waver between two opinions.
  • On the side of error: can’t bear His Word, follow the devil’s lying and murderous desires, enraged by His teaching. These were supposedly religious people…claiming they were children of Abraham! Words and actions proved otherwise. Calling yourself “religious” is no guard against rebelling against Jesus’ words.
  • Why such a reaction? “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13). Jesus lays bare the thoughts of our heart by His Truth. No one wants to feel naked and exposed before the eyes of God’s judgment. Adam and Eve—hid behind fig leaves. Cain—hid behind sullenness, anger, and excuses. Pharisees hid behind ancestry of Abraham, their supposed good works. No hiding place can hide us from God’s Word. His truth pierces to the innermost recesses and secrets of our hearts. If we are determined to say we have no sin, we will only deceive ourselves and make ourselves miserable trying to make an impossible defense to God who knows better.
  • Are we lying to ourselves? Hiding our sin? Or rejecting the freedom and truth that is given to us by the Son? Why not accept the truth instead, by confessing our sin, and receiving His forgiveness, His defense and covering for our sin and nakedness?
  • At the piercing end of God’s Word, that sharp two-edged sword, we might cry out in pain—“God, you’re killing me!” And we might double take when He answers, “Yes, I must kill in order to make alive.” God must put our sin to death, so that we can be made alive with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is how Jesus can promise them, “If you keep my word, you will never see death.” But when we see that Jesus wields the sword of His Truth for our own good, to kill and to make alive, then we need not be afraid.
  • Pastor Harrison’s remark—first commandments are the big ones. They were not worshipping the true God, but manufacturing their own. Dishonoring Jesus, calling His work evil. They could not receive Him as God’s Son. Hard to imagine, He as a man, was greater than Abraham or the prophets.
  • Jesus showed their supposed respect for Abraham and the prophets was a sham. Would have rejoiced like Abraham to see Jesus, the promised Savior. Would have believed the prophecies that pointed to Jesus.
  • Clincher—trying to dismiss Jesus as a presumptuous teacher: “too young to have seen Abraham”—Jesus replies, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Unmistakable claim of divinity and eternity—Jesus directly uses the name or self-identifier that God speaks to Moses from the burning bush. Jesus raises the stakes all the way to the max, and there’s no sitting neutral toward Him after this. Jesus is saying, I AM He, the same God whom Abraham and Moses worshipped. The God who brought Israel out of Egypt, when your ancestors dwelled in tents in the wilderness. The very festival you are celebrating. Enraged them. Blasphemy? Stones. Want execution with no proof or just trial, foreshadowing the crucifixion.
  • Jesus demonstrates that His claim is true, not false, as they had no proof that He had sinned or spoken anything but the truth. He also says He must admit that He knows God, or else He would be lying. Not pride or arrogance, but the truth. Later, by His death and resurrection, He provided conclusive evidence that He was the Son of God, and had power over death, just as He claimed.
  • Are we ready to hear the Word, believe the Word, and keep the Word? This is only possible by the Holy Spirit at work in us. We cannot respond to the Word except as the Holy Spirit empowers us. To do so is to gladly have His truth expose our hearts, and set us free, as He taught just a few verses earlier—“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” It’s to rejoice at Jesus, the true Son of God, the Great I AM, who has defeated sin and death so that if we believe in Him, we will have eternal life. It’s to rejoice that Jesus did all this, not seeking His own glory, but the glory of the Father, which He did by dying on the cross, humbly becoming obedient to death, to secure forgiveness and life for all of us. God the Father glorified Jesus and vindicated Him, by raising Him from the dead. We began by talking about Judica Sunday, and those words of the Introit, a prayer for God to vindicate or judge him innocent against the accusations of the deceitful and ungodly. And in the end, God did just that for Jesus. He judged that Jesus was innocent, and upheld Jesus’ true claim, that all He was doing was for the Father’s glory and our good. Because Jesus is the great I AM, and in His resurrection life, we have forgiveness of sins and new life. And by His Spirit we keep His Word, believing in the Great I AM until one day He delivers those who keep His Word, into eternal life In His Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. The setting for John chapters 7-8 is the “Feast of Tabernacles” (a tabernacle is a tent or booth). It was one of the 3 major holidays of the Old Testament calendar, and commemorated God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and how they lived in tents in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:39-44).
  2. Why were they unable to hear and believe His Words? John 8:39-47. How were they breaking the first and second commandments? How did they accuse Jesus of breaking the same commandments, and what did they try to do, because of it? John 8:47-59.
  3. Why is Jesus’ innocence, and their inability to convict Him of any sin, (John 8:46), so central to Jesus’ story? Isaiah 53:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:21-24. What did His innocence gain for us?
  4. Whose glory was Jesus seeking, and whose was He not seeking? John 8:50, 54. How would Jesus glorify the Father? Who would glorify Jesus? John 13:31-33; 17:1-3.
  5. There are three responses to God’s Word/the Truth, that Jesus describes for us in John 8, and they are three verbs. What are they? Vs. 46-47, 51. What is the result of this Spirit-directed response to God’s Word? v. 51
  6. The Jews could not believe that Jesus was greater than Abraham or the prophets, who, while uniquely blessed by God, was still a mortal man and a sinner. How did Jesus show that He is greater than Abraham in both ways? What astonishing claim did Jesus make in relation to His own existence and knowledge of Abraham? John 8:55-58.
  7. What Divine Title did Jesus take upon Himself in 8:58, and how did this, and what He says in v. 54, make it absolutely clear that Jesus was claiming to be God? Cf. Exodus 3:14-15. What did the Jews correctly understand was the penalty for a human falsely  claiming to be God? What did Jesus do to prove that His claim was true? John 20, esp. v. 28

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