Sunday, April 2, 2017
Judica - The Fifth Sunday In Lent (Lent 5) - The First Sunday In Passiontide
John 8:42-59; Hebrews 9:11-15; Genesis 22:1-14
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The First Gospel proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures occurs quite early, in Genesis 3:15, immediately following our First Parent’s rebellion against God and His Word and their consequent fall into sinful concupiscence and its fruits of spiritual death now, and physical and eternal death in time for themselves and for all their progeny. It comes as part of the curse spoken to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, and between your offspring and Her Offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Our First Parents understood that the LORD intended to provide a human man, a son of their own flesh, who would destroy the power of Satan even as He suffered a fatal wound from the devil Himself. So literally and immediately did they understand this Good News that, when Eve gave birth to her firstborn son Cain, believing that the Gospel prophecy had already been fulfilled, she exclaimed, “I have gotten a man, the Lord!”
However, Cain was not the promised Messiah. In fact, Cain became the first murderer, shedding the blood of his brother Abel: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Origins matter. Who’s your daddy matters. Adam and Eve had plunged themselves and all of God’s creation into sin, corruption, decay, and death. Adam was a sinner, bound to die. Eve was a sinner, bound to die. Together, all they could produce from their own flesh were sinners, bound to die. This is true for you and me as much as for Our First Parents, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our own parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and for all. Everything we produce from our flesh – our words, thoughts, and deeds, our children – is sinful, corrupt, decaying, and destined for death. Thus St. Paul exclaimed, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The scribes and the Pharisees in particular, and the children of Israel in general, prided themselves that they had Abraham as their father. Their fear, love, and trust, their self-righteous security, was not in the LORD, but it was in their blood descent and lineage from the man they called their father, Abraham. However, Abraham was no less a sinner, corrupt, and destined for death than was his father Terah, and his father before him. To be a child of Abraham and of the Gospel promise and of the covenant the LORD made to Him – which was truly a reiteration of the First Gospel promise made to Satan in the hearing of our First Parents in the Garden – was to be a spiritual descendant of Abraham, believing and trusting the Word of the LORD as their spiritual father Abraham had done so many centuries before. Thus, Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and I am here.” “Why do you not understand what I say?” Jesus continued, “It is because you cannot bear to hear My Word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” And then, showing that their sinful, blind misunderstanding was really no different than was Adam and Eve’s at the birth of Cain, Jesus said to them, “He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
It is Jesus who is the true Son of Abraham, the true Son of the LORD’s Promise to Abraham, the true Seed of the Woman, who would bruise, even crush, the serpent’s head. When the LORD commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to test his faith and trust, Abraham believed and trusted in the LORD once again as he did when the LORD first called him and made His covenant promise to him to provide him a land, a son and a people through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. The LORD spared Abraham’s promised son Isaac and provided a sacrifice as a substitute, just as Abraham prophesied as they made their way to the mountain saying, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Abraham sacrificed the ram caught in the thicket by its horns in the place of his son of promise, Isaac. But, Abraham believed, knew, and confessed that that ram was but a type and a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, whose blood would take away the sins of the world.
This is what Jesus meant when He said to the scribes and the Pharisees, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” What Abraham saw was that God would indeed provide a sacrificial Lamb that would be a substitute, not only for his son of promise Isaac, but for all men of all times and all places. The LORD spared Abraham’s son and kept His covenant promise that, through an heir from Abraham’s own flesh, He would bless all the nations of the world. Abraham’s son was spared and lived and became the father of Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel. But, the LORD’s only-begotten Son, His Beloved, He did not spare, but gave Him over as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all humanity. Of this the preacher to the Hebrews proclaims, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not be means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
In Jesus’ death, Isaac was redeemed, Abraham was redeemed, Adam and Eve, you and I and all the humankind were redeemed. All those conceived of the seed of man are conceived and born in sin, bound for death. But, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the seed of the woman. Jesus’ father was not a human man, but God Himself was His Father, thus He bore not the taint and corruption, sin, and death of original sin. The death He died was not for His own sin but for yours and all men, the sin of the world. God, His Father offered up His innocent Son as a sin-offering for your sin and guilt. Jesus, God’s Son, willingly laid down His life in love and obedience for His Father and for you. And the Holy Spirit was given to create faith in your hearts that you may trust in Jesus and become true sons of Abraham, born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. If God is your Father, you will love Jesus and you will hear His Word, you will listen to, believe, and trust in His Son, his Word made flesh, crucified, died, risen, reigning, and returning. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.”
Two weeks ago, on Oculi Sunday, the Third Sunday In Lent, the scribes and the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, Satan. That was blasphemy, even the sin against the Holy Spirit, for it was the Holy Spirit, the Finger of God, in and through the Word of God, who exorcised the demons. Today, once again, the scribes and the Pharisees utter blasphemy by calling the work of the Holy Spirit in and through Jesus, the work of demons and of the devil. Thus, Jesus now pronounces His harshest rebuke of the scribes and the Pharisees saying, “You are of your father the devil.” Their accusations continue, even in the face of the clear fulfillment of the Word of the LORD in Jesus’ teaching and miracles. Like Pharaoh of old, they hardened their hearts against the Word of the LORD, against Jesus, and against the work of the Holy Spirit. Hearing, they do not hear; thus, seeing, they do not see. For, the sin against the Holy Spirit is a willful and intentional rejection and opposition to the Holy Spirit. Such a sin is unforgiveable because only the Holy Spirit can create and sustain faith, and He is rejected and refused. The scribes and the Pharisees knew precisely who Jesus claimed to be, and that He backed up His claim with the clear Word of the LORD and with miraculous signs fulfilling Messianic prophecy. When they rejected Jesus, they knew who they were rejecting. Thus, when Jesus finally proclaimed the Divine Name of Yahweh for Himself saying, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” they reacted violently, full of rage and hatred, and attempted to stone Him to death. As Satan was a murderer from the beginning, so are his children murderers, hateful, and liars. They cannot convict Jesus of sin, therefore they call His holy works by the Holy Spirit sinful and demonic. That is blasphemy, to call the work of the Holy Spirit sinful and demonic. They call good evil and evil good – just like their father Satan.
Origins matter. Who’s your daddy matters. If you have God as you Father, you will love His Son and listen to His Word. The Holy Spirit will make His home with you and protect and keep you, equip and send you as light in this world of sin, death, and darkness. As Jesus taught His disciples, His mother and His brothers, His family, are “those who hear the Word of the LORD and keep it.” You are the true spiritual children of Abraham, the New Jerusalem. You are marked, named, and claimed as God’s own children in Holy Baptism, with a circumcision of the heart and rebirth of spirit. You have been judged already, vindicated, declared “Not guilty!” in the holy, innocent shed blood of Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God’s own offering. Because of this, you need not fear death, for, truly, you will never taste it! You have already died with Christ and have been raised with Him. The second death cannot harm you. Abraham died, yes. The prophets died. You will die, but death cannot hold you, because it could not hold Jesus, and you are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, those who reject Jesus, who reject God’s Word, who reject His Holy Spirit cannot be saved. There is no other way.
You will be rejected by those who reject Jesus, for the disciple is not above his Teacher. As they did to Him, so will they do to you. Today our Lenten pilgrimage to the cross intensifies as we meditate more deeply upon Jesus’ Passion and our sins for which He suffered and died. Jesus is our ram caught in the thicket of biting whips, piercing thorns and nails. Nonetheless, take heart, have hope, and be comforted, for you have been vindicated, you have been judged “Not guilty!” in Jesus’ cleansing blood. Already you have died, have been raised, born again into a new life that cannot die! Your Great High Priest Christ Jesus has entered into the holy presence of God His Father for you, with His own holy, innocent blood. He is your head, and where your head is your body will soon be. Until then, Jesus communes with you, forgiving you, feeding you, strengthening you, preserving and protecting you with His precious body and His holy blood. He who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion in day of Christ Jesus. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.