Sunday, April 10, 2011

Homily for Judica–The Fifth Sunday in Lent (Lent 5)


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 Latin name of this Fifth Sunday in Lent, Judica, means to judge. It comes from the first words of Psalm 43, verse 1 which serves as the Antiphon to the Introit today, Judica me Deus, “Judge me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people.”

Now, typically, when you ask God to issue a judgment, you are looking for His judgment upon someone else, someone that you have already judged to be wrong, sinful, unholy, or unrighteous. But today, however, you are asking God’s judgment upon yourself. Now, it would surely be a reckless and a foolish thing to ask your Holy God for a judgment upon your sinful self, that is, unless you were confident that His judgment was going to be in your favor. Thanks be to God, because of Jesus Christ, God’s judgment is in your favor! Indeed, that is why modern English translations of Psalm 43 use the word vindicate in the place of judica, for God’s judgment of you is a judgment of vindication.

But, how can you be so confident that God has judged you righteous? You can be confident because it is finished. “It is finished” – those were God’s words spoken through His Word made flesh, His Son Jesus Christ, upon the cross as He gave up His Spirit and He died the death that you had earned as the wages of your sin. God made Him who knew to sin to be sin, to be your sin, to be the sin of the world, to be accursed for you and the world, and to die upon the cursed tree of the cross. Thus, in Jesus’ death, God judged you, God judged the world, to be innocent, righteous, not guilty, and vindicated.

Of course, it was King David who wrote the words “Vindicate me, O God” about one thousand years before Jesus’ death. How was it, then, that David could be so confident that God’s judgment of him would be in his favor so many years before the moment of God’s judgment in the death of Jesus? The answer to that question is the same as it was for Adam, for Noah, for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for Moses, and for all of the Old Testament saints: God had promised. God had promised Adam (and Satan!) that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head. God had promised Noah that He would have mercy upon man despite his sins. And God had promised Abraham that through the offspring of his own flesh all nations of the world would be blessed.

Indeed, this is what Jesus was speaking of when He said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” But, when did Abraham see Jesus? And, what was Jesus’ “day” that Abraham saw? What Abraham saw was the mercy of God as his only son Isaac, the son of God’s promise, was spared and God provided a ram caught in a thicket as a substitute for Abraham’s only son. Of course, Abraham believed that the LORD would do something, even if he had no certain idea what that something might be, because Abraham believed the LORD’s promise – Abraham believed God, and God counted that to him as righteousness. When the Angel of the LORD commanded Abraham to stay his hand, and when he lifted up his eyes and gazed upon the ram caught in a thicket, Abraham beheld Jesus’ day, that is, the day of man’s vindication, as the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, caught in the thicket of man’s sin, willingly laid down His own life in place of ours. And, to be sure, Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day!

Jesus’ day is the day of God’s judgment on your behalf, the judgment of your vindication. It was a day promised by God upon man’s fall into sin and repeated and reconfirmed again and again through the patriarchs and the prophets. All the sacrificial blood of bulls and goats pointed to that day. Each and every Passover Lamb pointed to that day, the day that God would pass over man’s sin and spare him death by laying down His own life in death on the tree of the cross. Jesus’ day is a day of divine, sacrificial mercy and love for you and for all the world. God does not pronounce upon men the judgment of death that we deserve, but He gives us what we do not deserve – grace, mercy, forgiveness, and peace.

The day of Jesus’ death was the day of life for all men. Jesus promised that anyone who keeps His Word will never see death, for He is God’s Word of promise in human flesh. His life is given to you as a free gift, there is nothing to do, it is finished. All that is necessary is that you keep His Word, that is, that you believe in His Word and trust His Word for your life and salvation and not yourself and your works. Keep what has been given to you, and you will live and never see death, that is God’s promise to you in Christ Jesus.

Judica Sunday is the beginning of Passiontide, the two weeks preceding Easter when the Church focuses intensely upon Jesus’ Passion, suffering, and death for the life of the world. In John’s Gospel, which is featured prominently during Passiontide, Jesus states plainly that it was for judgment that He came into the world, even as He also says that He did not come to judge the world but to save it. Both statements of our Lord are true and they do not contradict each other. Jesus did come into the world for judgment, namely that the world would be judged innocent, vindicated, in and through Him. Thus the judgment that Jesus came into the world for was upon Him in our stead and so the world has been saved.

Soon we will commemorate and remember that specific day of our vindication, Jesus’ day, a Friday that we universally declare Good. It was a day that Abraham saw and rejoiced in. It was a day that God made in which we still rejoice even today as we eat and drink the fruits of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and share with Him in His victorious resurrection and life now and forever.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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