Sunday, April 7, 2019

Judica - The Fifth Sunday in Lent (Lent 5) / Sunday of the Passion

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.
Who’s your daddy? That’s the question we consider today. In Hebrew culture, who your father is says everything about yourself. That is why the prefixes Benand Barproceed so many biblical names – Benjamin, Simon BarJonah, Bartimaeus, etc. The prefix benis Hebrew, and baris Aramaic, but both mean son, or more precisely, the possessor of. The idea is that a sonis thepossessor ofhis father’s inheritance, name, and reputation. So, as you can imagine, who your father is says a lot about yourself.
The Jews, that is the Judaizers, the practitioners of a hypocritical and legalistic religion that was not the faith of Abraham, routinely questioned and criticized Jesus concerning whose son He was. When Jesus taught in His hometown synagogue in Nazareth, they derided Him saying, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” And, of course, Satan tempted Jesus to doubt His own sonship saying, “If you are the Son of God….” You see, sonship in Hebrew culture meant much more than mere blood descent, but sonship had a spiritual dimension as well. Thus, when Jesus said to the tax collector Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, since [Zacchaeus] also is a son of Abraham,”He didn’t just mean that Zacchaeus was a Jew, a direct descendent of Abraham. He meant that Zacchaeus had faith. It is the spiritual dimension of sonship, faith, which Jesus proclaimed as being true and salvific, over and against the Judaizers who held to sonship by blood descent.
And so, 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? 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.” That Jesus is the Son of God means that He is the possessor of all that is His Father’s. That the Judaizers are sons of the devil means that they are the possessors of all that is the devil’s. And, what they possess, Jesus says, is murder and lies. Murder and lies is the fullness of the devil’s character. He is fundamentally opposed to and set against all that is good and right and true. He is fundamentally opposed to and set against God and His Son Jesus, and he is fundamentally opposed to and set against you whom the Father and Son love with a selfless, sacrificial, perfect, and holy love. The Judaizers demonstrated this by accusing Jesus of having a demon, which is nothing less than blasphemy and the unforgiveable sin against the Holy Spirit, for only the Holy Spirit of God can create and sustain faith that saves.
Appealing to blood descent, the Judaizers claimed to have Abraham as their father. At one time Jesus said that he could raise up children for Abraham from the stones lying on the ground. The Judaizers understood that He was referring to the Gentiles, for stones was a derogatory term they used to describe the Gentiles. This time, however, Jesus answered saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” The Judaizers protested saying, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus answered them saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” And, they took up stones to throw at Him for the sin of blasphemy, for He used the divine Name of God in reference to Himself.
But, when did Abraham, who lived 1700 years before Jesus, see Jesus’ day? Abraham saw Jesus’ day when his only son Isaac was spared on the Mountain of the LORD, Mount Moriah, and a ram was provided as a substitute sacrifice. You will remember that the LORD had promised Abraham a son of his own flesh by his aged and barren wife Sarah. Moreover, the LORD had promised Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through this son of promise. However, as time passed, Abraham and Sarah began to doubt, and Abraham took Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar and she conceived and bore him a son, Ishmael. But, Ishmael was not the son the son of promise. The LORD keeps His Word and promise, and in time Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son, the true son of promise, Isaac. It was this son, the son of promise, Isaac that the LORD then commanded Abraham to sacrifice. This time Abraham did not waver in faith, but he trusted in the LORD completely.
As they made their way to the Mountain of the LORD, Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Though he was prepared to carry out the LORD’s command if necessary, still Abraham trusted in the LORD and His Word and promise to provide him a son of his own flesh through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. Even if he had to sacrifice his son, Abraham believed that he and Isaac would return, just as he had said to his servants. Then Isaac asked his father saying, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering.” Abraham answered him saying, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So, Abraham bound his son and placed him on the altar he had built. Then he raised the knife and was prepared to plunge it into the flesh of his son. That is when the Angel of the LORD – the Malak Yahweh – intervened and said to Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. And so, the LORD provided, not a lamb, but a ram for a sacrifice, and Abraham saw the day of Jesus and was glad, for his son was spared, and all the sons of God would be spared through Him. Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide,” and for generations it was said of Mount Moriah, “On the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
Upon that mount, the very place where Abraham offered up the ram the LORD provided as a sacrifice in place of his son, did King Solomon build the Temple of the LORD. That temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and rebuilt under Cyrus the Great in 515 B.C. Herod the Great then expanded the temple in 20 B.C., an expansion that took forty years to complete, being finished in the lifetime of Jesus. Outside the walls of Herod’s temple the LORD provided the Lamb of sacrifice for the sins of the entire world, His only begotten Son, the very same Lamb promised to Abraham 1700 years earlier. Today the Muslim Dome of the Rock stands upon the Temple Mount, inside of which is the very same stone altar where Abraham offered up the ram in place of his son. The Muslims claim it to be the very spot upon which Muhammad received revelation from Allah that became the Koran and the foundation of Islam. Thus, the Temple Mount is sacred to the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
And yet, only the practitioners of one of those three faiths shares the faith of Abraham and has the LORD as father – Christianity. “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb, takes all our sins away; a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.” Jesus became for us both priest and sacrifice, offering up His sinless life and shedding His holy, innocent blood for all the world. “Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Jesus is the promised Son who carried the wood of His own cross up the Via Dolorosa to the mountain of sacrifice, who was slaughtered in our place and was consumed by His Father’s wrath against our sins. Jesus is the one who was before Abraham was, and yet is his promised descendant. Jesus is the ram who is offered in our place, who is willingly caught in the thicket of our sin, and who wears the crown of thorns upon His head. Through Him we are judged not guilty and are vindicated in His blood. Through Him we have been made to be sons of God, not by blood descent, but by faith in His Word and promise that can never be revoked or broken. We have God as our Father and we are possessors of His kingdom, righteousness, and life through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ.
You too, with Abraham and all of God’s children, have seen Jesus’ day. When you come to this altar and eat His flesh and drink His blood you do so in remembrance of His atoning death. However, you do not merely remember an event that is long past in time and memory, but you actively participate in the eternal reality that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. This is the mystery of faith. This is life and sonship with Jesus as co-heirs of His Father’s kingdom that has no end. All things are now prepared. Let us make our way with Him to the Holy Mountain, to the place of sacrifice, and to the empty tomb.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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