2 April, 2017 – The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Sermon on John 8:(42-45) 46-59 The Fifth Sunday in Lent, 2 April, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on this the Fifth Sunday in Lent. From our Gospel lesson, John 8, we heard our Lord’s words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Let us pray, “Heavenly Father, Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we might believe Your Holy Word when it is preached and ever-more glory in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life through faith in Him.” Amen.
Our Gospel text teaches the fact that hardened people become furious and only hurl insults at the one who would faithfully teach them and instruct them in God’s Word. Earlier in John 8, Jesus instructed the Jews about the freedom that comes from abiding in His Word, and He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But these hardened sinners could not fathom such teaching and rejected it.
But do not think their rejection was crass, it was clever, and so it always is with such rebellious spirits. In their accusations against Jesus and in defense of their rejection of him the Jews claimed to be Abraham’s children, and claimed to worship the one true God, and they said, “Abraham is our father…[and]…we were not born of sexual immorality [implying that Jesus was] We have one Father—even God.”
This is no small thing. For to be a child of Abraham is to be God’s chosen and beloved person and an inheritor of all His promises to this faithful saint. And to worship the one true God is to reject all forms of idolatry and be holy and righteous. Oh these Jews are very clever in their rejection of Jesus and the faithfully preached Word! They claimed superiority in all religious and spiritual matters and looked down their noses at this poor unschooled preacher from Nazareth.
Little did they know that their rejection of Jesus was a rejection of faithful preaching and therefore a rejection of God himself. And Jesus knew their hearts; he knew that despite their boasts of holiness and righteousness they actually rejected God and rejected his Word and all the promised blessings in it.
Jesus carefully responded to their fury and insults with calmness and explained the reason for their rejection. If they were actually children of God, as they boasted, they would listen to him, because he is the Son of God. Jesus then took matters to the root and explained these Jews were indeed listening to a father, but it was their father the devil and said in verse 47 “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” Indeed these Jews were the very opposite of their boasts, they were children of the devil!
But when instructed and rebuked, for with faithful instruction in God’s Word sin is always rooted out and rebuked, these hardened Jews only hurled insults at Jesus and said, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
This may not seem so insulting to us, but for the Jews it was the ultimate insult. It meant that you disregarded the Law and God’s Word and were following the devil. Ironically, this is the very thing they boasted they did not do. But you see, faithful preachers will, like Jesus, patiently instruct and rebuke as God commands them to when he says in 2 Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” And yet the faithful preacher will suffer abuse and scorn because of faithfully doing his duty, just like Jesus. This, faithful preachers must be content with, it is their cross.
But friends, be careful not to be like these Jewish rebels. Hear faithful preaching, yes, even demand faithful preaching. But then actually listen to it, obey it, and believe it. Be a faithful hearer of the word as Scripture and our catechism tells us. Make sure the faithful pastor is being adequately provided for and compensated. Hold your faithful pastor in the highest regard and worthy of “double honor” and submit to his authority, after all “they keep watch over you as men who must give an account”
Even so, the faithful preacher will always suffer like Jesus in our text today. Do not think that when preachers go to this congregation or that one, or when he goes overseas and preaches to bring the lost and erring to salvation, that people will fawn and gladly accept what he has to say. And this is because with the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ risen from the dead comes the admonition and command of God to repent of sins.
And so the faithful pastor should tell you to stop cussing, stop gossiping, stop coveting and so on, and instead to exercise self-control with your tongue, to speak well of others, and be content with what you have. The pastor is instructed by God to speak so. Without such calls to repentance the sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins will never be grasped and loved and appreciated.
Nevertheless, the faithful pastor will always experience what Jesus experienced in John chapter eight. And Jesus said as much to the Twelve disciples when he sent them out to preach, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” And while pastors get the brunt of such rebellious rejection of God’s Word, you too, as laypeople, will be hated and reviled and suffer persecution and scorn for faithfully living according to God’s Word and supporting those who faithfully preach it. Paul reminded Timothy of it when he wrote, “Indeed, all who desire who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
But friends, do not fear persecution and scorn from unbelievers. May we be content, as Jesus was, no matter what should happen when we stand with God’s Word against the world. Maybe we will be laughed and scorned for believing that God created the world in seven literal days, as Scripture teaches; maybe we will reviled and harassed for insisting that God made us male and female, and that marriage is between male and female. Maybe we will be even jailed and killed. What of it?! So was Jesus persecuted and reviled and even killed. But he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven in glory. And Jesus’ glory and reward for faithfulness are ours through faith in Him who died for us. Glory, hallelujah.
Despite the scorn and abuse that Jesus received for these holier-than-thou Jews, Jesus continued to faithfully preach and reprove and he said, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge” Here we learn that we can be content with God’s Word and the promise of eternal life and let the world and false believers rage around us. Jesus did not seek his own glory, he was content to fulfill his duty as Son of God and Savior of the World; it was God the Father who would bring glory to him. Likewise, we can go about our duties and fulfilling our vocations as parents, children, church members, citizens and so on and be content that in the end God will make all things right that are wrong.
Jesus went on to explain the glory of the Gospel and righteousness through faith when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Here is sweet Gospel indeed. Here is the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ. Here is even the forgiveness of having rejected God’s Word and the preaching of it in the past; here is forgiveness of having scorned the faithful preacher; here is forgiveness for boasting of righteousness when you actually had none. Glory, hallelujah.
But the unbelieving Jews who heard the Gospel would have none of it, and only foamed at the mouth and accused Jesus again of having a demon. So it is today when the Gospel is faithfully preached that those being saved smell the sweetest of aromas and rejoice in the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins; and those who are perishing and reject righteousness and faith in Christ only smell death and foam at the mouth and shout blasphemies as the Jews did in our text.
Now take notice that Jesus teaches here what we Lutherans call the “Means of Grace”. It is through the Word that death and sin is blown away and eternal life comes. It is through the faithful preaching of God’s Word, which these Jews rejected, that God delivers to us all the merits of Christ: the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life the resurrection of the body. And if you stay for Bible Study today with Pastor Krikava, and you should, you will see how important the doctrine of the means of grace is; undergirds everything in Christian worship and the Christian life. And this is important to remember, especially pastors and missionaries.
The godless Czechs, and there are many (close to 90% claim no faith in God), won’t be converted surfing the internet, nor by throwing Christian literature at them, nor even by our prayers. They, and you, were and are and will be converted upon hearing the preached Word, because it is through the Word that the Holy Spirit, by his grace, works faith in the heart, convicts of sin, and grants eternal life. Will all be converted? No indeed. Many will reject repentance and the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and only foam at the mouth and shout blasphemies at me and you for preaching and modeling the Word of God just as the Jews did. But some will believe and be saved. And this is how it goes for the faithful preacher and the faithful people of God. Amen.