Tuesday, May 28, 2013

John 8:48-59; The Festival of the Holy Trinity; May 26, 2013;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church; Creston, Iowa;

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “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. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:48–59, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To say that these Jews were unhappy with Jesus, is quite an understatement. They wanted him dead. The great fourth century preacher John Chrysostom talks about this text, he says

"Now, if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham (although this was only a minor comparison", just imagine if he had continually made statements about making himself equal to the Father. Would they have ever stopped throwing stones at him?"[1]

And really who could blame them. Just before this, Jesus talks to them about the truth, how he is the truth. They do not recognize him or the truth. Jesus says the truth will set you free and the truth that he brings comes from the father. "Our father is Abraham!" They said. "No," Jesus says in reply, "your father is the devil. If your father were Abraham, if the true God was your God, then you would listen to me, you would hear the truth." They respond by calling Jesus a Samaritan and demon possessed. They mean it to be an insult. But notice, Jesus only refutes the idea that he is demon possessed. He doesn't say "I'm not a Samaritan." Listen again to another church father, St. Augustine:

In this Samaritan the Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to understand himself. "Samaritan," you see, means "Guardian."… He could have answered, "I am not a Samaritan, and I do not have a devil." But what he did answer was, "it is not I who have a devil." What he answered, he refuted; What he kept quiet about, he confirmed. He denied he had a devil, knowing himself to be the expeller of devils; He did not deny that he was a guardian of the weak.[2]

So just how is Jesus the Samaritan? Will we should go back to the parable. It comes to us from Luke chapter 10. The whole parable comes up because a lawyer asks Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus points him to the law. "What do you read in the Law?" And the lawyer answers correctly, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus says, "Okay, do this and you will live." That wasn't enough for the lawyer. He wanted to justify himself by proving that he was keeping the law perfectly enough. "And just who is my neighbor?" And to this Jesus tells the parable that we know is the good Samaritan.

You know how it goes. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho was beaten up by robbers and left on the side of the road for dead. A priest comes by but when he sees the man he passes by on the other side of the road. The Levite does the same. It should be noted that these two men were both Jews. And both highly respected "church" people. The people listening to Jesus parable would be a little surprised. Most of the time priests and Levites were the heroes of the story. But not today. Jesus turns the story on its head. He says a Samaritan has compassion on the man who was mugged. This is the last person any Jewish hearer would expect to be the hero of any story. The Jews in the Samaritans were at odds. Samaritans had Jewish heritage but it was all corrupted through intermarriage. And worse their religion is bastardized Judaism. They didn't worship in the temple but instead on Mount Gerizim. When the Jews told jokes, Samaritans were the butt of jokes. But here the Samaritan is the good guy. He binds up his wounds. He gives him medicine. He puts him on his own donkey and takes him to a place of safety. And pays for his recuperation without regard to the cost. And then Jesus asks, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to this man?" The lawyer was forced to say the Samaritan. He can't bring himself to say the word, so he says "The one who showed him mercy."

This is not what the Jews were saying of Jesus. And yet they speak better than they know. Jesus is indeed the one who shows mercy. Jesus is the defender of the weak. In fact he is doing exactly what they should be doing and aren't. Jesus said he comes from the Father and is doing exactly what the Father has asked him to do. And when they speak evil of him, calling him demon possessed, their dishonoring God. They are not keeping God's word. They are not doing what Samaritan and the parable did. Jesus is pushing the law in their face. They were throwing roadblocks between people and God for the sake of lifting themselves up and making themselves look good. So the truth of Jesus accuses them.

Then Jesus says "Anyone who keeps my word will never see death." And they attack again. "Who do you think you are? Abraham is dead there's no way he listened to you!"

And Jesus says it. "I know who I am. I am doing what the Father has sent me to do. Abraham saw my day and was glad." It's an important part of the text. And one completely misunderstood by Jesus' enemies. Abraham had faith in God, the Father, and what he would do to save the world from sin. Abraham looked forward to the day of Jesus. Abraham looked forward to the day of the cross.

Make no mistake Abraham saw Jesus clearly in many ways. At the Oaks of Mamre God appeared to Abraham as three men. They appeared and told Abraham that even in their old age he and Sarah would indeed have a son as God had promised. But also after, the son, Isaac was born God tested Abraham telling him to offer that son as a sacrifice. God gave him a Ram is a substitute instead. It is the perfect picture of what God would do in Jesus Christ. So not only had Abraham met God but he had faith that God would offer a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus, The Samaritan, the defender of the weak, the substitute Lamb of God, has his day on the cross. He does exactly what the good Samaritan did. He saves broken and bloody people. He cares for and gives medicine to them. Brings them to a place of safety not regarding the cost. The cost for Jesus was great. He gives himself. He is the replacement. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one in the picture Abraham saw on the mountain. The one that was given in place of his own son. Jesus perfect life is given in his perfect death. He gives it for those who are helpless. Jesus enemies were helpless. They were lost in their sin. Jesus gave his life on the cross for them. He offers rescue for them from the side of the road where they were beaten and bloody from their sins. They were helpless and lost. And yet they refuse to be saved by him. They refuse to recognize him for who he is. You and I are helpless. We are lost in our sin. It is no less sin then those who accused Jesus of having a demon. And yet, in love Jesus still gives himself on the cross for us. He rescues us from the side of the road where we are beaten and bloody by our sins, we are helpless and lost. His life is given is the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We gathered here have received Jesus our Savior. We confess faith in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We confess Jesus our Savior is true God and true man. The one whose day Abraham saw and rejoiced. We cling in faith to our defender, our Savior, our good Samaritan, our Substitute Sacrifice. We rejoice in the Good News and receive the medicine of our Lord's Supper.

The Jews in our text did not. They could not tolerate Jesus comparison to Abraham. They could not tolerate Jesus saying he saw Abraham. They could not tolerate that Jesus said Abraham believed in him. They dishonored Jesus. They dishonored God the Father by rejecting Jesus. But Jesus wants their rejection of him to be clear. He wants them to understand who he is. He wants them to repent and turn to him in faith. And so he answers the question they asked. "Who do you think you are?"

"Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." He could not have said it any more clearly. He used the words, the very name of God, that came from the burning bush. He used the name of God that was given to Moses to give to the people when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Moses asked God, "When the people asked me who you are, what name shall I give?" And God said "I AM WHO I AM." What Jesus is saying to the Jews is I AM the very God of Abraham whom you claim to follow. I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I AM the God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt. I AM the one you dishonor when you claim I have a demon. I AM the good Samaritan who has come to save you from your sin. I AM here to bring you to safety. I AM the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. I AM God. Repent and believe the good news I AM here.

They rejected him. They pick up stones to kill him. But Jesus walks away from them. It is not time for them to kill him yet. His day, on the cross is yet to come.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] page 318. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume IV a Inter-Varsity Press, 2007

[2] page 311. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume IV a Inter-Varsity Press, 2007

No comments: