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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Exodus 19:2-8; Pentecost; May 19, 2013;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. (Exodus 19:2-8 ESV)

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

Today I thought of trying to find a way if printing some identity cards for you all. It just wasn’t practical. Each of you would get one with your name on it, a picture, and little bio information. You know what an ID card is, it tells people who you are. It tells people your identity. That’s what all our readings are about today. Your identity. Who you are. Your identity is important. You understand that.

Well, identity is what this text from Exodus is all about. God is telling his people, though Moses exactly who they are. It’s right there about a third of the way down the text…

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

God bases their identity on what He has done for them and what He is going to do for them. When God defeated Pharaoh and his armies, and freed his people from slavery, “On Eagle’s Wings” He is giving His people an identity. They are more than just any old people who worshipped any old God. He is the God who rescued them. He is the God who redeemed them. and His the God that relieved them from the burden of slavery. He is the God they can depend on. By the Spirit, they are called to remember His outstretched mighty arms and outstretched hands. This way they reflect and remember what He has already done, and they know who they are in His eyes.

This is how God acts for you also. He wants you to know your identify in Him. You can see that in the Font right here. It’s why we keep it out in front, where it can always be seen. I want you to be reminded of your identity. You are a baptized child of God. Your identity begins with what God does for you. The Baptismal service in our hymnal is packed full of these identity images. But my favorite is the new/old prayer there. It’s called the Flood Prayer. It ties so closely to what we are talking about. (p. 268). Just look at p. 268 (LSB). It’s all about God’s actions to save people. It’s all about God’s actions to save you. God calling you and me by name and placing His name on us.

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:1-3a ESV)

What did it mean for God’s people in Exodus? Well, that’s what the passage goes on to say:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Now we’ve got to make a correction to the translation here. This version of the bible says “if you will indeed obey my voice.” This word would much better be translated listen. If you will listen to me. If you will remember what I’ve told you about what I’ve done for you. It’s kind of like that old commercial “When E. F. Hutton speaks... people listen.” When God speaks his people listen. And what does God say? He tells us again what He’s done for us. He gives us an identity, we are His people because of what He’s done.

If you have any doubts about your identity being all God’s action St. Paul makes it very clear.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 ESV)

We were enemies, not friends of God. Enemies don’t obey their enemy. But God changes all that. Through the death of Jesus, God’s enemies become reconciled to God. God’s enemies become God’s children. God’s enemies become God’s treasured possession.

Back to the identity card… remember I said I’d put a little bio on it. The funny thing is the bio for all of us would be the same. It’s the same bio God gave to the children of Israel in the desert.

…and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

St. Peter talked about the same thing, it’s a verse that we remember because it’s part of our Baptism service:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)

You and me, all those people gathered around Moses at Mt. Sinai. A kingdom of priests… a holy nation… God’s people… Our identity with God is because of Jesus. His perfect life and death on the cross is what allows us to receive mercy from God. The punishment for our sin is canceled. Jesus takes it on himself. So instead of being God’s enemies and not receiving mercy, we receive mercy, forgiveness and life forever. That’s our new identity in Jesus Christ. You know what, our identity, in Christ, isn’t a status thing. “I’m better than you are because I’m a child of God!” We give this impression to people all the time. We can’t help but think that God chose us because we are somehow better than people He didn’t choose. We can’t help but think that we are better than other folks because we haven’t missed a Sunday of church in 20 years. We can’t help but think that we are better than people, who spend their time sitting in jail cells, drinking away their welfare, abusing their children, and living off of tax payer money. We want the reason we are God’s children to have something, anything to do with us. God did not save you because you are a holy nation, you are a holy nation because God saved you. We don’t do good stuff so God will love us, God loves us so we do good stuff. That’s our identity. It isn’t status, it is service. Do you know what God does right after this passage in Exodus? He gives the people the Ten Commandments! The heart of the commandments isn’t pleasing God, you can’t do that anyway. The heart of the commandments is serving your neighbors. That’s where your identity takes you. When you hear what God has done for you, when you remember who you are, you will love and serve your neighbor.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther writes:

By the Word He works and promotes sanctification, causing this congregation daily to grow and to become strong in the faith and its fruit, which He produces.

It says this very same thing. We listen to God’s Word and He causes our faith to grow and He produces good fruit in us. That’s your identity. You are a member of the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, by virtue of your Baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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