In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 8th chapter (John 8:48-59).
Beloved in the Lord,
Sticks and Stones
Sticks and stones can break by bones but the words of Jesus really hurt. That seems to be the attitude of the Jews in our text. They have had it. They are fed up. They won’t listen anymore, if they ever truly listened before. Like school children on the playground these bullies have taken a stand in the filth of their unbelief and are refusing to acknowledge the dirt on their souls. The longer they talk the more depraved they become. Out their contempt for the Word they blaspheme the Son – “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” And then they act like murderers taking up stones to throw at him. At this point Jesus hides Himself – which is what they wanted all along.
What happened? What brought about such contempt? Jesus told it like it is. He spoke the truth. The truth is that “whoever hears the Words of God is of God.” And Jesus told them, “the reason you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” The Jews were not hearing the Words of God because they were not hearing the Words of Jesus. Not hearing the Words of Jesus is not hearing the Words of God. Those who do not hear the words of God are not of God – they are hearing the words of another; another god, another prophet, another teacher, maybe even themselves – but they are not God and therefore are not of God. If you’re not of God you’re of the devil – which is why Jesus also calls this group liars. Jesus told it like it is. He told the truth and the truth hurt. The words of Jesus hurt them in their very depths. The truth pierced through bone and sinew and struck right at their hearts, right at their idols and people don’t like to have their idols attacked. So, in self-defense, they took up stones to throw at Him.
We all have our Idols
The truth is we all have our idols. We are after all descendants of Adam and as Adam’s children we bear Adam’s image and we in our fallenness follow Adam’s ways. The human heart is a wonderful idol factory. We’re actually very good at it. We can manufacture some very mighty, majestic, complex, diverse gods – in fact we can form and fashion anything or anybody into some sort of divine entity who can help and support or hurt and harm us. The idols we conjure up always do as we say and say as we think. They act like us, or like we want to be. They look like us, or like we want to look. They walk our walk and talk our talk, except . . . well, most of our idols never actually walk or talk. They have no quickening spirit and thus they have no voice. And so they cannot save. They cannot rescue us from seeing death.
Jesus is an affront to our idols. He tells the truth. He speaks reality to our hearts and we don’t like that. We like our idols and we like them cloaked in pious religion. We like to think and believe that we’re okay the way we are, worshipping God in our own special way. Sure . . . we screw up some time. Sure . . . we hurt and harm and get hurt by others. Sure . . . we’ve got problems . . . but – like the junkie hiding in the allies we think we’ve got it all under control and anyone who says otherwise is getting in the way of our pursuit of happiness. And . . . like the junkie going after that next hit, or the drunk longing for that next shot, we refuse to believe that we’re pursuing the wrong things, things that lead to death, things our idols can’t save us from.
Everything hinges on the hearing of God’s Word and thus on the hearing of Jesus’ Word. Jesus is God in the flesh. When Jesus says, “if anyone keeps my Word he will never see death” He is exalting His Word to that of our creator. The Word of Jesus preserves from death. Such a Word is a powerful word, a Word that works the Works which only God’s Word can do. This is not blasphemy. This doesn’t need to be explained away. They shouldn’t be rejected as the Jews do here in our text. This is plain and simple reality. Jesus’ Word works what it says and if Jesus’ Word says that all who keep His Word will never see death, then that Word will work eternal life. For the death Jesus speaks of is hell.
We will all taste death in the sense that we will die on account of our sins. However, those who hold and keep Jesus’ Word by Faith will not see death but will pass from this life through the grave unto eternal life. Abraham tasted death but does not see death. Abraham died, but he lives. The prophets as well. They too tasted death but do not see death. They too died but now they live. The Lord our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the living and not of the dead.
The God of the living has sent His Son to break through the pious veneer we descendants of Adam have crafted and He hold before us the reality of our salvation. Jesus is not the kind of God who goes about smashing things like some Norse god in the movies. No, Jesus does not break our pious veneers with violence. Unlike any god man has fashioned for Himself, the God who would save us becomes flesh and blood like us. Truly He is God of God and light of light of light very God of very God, begotten not made. But He has also become flesh. He is also bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He does walk our walk though without sin. He does talk our talk speaking to us Words that tear down the walls we’ve built to protect ourselves. He does move about the landscape stretching forth His hands in love and mercy, never taking up a stone but instead patiently bearing along with the hardened hearts which are about Him day and night.
Jesus not only speaks reality upon us, He grabs it with the fullness of His person and suffers it unto death. The reality of this life is that the wages of sin is death. If you are to be saved from death – eternal death, death in hell, Jesus must then suffer death – physical death, death from God on account of sin – in your place. This He’s done for you on the cross. This is the wages of your sin. This is the love of God for sinners. This is the merit of your strength. This is the strength of God in weakness. This is foolishness to the world, but God’s folly is wiser than man’s wisdom. This is horrible, violent, ugly, and unseemly. No man, woman or child would ever imagine a god like this. This goes against all reason. They makes no sense. This is not what we would want for our god. But this is reality. This is salvation. This is the only way to escape death and hell. There’s no way around it, not if you want to be saved. There’s no way other than the way of Jesus. “For no one comes to the Father except through Me” – says the Lord.
We have God’s Means of Grace
Those who are of God will be hearing the Word of God for the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, full of the Holy Spirit, never parted from the Holy Spirit, brings us to Jesus. The Father sends the Son, the Son pours out the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus who then brings us to the Father. Everything hinges on Jesus. Jesus is always in the middle and that’s right where you want Him to be for He stands in the middle as our advocate, standing between us and the wrath of God, standing in our place, pleading our absolution, providing our encouragement. Thus whoever keeps the Words of Jesus keeps hearing the Words of Jesus. And the Words of Jesus give us what they say, whatever they promise. Jesus’ Word works God’s Works. In absolution the Word works forgiveness of sins. In Baptism the Word connected to the Water gives forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Communion, the Word connected to bread and wine give body and blood – and not just anyone’s body and blood – but Jesus’ body and blood, the same body and blood of which Jesus says we are to eat and drink of that we may have life within us. The Word of Jesus is always giving us Jesus, always supplanting our manufactured idols, crushing them to bits and pieces and setting within the throne our heart the One who be our God forever and ever and ever. Through these Words Jesus gives Himself and giving Himself He gives us life. No idol can do that. Idols are dead as are their prophets. But Jesus is risen from the dead and so shall all who believe on His Name.
Lifting up Hearts and Hands and Voices
Beloved in the Lord, sticks and stones can break our bones and the Word of Jesus can certainly hurt. Reality hurts sometimes. But until we face reality in the person, word and work of Jesus the Son of God, we will not face up to our condition nor our fate. The Jews clung to their pious veneer, their own righteousness cloaked in religion’s garb. When the Light revealed their filth unbelievers became blasphemers and blasphemers were filled with murderous intentions. The heart that hears with open ears the Words of Jesus and believes such words has eternal life, forgiveness of sins and is redeemed from the darkness of this world. The one who believes is given the Spirit and the Spirit moves us lift up our hearts towards God and our hands towards our neighbor. The Spirit moves us to sing praises even if we can’t hit the right notes. The Spirit moves us to confess the Name to those around us even if we don’t quite know the right words to say. The Spirit moves us to stretch out our hands to help and support anyone and everyone who suffers physical needs, be it the lone traveler who needs gas money, or the whole town who needs rebuilding, from the greatest to the least, the oldest to the youngest even the unborn. The Word working in our heart will also work in our lives. Thus those who are of God will be putting those Words of Jesus into action for the glory of Jesus and the good of our fellow man. God grant us such hearts, hands and voices today. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!