Sermon Text: St. John 8:31-36
Date: October 27, 2013; Reformation Sunday (observed)
In the Name of Jesus! AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
Adam and Eve wanted more so they picked some fruit. Abraham wanted more so he gathered to himself Hagar. Jacob wanted more and came away with a limp. Israel wanted more and wandered 40 years. David wanted more and took another man’s wife. Solomon wanted more and more and more only to find all things are vanity. Throughout the centuries, humanity has wanted more. Wanting more, we take what is not ours to take in a vain attempt to possess more certainty.
More certainty was the point of Roman indulgences in 1517. You see, the idea was . . . that for every sin God demands satisfaction, He demands payment, He demandspenance. The purchase of indulgences satisfied that payment for either yourself or for any of your departed loved ones. “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs,” was the motto of medieval advertising / sales genius, John Tetzel!
Thus indulgences relieved the buyer of his uncertainty. And these were just one of the many Roman productions of certainty all stamped with the seal of approval from the Pope himself and peddled throughout the Holy Roman Empire, from village to village by smooth talking bishops, persuasive clerics, and itinerant priests. You see, at that time, all certainty hinged on the Pope, on his authority, his word, his place on the seat of Peter.
No faithful son of the Church would ever dare to question such high and noble authority. No one that is except someone whose love for the truth compelled Him to take up ink and quill, hammer and nail, pulpit and podium against thedoctrines of man, against all the false ways we satisfy our longings for more certainty. For, “out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther . . . intends to debate the following statements and to dispute on them in Wittenberg.” Brother Martin was just such a person. And on All Hallow’s Eve in 1517, 490 years ago, he posted his95 Theses setting in motion what is celebrated today as the Reformation of the Christian Church. For you see, certainty of salvation isn’t very certain if it hinges on the words of a mere man. Luther wanted more and rightly so. He wanted more certainty than what the Pope’s word could or would give.
Jesus, in our text, says to the Jews who believed in him, “If you abide in my Word, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” He gives His disciples a Word. But . . . humanity always wants more certainty that just a Word. “We are Abraham’s Children!” they respond. “We have never been in bondage to anyone.” Humanity always wants more than a word, even if it is God’s. The Jews clung to Abraham’s flesh and blood. Their certainty rested in Abraham. He was their place of refuge. Rome, to this day, clings to the Pope, to Peter’s seat. His word is their place of refuge. To what do you cling? Who is your place of refuge? Humanity always wants more certainty. So, where do you look to find it? To what do you bind yourself?
The Jews refused to believe they of all people were bound and in need of being set free. Such thinking offended them. That’s why Jesus says, “whoever sins is a slave to sin.” Sin binds us to a master unwilling and unable to show mercy. Slaves of sin constantly return to their master. How many times did Israel long to return to their broken fetters in Egypt? How many times did these children of Abraham sin before entering the Promised Land? There can be no confidence in the deeds of the flesh, “for all of have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified. We have all become guilty before God. Word’s like these terrify the Jews and plague honest consciences. For if I am guilty before God, who will save me from this wretched body of death? Who will set me free from my sin? Will the Pope be gracious to me? Only if I do this or that; buy indulgences, venerate relics, pay for private masses, invoke the saints! Can his seal give me certainty? Can my works comfort my heart? The Pope does not love me! His schemes are all invented by men to grant me a certainty they have no authority to deliver. They are all based upon the law! And the Law is powerless, and by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified. With Dr. Martin, Adam and Eve, the great Patriarchs of Old and all the saints . . . I need more, more certainty. I need the truth.
The truth is, Jesus gives us a Word. We may want morethan a Word from Jesus, but that’s what He gives us. And if you believe the Word you will see that the Word is more than just letters on the page. It is more than just sounds from a preacher’s mouth. It is more than what you could ever expect. The Word of God is alive and carries with it the Spirit of the Living God. The Word of God is in the flesh and bears on His shoulders the sins of the World. The Word is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! The Word is Jesus! And Jesus is given in, with, and under the Word. Wherever this Word of His is taught, proclaimed, and distributed in its truth and purity there is Christ Jesus, there is His Holy Church, and there is Certainty.
Therefore beloved, give your ears to the Word of Jesus. Let your heart abide in His Word, remain in His Word, read, learn, mark, and inwardly digest His Word. Believe His Word! His Word is “the more” that your heart longs for.
God’s Word is the embodiment of His heart toward you. It is the Word of His Son, born in a manger, baptized by a Prophet, touched by lepers, adored by Gentiles, condemned by priests, crucified by Romans, mocked by criminals, and laid in a tomb by friends.
It is the Word of angels hovering over the hill country of Judea, of an old man cradling the Messiah in His arms, of a bleeding woman touching the hem of his robe. It is the Word of Peter confessing the Christ, of paralytics praising God, of Samaritans falling on their knees. It is the Word of God’s Son, dead and buried and the Word, “He’s not here, He’s Risen!”
This Strong Word pronounces your cleansing, declares you righteous by faith! It forgives your Sin and raises your Spirit. Christ’s Word breaks the fetters which bound you to death, sets you free from the chain gangs leading you to destruction, and releases you from the bondage of your evil overseer. In tenderness and mercy the Lord voices His heart to yours.
You see, beloved His Word is the certainty of your salvation. Delivered into your heart through your ears He pledges within you the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting. His Word is the anchor of your hope in a gloomy world, the source of your peace when surrounded by war. It is the light of revelation that chases away darkness. It fills the soul with joy in affliction and gladdens the heart when sorrow’s temptation advances. The Word of the Lord is your strength when weakness brings you low, your life when lying at death’s door. God’s Word is your only certainty in this chaotic cosmos! Abide in his Word and you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free!
Liberated from the land and life of bondage, your freedom is now manifested in good works towards your neighbor, not because you need them to be saved, but because your neighbor needs them both to live and to experience the Love of God through you.
Therefore the heart once bound to lust is moved to love, greed surrenders to charity, vengeance is overcome by mercy, lewdness is covered by kindness, hatred crucified by compassion, envy drowned with thanksgiving. The old is gone, the New has risen and Christ works the wonders of His Word through you. By faith you are free and a new creation, created in Christ Jesus to do works of love and mercy.
Beloved in the Lord, for Luther, and for all who want more than the words and deeds of men, God has given us His Son. He is our rock and refuge, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. We will not despair! We will not tremble, nor shake, nor revert to our former ways. Pharaoh and his armies have been drowned. God’s Word has wrought our salvation. Abiding in His Word, by faith we make our way to Zion, the Holy Land of Paradise, the Land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Land promised to Israel, the apostles, even the thief on the cross, promised to Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose and Luther, to you and me. It is sealed with the blood of the Lamb, and certified with His Resurrection. Let us all indulge ourselves with this Word. For this is most certainly true! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus! AMEN!