Judica (Lent 5) - John 8:46 - March 13, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn #140 Jesus I will Ponder Now
Collect for Judica, the Fifth Sunday in Lent
We beseech Thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon Thy people, that by Thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Collect for the Season of Lent
Almighty and Everlasting God, our Father, Who hatest nothing that Thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with the Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) Defending Himself against the wild accusations of the unbelieving Jews, Jesus ask them, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” It is remarkable enough that Jesus could ask them this. What is even more remarkable is that the Jews don’t answer Him. In fact, they do what people always do when they’re wrong and are too stubborn to admit it. They resort to name-calling, blustering, and mudslinging. Their response to Jesus question is to accuse Him of being a Samaritan and having a demon. This is adult conversation at its best. By calling Jesus a Samaritan they mean to imply that He is religiously questionable, for the Samaritans historically were syncretists. Historically, the Samaritans had always combined the true religion of Israel with the idols of the surrounding countries, so that their worship and faith looked similar to the true religion, but in fact was far from it. Claiming that He has a demon goes without explanation, especially in light of the gospel lesson from two weeks ago when the Jews accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power Beelzebub, the prince of demons. It is remarkable that for as much as they hate Jesus, for as much as they desire to murder Him, they cannot rebut Him in the tiniest bit and name even the slightest sin or infraction against the Mosaic Law. Jesus, even in the eyes of His most bitter detractors and enemies, was spotless. By their silence on this matter, the Jews implicitly confess Jesus to be more than man, for the Scripture says, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). These Jews demonstrate what the author of Hebrews will write years later, that Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
2) This is something worthy of our contemplation. Christ was entirely without sin during the days of His humiliation, from His conception to this burial. Being without sin means not only that sin was absent from Him in His thoughts, words, and deeds. Being without sin means that He lived perfectly righteous, since righteousness is the opposite of sin. St. Paul says in Galatians 4:4-5 that “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” In the days of His humiliation, meaning the days when He concealed His divine power and authority, so from His conception to His burial, Jesus lived under the law, Paul says. Everything commanded by Moses, every commandment, every ordinance, every festival, Jesus performed perfectly. Moses was rigorous, too rigorous for man. St. Peter calls the Mosaic law a yoke around the necks of the disciples in Acts 15:10, “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” You know as well as anyone that what makes the commandments so difficult, no, impossible, is that the substance of the commandment is a matter of the heart not the hands. You understand that “Thou shalt not murder” commands us to help our neighbor in every bodily need. You understand that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” commands us to love and honor our spouse, defend the marriages of others, and the institution of marriage in general.
3) You know the commandments have little to do with the hands and more to with the heart. “Thou shalt have no other gods” is a matter of the heart, for by this commandment the Lord demands that we fear Him always, love Him continually, and trust in Him in every situation, which is something that sinners cannot and will not do unless aided by the Holy Ghost. The Law is a matter of the heart, for one can fulfill the external aspect of the commandments yet their heart can be far from God. It is as the Lord says in Isaiah 29:13, “these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me.” So all humanity stands accused before the tribunal of God, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even our best efforts fail miserably. The prophet Isaiah says, “We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is the state of every man, woman and child born in the natural way. When we consider all that the Scriptures teach about human nature we see how little we truly fear, love, and trust in God above all things. When we consider the substance of the commandment we see how often we fail to use the Lord’s name properly but instead see our sluggishness to pray, praise, and give thanks to God for all His benefits. Conscience proves the words of Luther true. We daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment.
4) When we contemplate the depth of our sinfulness according to the law of God, then consider that Christ lived under the entire law, fulfilling it perfectly, the righteousness of Christ shines forth as a pure, radiant, and gleaming light. All that we fail to do, He does perfectly. Nor does He perform the law only outwardly and externally. Every motivation of His heart is love for His neighbor. Every act is driven by selflessness and concern for others. Everything He does, He does out of obedience to His Father’s will with no doubting, no schwaffling, and with no double-mindedness about Him. Theologians call this His active obedience, for He obeys the perfectly, doing the Law of Moses with the hands and the heart as we never could by our own natural powers, reason, or strength. Christ is also obedient to the Father’s will that He suffering and die to make atonement for the sins of the world. “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Theologians call this Christ’s passive obedience, that He assumes the guilt of the entire world and willingly dies as the “lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In His active and passive obedience we see just how the Father provides everything that is needed for the salvation of sinners. By His active obedience Christ acquires a perfect righteousness under the law that completely and entire fulfills every aspect of the divine law. By His passive obedience of dying upon the cross to atone for the sins of the world, He assumes the guilt of all sins and pays for them, making complete satisfaction. By His active obedience He provides a perfect righteousness. By His passive obedience He satisfies God’s wrath against sin so that for all who are in Christ by faith, there is no more wrath left for sin.
5) All this is what Jesus promises in the gospel. Because all of have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, God the Father provides Christ as the propitiation for the sins of entire world. He atones for everyone’s sins by experiencing the full wrath of God against the sin and the sinner. He satisfies God’s righteous wrath against unrighteousness. He does all this so that, as Paul says, “He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). For faith is the only way that one receives the righteousness of Jesus. In Romans 5:19 Paul says, “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.” By this he means that all who are grafted into Adam by birth receive Adam’s sinfulness and the guilt of his sin. In the same way, all who are grafted into Jesus by faith receive Jesus’ righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Faith is accounted as righteousness before God’s holy tribunal. Where man attempts to stand before God’s tribunal and defend Himself against the Law’s accusations with his own righteousness, there is no hope. But the gospel promises that all who flee to Christ for mercy will find it. All who believe the promise of the gospel, that in Christ they have a God who is reconciled to them, receive the sinlessness of Jesus, His active and passive obedience. All that Christ earns is imputed to the one who believes the promise of the Gospel, so faith is what counts sinners as righteous in God’s sight. It is as St. John writes in a verse most everyone knows. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
6) These Jews, in their hatred of Jesus and the love of their own imagined righteousness, cannot answer Him when He asks, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” These men would rather stand before God’s judgment seat and plead their own merits and worthiness. They, along with all who reject the promise of the gospel, are not justified, since they have no faith in Christ. It is as St. John says, “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36), for God only justifies, declares righteous, those who believe Christ and trust that in Him God is merciful to sinners. So do not hesitate to call yourself a sinner. Do not hesitate to be one, either. Don’t go out and willfully sin, for that is the surest way to drive the faith which justifies far from your heart. But own the fact that you are a sinner because you have a savior who comes only for sinners, to earn a perfect righteousness and acquire your redemption in His bitter, innocent suffering and death. You have a Jesus who now lives and reigns so that He might give His perfect righteousness to sinners every time they repent and believe the promise of the His gospel. This is the Jesus we have, the Jesus in whom there is no sin but a perfect righteousness, a Jesus who gives out that righteousness to all who believe, and a Jesus who works that faith in men’s hearts so that we may always give thanks that His salvation from sin is by grace alone. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.