Judica, the 5th Sunday in Lent + Psalm 43:1-3 + April 2, 2017
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn # 140 Jesus I Will Ponder Now
Vindicate me, O God,And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For You are the God of my strength; (Psalm 43:1-2a)
Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 43:3a, 4-5)
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.
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For you the God of my strength; Oh send out your light and your truth! Let them bring me to your holy hill” (Psalm 43:1-3). These words from the forty-third Psalm, the psalmody appointed for this Sunday, teach us how we are to pray when we are persecuted by our enemies. We aren’t to pray that the Lord would smite them or exact vengeance upon them. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray that the Lord would vindicate us. That’s even the name of this Sunday. Judica is the first word of the Introit, vindicate, or judge, in Latin. When we are persecuted for the sake of the gospel, when we are persecuted by our neighbor out of spite or malice, or for their enjoyment, we aren’t to imagine how we will “get them back” or “right that wrong” they’ve perpetrated against us. We commit it the Lord’s care as St. Paul bids us in Romans 12:19 where he writes, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” When our neighbor conspires against us to sabotage us so that we don’t get that job or promotion, when others maliciously drag our reputation through the mud, when our neighbor tears down what we have built, we are to commit that to God who is our strength and ask Him to send out His light and His truth to guide us in righteousness and to vindicate us. Ultimately the light and truth of God brings us to His holy hill, His sanctuary, where we see the works of God for us and learn once again to trust that He will vindicate us and plead our cause in His good time.
2) But we are not the only ones who pray these Divinely-inspired words of the Psalm. Like all the Holy Scriptures, this psalm is not primarily about us. This is the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ during the days of His self-empyting. He said as much in Luke 24:44 when He teaches the apostles that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” If there was anyone who needed vindication against an ungodly nation, it was Christ, for the unbelieving Jews continually tested His doctrine to disprove Him. If there has ever been a man to walk the earth who needed deliverance from the deceitful and ungodly man, it was Jesus, for the Jews were always setting traps for Him. Consider Christ’s words in today’s Gospel lesson. He says to the Pharisees, “Which of you convicts me of sin? And I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46). The Pharisees, on numerous occasions, accused Christ of sin. Yet Jesus of Nazareth is the only man to walk the earth that was without sin! How often did Christ heal on the Sabbath and raise the ire of the Pharisees? How often did Jesus make Himself equal with God the Father and the Jews seethed with indignation? Once Jesus tells them that they are not “of God” they attack Him unjustly yet again. “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48). Unwilling to hear the Words of God, they accuse God’s Son that He is not a true Israelite AND of being possessed by the devil!
3) By the end of today’s Gospel reading the Pharisees are picking up stones by which to kill Christ. He has confessed again that He is of the same essence as His Father. “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). “I AM” is the name which God revealed to Moses for Israel to use in prayer. “I AM” is the one who brought Israel out of Egypt. By taking the divine name and applying it Himself Christ confesses to all who will hear that He is the one who made the Divine Testament with Abraham. By claiming to be “I AM,” Christ makes Himself God, the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten from God the Father from all eternity, for “I AM” denotes neither a beginning nor an end, but eternal being. The Pharisees, not being “of God” will not stand for this. By picking up stones to kill Christ, these Pharisees reject God Himself. They have accused Him of being a devil. This is height of unbelief: to call God the Devil and to imagine that God’s good works are the works of Satan. Christ thwarts their attempt to murder Him at this moment. Jesus “hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59).
4) This is the beginning of the end though. Jesus escapes today, as He did at others times. He will not escape the deceitful and unjust man indefinitely. He will not hide Himself from the ungodly nation for much longer. He will enter Jerusalem next week to shouts of “Hosanna!” But will end the week hearing cries of “Crucify Him!” Christ willingly surrenders himself to the ungodly nation so that the unbelieving world may have its way with Him. He allows Himself to be handed over to the Jews and their hatred. He even consents to a great act of betrayal by one of His own. The Sanhedrin will falsely accuse Him. Christ’s silence against these accusations fulfill what the prophet had spoken: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He will stand before Pilate, who could clear Him, but does not defend Himself. False accusations fill His ears yet He opens not His mouth. He is betrayed by one of the brethren yet does not retaliate. He endures it all gently and meekly so that the words of the prophet prove true: “I gave my back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). He does not retaliate. He will not even speak a word of revenge,though He is the one who spoke to Israel, “Vengeance is Mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
5) God the Son knows that the betrayal, the bitter suffering, the beatings, and the biting accusations are necessary to procure atonement for the sins of the world. So God the Son entrusts His suffering, His passion, His accusations, to God the Father. “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For you the God of my strength; Oh send out your light and your truth! Let them bring me to your holy hill” (Psalm 43:1-3). God the Father will vindicate Him. That vindication comes not on Pilate’s stone pavement, not on the way to Golgatha, and not while hanging on the cross. All that must happen to earn for you the forgiveness of all your sins. Christ’s vindication comes three days later when God the Father “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory” (1 Peter 1:21). Christ is vindicated, proving that all His words are true. The One who spoke of His own body, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), raises Himself from the grave victorious over the Devil, having destroyed death, and having made full atonement for the sins of the entire world, so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ prays this psalm throughout the days of His humiliation, and the Father answers it finally and definitely by raising Him from the dead, vindicating Him as the eternal Son of God and judging that His sacrifice is acceptable, so that those who trust in Christ, have all the blessings won at the holy hill of Calvary.
6) Christ’s vindication before the unbelieving Jews teaches us another way we ought to pray this psalm. Yes, we ought to pray it when we are persecuted by our neighbors in this life. But more so we ought to pray the words of the psalm against our spiritual enemies, those who are not flesh and blood, but the devil, the world, and even our own sinful flesh with its desires and lusts. These are a truer enemy than any man can be to us. The world persecutes the faithful baptized, always buffeting them with temptation to forsake their life in Christ and embrace the life of worldly pleasure and earthly excitements. It is against the world we should pray, “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.” The Devil assaults believes in Christ with accusations over sin, except the devil’s accusations against us are true! No one can convict Christ of sin. But you and I have all sorts of sins of which the devil can convict us. The Devil accuses you in your heart of those things of all of your sins, especially those you hide from others. He accuses you and reminds you of those sins which confessed long ago. It is against the devil we should pray, “Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!” He is deceitful and unjust in that He accuses of us sins that have been long forgiven to make us imagine they have not been covered with Christ’s blood and that we need to atone for those sins ourselves by our works.
7) In the midst of the world’s temptations, in the moments when Satan accuses of our sins so to lead us into despair and shame, when our own flesh entices us to forsake Christ and indulge in sin, we pray for that the Lord would vindicate us against all these. We pray with the psalmist, “Oh send out your light and your truth! Let them bring me to your holy hill.” And our Lord proves faithful and answers that prayer. In temptation, accusation, and enticement, God the Father sends out His light and His truth: His Only-Begotten Son, who said, “I am the Light of the world,” (John 8:12) and who said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). God the Father gives us His Son to enlighten the darkness of sin so that we do not fall into temptation. Christ has been sent into our ears and hearts proclaiming the truth that His death covers all our sins so that by faith they are removed “as far as the east is from the west.” Our Father vindicates us and delivers us from the deceitful and unjust man and the ungodly world. He leads us to the holy hill of Calvary where we see the end of every temptation, accusation, and condemnation for our sin. Christ, the Light and Truth of the Father, calms our hearts with His gospel, consoles our consciences that our sins are truly forgiven, and strengthens us against our spiritual enemies, so we can say, because of faith in Christ’s suffering and death, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46). It is God who justifies us by faith. It is Christ who now intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand. This is our salvation and our vindication: our faith in Christ Jesus, the Light and Truth of God the Father for sinners. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and your minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.