Guarding Jesus’ Word

John 8:48-59: June 16, 2019
[48] The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” [49] Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. [50] Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. [51] Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” [52] 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.’ [53] Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” [54] 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.’ [55] 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. [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” [57] So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” [58] Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” [59] So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:48–59)

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.

On this Sunday of the Holy Trinity, we hear from Jesus in one of His many encounters with the Pharisees about who He is. They obviously knew He was powerful. He was bold in His teaching, He spoke as One with authority, He performed numerous miracles, He feed thousands, He healed many, He rebuked the demons, and so they wanted to know where His power came from. He obviously had power like they’d never seen. No one could deny it, but where was it from, where was He from. He certainly couldn’t be who He claimed to be, and they were surely not children of the devil, as He called them. They were certain that they were right and He was false. After all they were descendants physically from Abraham. They knew their lineage, they had the Scriptures, they were teachers of the Scriptures, so if this man, Jesus was opposing them, He must be from the devil. There is no way He could be who He was claiming to be, the God of Abraham, the God who made the heavens and the earth, and still be standing right in front of them. He was in His thirties, not 2030s. So they asked, but truly they didn’t really want the answer, because they had already made up their minds. Jesus obviously knew this, he knew who they were, he knew their very hearts. He knew they didn’t believe in His word. They didn’t have faith. That which trusts the Word of God and receives His gifts, His promises. Just a few verses earlier we get the context of the conversation.

John 8:42–44

[42] Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. [43] Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. [44] You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (ESV)

It is then from this context of calling them children of the devil, which according to Jesus are those who do not believe in who He is, the Christ, Son fo the Living God, or YHWH in human flesh, that the Pharisees begin our Gospel reading calling Jesus both a Samaritan and having a demon. Jesus answers them “, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. [50] Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. [51] Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

The Pharisees trusted in themselves, what they could do, where they came from, they trusted in their keeping of the law, their cooperation with God to make themselves clean, for this is what the natural man born in sin does. The Old Adam doesn’t look outside Himself to Jesus, but inside for spiritual ability and even inside for faith, which is no faith at all, for faith is a gift from God to you, through the Word, which Jesus says we should guard, or keep, or believe. We look, however, according to our sinful flesh, within ourselves for the answers, for the good, for the will power and ultimately for the means of salvation. Nothing good however is ever found in us, the Scriptures are all too clear on this as Jesus told the Pharisees, “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word “. Our Lord Jesus, on the other hand, comes to us, from outside of us. Heaven has come to earth. He speaks, He announces and He comes to the sinner. He went to Calvary to bear the sins of the world, and delivers by His Spirit His gift of the forgiveness of sin to you personally through His Word and Sacraments. That’s exactly why Jesus’ statement is so mind blowing for them, it’s truly unbelievable for the Pharisees and according to our flesh, also for you. As we are gathered here on Trinity Sunday to hear His word, left to ourselves, we don’t believe Him either. We can’t believe Jesus, because we are fallen from birth. We don’t “seek God” the scriptures tell us, we don’t “love God and neighbor” as we ought to, for we, like the Pharisees look within ourselves, rather than to God for goodness, peace, salvation, hope. This is the temptation of the Fall where the serpent tells Eve, if you eat of this fruit, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This too, like all the devil tells us, is manipulated, lies, false. As Jesus says, “because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
So, if keeping His word is how we “never see death” what does this mean? Well, to keep His word is to believe Jesus is who He says He is, “Before Abraham was, I AM”. Jesus is YHWH, the God who created from the beginning, as we confess the Creed, this is the catholic, or Christian faith. To keep His Word is to believe as Peter confessed that “Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God.” It is to believe that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:11) To know the Father is to believe Jesus when He says “before Abraham was” I AM. This is Jesus’ claim that He is the God of the Old Testament, the One who Abraham saw and rejoiced in, according to Gen 15, He “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits an the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” To “keep His word”, is to believe Jesus is the One promised in Genesis 3, as the seed of Eve, the Promised Son of David, the Messiah, who would defeat sin, death and the devil, He cleanses the sinner and brings eternal life to all who would receive Him. This is the language and reality of faith, that which receives Jesus as your Savior, the One who Redeems YOU from your sin.
Still, our Old Adam, our fallen nature hates this language, as did the Pharisees, and as do all of us. But God, who is rich in mercy has revealed to us His Son, who became weak for you, suffered for you, died for your sins, and has risen for you. Your Lord Jesus creates your faith through His Spirit, whom He has sent, gives you the gift of being able to believe, and you now are His own as John says in the beginning of his Gospel:

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11–13)

This is why Jesus came to the earth, “not to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world would be saved.” In other words, He came to save you. He came that you might believe and keep His word. He came to make you His child and freely and lovingly feeds you His true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sin, and in doing so all that is His, is now yours, and His Father is YOUR Father. His honoring of the Father, is now yours as gift. His righteousness is yours. He has given the very Name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit to you in Holy Baptism. He gives all that He is to you, so that by grace, through faith, on account of Jesus you are forgiven, absolved, and holy and He is holy, holy, holy.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.