John 8:48-59 (The Holy Trinity—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
May 30, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson from John 8:
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 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.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 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.’ 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. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Probably one of the most important characteristics that we want to see in a friend, or perhaps in the people we work with or work for, is that they keep their word. It’s about integrity, isn’t it? We know how frustrating it can be when someone says, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it,” and then we find out later that the task we asked them to do went undone. Or when someone says something like, “Yes, I’ll be at the meeting tomorrow, and I’ll support you,” but then the day of the meeting comes and your fellow employee either doesn’t show up or shows up but doesn’t speak up on your behalf. It’s about keeping your word. It’s important to us that our friends keep their word, so we can trust them to be there when we need them the most.
In our Gospel lesson today, we hear about keeping a word also. It’s not about keeping our word or our promises, but rather about keeping the Word of God. Keeping the Word here takes on a whole new meaning because it’s not about putting our trust in ourselves or in other people, but about putting our trust in the word of Him who is completely trustworthy, Jesus Christ. Jesus says in our Gospel, “I do know [the Father] and I keep His word.” Then later He says that there are great benefits for those who keep His Word. So today, let us keep the Word of Christ.
Let us keep the Word of Christ because He is the Son of God. The Jews in their spiritual blindness could not understand who Jesus was. “The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’” (John 8:48) They were aware of Jesus’ earthly ancestry but could not apprehend His divinity. “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.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?’” (John 8:52-53) They had insulted Him, accusing Him of being a Samaritan and having a demon. Soon their hostility escalated, and they were ready to stone Jesus to death.
In our day, the question, “Who is Jesus?” still attracts attention and spills a lot of ink on paper. Some see Jesus as merely a great teacher or prophet. That is the understanding of Jesus according to Islam. Others are very hostile, seeing Jesus as a fraud or a cause of violence in the world today. For some people, religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is seen to be one of the great problems of humanity. Remember the old song, “Imagine,” written by former Beatle John Lennon? It’s one of the most popular songs of modern times, but the words imply that the world would be a much better place without religious beliefs.
Imagine there’s no heaven It’s easy if you try
No hell below us Above us only sky
Imagine all the people Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too
Imagine all the people Living life in peace…
Even you and I would have to confess that we sometimes fail to remember who Jesus is. We fail to always remember His love for us, causing us to doubt His goodness. We sometimes struggle inwardly with His authority over us when faced with the choices of what we want and what He wants for us.
But Jesus makes His eternal nature clear in our text when He says, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” This is the same name that God applied to Himself in the presence of Moses at the burning bush, “God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I Am’ has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) Jesus is the true Son of God, who is both God and Man. By ourselves, we cannot fathom this mystery. How could it be? This mystery is grasped only by the power of the Holy Spirit, and thus we see the Holy Trinity at work: the way to the Father is through faith in the Son, which is possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit. So by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian Church confesses in the Athanasian Creed that Jesus “is God, begotten before the ages of the substance of the Father, and He is man, born in the world of the substance of His mother, perfect God and perfect man, with reasonable soul and human flesh, equal to the Father with respect to His Godhead and inferior to the Father with respect to His manhood. Although He is God and man, He is not two Christs but one Christ.” Let us therefore keep the Word of Christ because He is the Son of God.
Let us also keep the Word of Christ because He has made precious promises through His Word. Here we get to know God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We get to know who He is and His great love for us. His Word promises that Christ has overcome the devil and hell and that sin cannot harm us. We heard in Acts 2 that Christ “was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:31-36) God’s Word therefore promises eternal life. “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” “For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Prov. 8:35)
Let us then keep the Word of Christ because it brings joy and gladness to our lives here and now. Jesus said that Abraham saw the day of Christ, and it brought him joy and gladness. He knew by faith that God would someday send the Messiah. Even though Abraham lived some 2000 years before Christ, he trusted in the promises of God that the Savior would come. For Abraham, the promise of God was as sure as having seen it himself. So Abraham rejoiced in the knowledge of the Savior because he knew it would bring great spiritual blessing to the world.
You and I also can rejoice in the knowledge of the Savior and be glad. To know that Jesus came and honored and glorified the Father perfectly with His obedience in our place proves God’s great love for us. To know that God has always made provision for our eternal welfare, whatever happens in this life, brings us joy and gladness, even in the midst of sorrow and sadness.
Keeping the Word of Christ brings blessings far beyond what we could ever expect to receive from any other human being. To keep the Word of Christ means that we can have faith in who Jesus is, the Son of God. It means that we can always trust in His promises, that He has overcome death and sin for us, and we will not see death—we will not see eternal death. And finally, to keep the Word of Christ means that we can be encouraged and have joy and gladness in this life, knowing that no matter what happens, God’s love for us in Christ is an eternal reality. Amen.