Even to Death
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord put Abraham to the test. There they were, father and son, going up the mountain. They carried with them everything they would need to sacrifice to God—everything, that is, except for the lamb. Isaac questions his father about that, and Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself a lamb.” So the Father in heaven sent His own Son to be that Lamb. Nothing but that Lamb will save us from our sins. But the Jews don’t want to hear that. In fact, no one wants to hear that. Jesus taught the Word and told His hearers that they were no children of God because they denied His Word. So of course they called Jesus a Samaritan and said He had a demon. Isn’t that how most religious discussions go? You argue and argue and finally it just seems like neither side is wrong or right or whatever. It’s no wonder religion is not a topic for polite conversation.
My brothers and sisters, beware of the devil’s snare. He wants you to stop seeking and believing the Truth. It seems better to keep silent than to have a fight with a friend or a family member over religion. We all know what happens. You argue. Voices are raised. And then, all of a sudden, you’re not speaking to each other anymore. In our text, the Jews were so angry that they grabbed stones to kill Jesus! It’s so much easier to stop caring about the Truth, about what’s right and wrong. And suddenly the devil wins. If you don’t think the Truth of Jesus being the Savior is worth confessing boldly, worth believing with all your heart, even to death, then you’ve already given up on the Truth…and only that Truth saves you.
Jesus escapes this time. But it won’t be so forever. He’ll eventually let Himself be caught. He’ll confess that He is the Christ, the Son of God. He will stand before Pilate and acknowledge that He is indeed a King. It must be this way for sinners to be saved. For this is the Truth: Isaac goes free, and the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is sacrificed. And that’s exactly what the sinner wants. The Word dies because we want to kill it. We don’t want to hear that we can’t save ourselves. We don’t want to hear that what we do is sinful and unclean. We don’t want to hear that Jesus is the only way to heaven. So we silence the Word. We cry out with the crowds, “CRUCIFY HIM!” We shut the Bible and let it gather dust. We toss out the Catechism. We stop coming to church. And for every last bit of it, Jesus suffers what He suffers, and He does it willingly. He does it to cleanse you, to keep you from being the sacrifice. He does it to be the sacrifice in your place.
Jesus tells us what matters. Where we would cringe at arguing with someone about religion, Jesus speaks the Truth: “Whoever is of God hears His words.” The Jews don’t listen. They don’t hear. They refuse. But you have God’s words. They’re written for you in the Scriptures. They’re spoken with the water and the font. They’re delivered to your ears in the absolution and preaching and teaching. They’re spoken at the altar. Those words tell you that the Lord isn’t going to require your sins of you. He won’t take Isaac as a sacrifice, and He won’t make you die for your sins. Your Baptism, the Gospel, the body and blood all declare this one promise of God’s words: Jesus has taken your place. Your forgiveness, salvation and eternal life are accomplished. Are you of God? Well, here you are, hearing His words, trusting His Words to give what they say, believing that death cannot harm you. Keeping the Word means nothing else than to trust in and cling to the promises that God makes to you through His Son.
So what about those discussions about religion? You don’t have to be snide or provocative in speaking the truth of God’s Word, but you don’t have to back down, either. You have the truth. Jesus has taught you His Word. Speak up! Just say what God’s Word says. Point to the Jesus who died and rose. And what if they hate you? What if they unfriend you? What if they pick up stones to stone you? Blessed are you! Death cannot touch you. It has no power over you. Death is defeated by the Word of the Lamb who was slain, the Sacrifice who then rose from the grave. Jesus speaks, and His words get Him in trouble with the Jews. They hate His Word so much they killed Him. But His Word saves you. Cling to that Word and keep it, for the Word of God is your everlasting life. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.