Sunday, April 02, 2017

Sermon for 4/2/17: Fifth Sunday in Lent

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“I Am”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Once again Jesus finds Himself at odds with the Jews. They take their bloodline connection to the patriarch Abraham very seriously. The problem they have with the words our Lord speaks to them is not His claim to be eternal. After all, only a lunatic would claim to be older than Abraham, their famous ancestor who had lived centuries before them. They could dismiss that. And if Jesus was only referencing how old He was, He probably would have said something like, “Before Abraham was, I was.” But the words that Jesus uses, confess something so full of the Gospel that the Jews pick up stones to kill Him for saying it.
When Moses was standing before the burning bush in Exodus, he asked the name of God. And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” So when Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” He is not only claiming to be older than Abraham; He is also claiming to be the Lord God Himself! When Jesus says, “I AM,” it means that He is the God that walked in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. It means that He is the God who spoke from the burning bush. It means that He is the God who brought the children of Israel out of the bondage in Egypt. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is the God of the Old Testament. And the power of that identity, and what that says about Jesus, is enough to drive the Jews into a rage.
When Judas and the detachment of troops came to seize Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked them whom they were seeking. The Scriptures say: “They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am.’ And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, ‘I am,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” When they came to seize Him, He identified Himself as God, and they fell to the ground. That’s what we sinners do before God in His glory: we fall!
Adam and Eve reacted the same way in the Garden, once they had fallen into sin. They knew that they no longer were worthy to be in the presence of the One True God. They heard God walking in the Garden, and they hid themselves. That’s the way we sinners operate. Sin does not like to be seen, and sinners do not like to have attention drawn to their sin. When we do something sinful, we do our best to make sure no one is around. And when we think we’re in trouble, we find a hiding spot. Think of how people in the Bible react when an angel appears to them. They fall on their faces in fear. The angels must comfort them: “Fear not.” Only then can they give their message. The power of God and His glory overwhelm the sinner. Either we cower in repentant fear, or we strike out in unrepentant anger.
But just as the angels comforted those who are brought to their knees by the reflected glory of God; just as the Lord comforted Adam and Eve with the comfort of the promise of the Savior; in the same way our Lord lifts us from our fear with the forgiveness of sins. This is our Lord Jesus, the great I AM, who led the children of Israel from captivity to the Promised Land, from the shadow of death to the fullness of life. And He is the One whose day Abraham was glad to see—and whose day this is. And so He cares for you by bringing you to this day. For this is the Lord’s Day, where He gives Himself to you. This is the day you taste Life so that you might never see death, but only the fullness of Life in God. This is the day He feeds you with His Body and Blood, so that you will stand before Him one day, face to face, in your renewed and glorified flesh. 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.

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