A Homily for Lent V – Passion Sunday
March 21, 2021
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: John 8:46-58
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The world is filled with scandalous and shocking news. No more than a day goes by before we might hear another piece of news that gives us pause, that makes us think “surely, I’ve misheard.”
Some of this shocking news is amusing, or interesting, like an animal who has learned some funny task, but others is upsetting, disturbing, or heartbreaking, like an act of terror or an attack on a church. But how prepared we are for it, does not seem to matter to the news, the news simply comes.
This morning’s Gospel lesson is both central to the good news of the gospel and it is deeply shocking.
As you heard the gospel lesson this morning perhaps you noticed that Christ’s interaction with the Jewish leaders becoming more and more hostile, it is almost uncomfortable to see, he almost seems to be intentionally agitating them – to intentionally upset them. But this interaction is essential because it tells us three important things about Christ that lead us to a central fact of the gospel.
Our reading this morning tells us that Christ is perfect, Christ seeks to glorify the Father alone, and that Christ is obedient to the will of the Father.
But all of this leads us to the something even more important – Christ is Lord – Christ is the eternal second person of the trinity.
This is important because his claims of perfection, humbly glorifying the Father, and obedience would be without merit if he were not God. These claims are dependent on His incarnation.
I. Who convicts me of sin?
Have you ever been in a class, or perhaps an argument, when someone asks a rhetorical question? You know the kind of question where you know they already know the answer?
It’s kind of uncomfortable, and you sit there, not sure if you want to answer or even if you should.
That is Christ’s question to the leaders this morning: Which one of you convicts me of sin?
Christ is not asking here – have I sinned? Christ is not even asking if anyone has seen him sin.
Christ has no sin, and no one can convict him of sin.
No – Christ is asking can anyone present a case in the heavenly court – can anyone say – this man has sin and prove it before God-the-Father, before all the angels, before all the saints.
I do not think we spend enough time contemplating the heavenly court, contemplating the things of eternity.
No, I am afraid, that we often spend so much time contemplating the things of this world that we miss the heavenly drama that unfolds in scripture and even all around us.
Would your life be transformed if your thoughts started first with God? Started first with how does this play out eternally?
I think perhaps you might see a dramatic difference if you looked at the world in light of eternity, and this is what Christ invites the Jewish leaders to do this morning:
Who can come before God and show him any sin that I have performed?
Who would dare come before the HOLY and Good God and tell him “This man Jesus is guilty, condemn him.”
And no one can.
Because Christ is perfect – because Christ lived without sin.
No one can.
Because Christ is the second person of the trinity – the second person come to save men and women from their sins. Come to bear upon Himself the sins of the whole world – come to bear upon himself my sin and your sin.
Come to die so we might live.
Christ knows the answer to this question – and he waits for their response.
Christ waits – because no one can convict him of sin before the heavenly Father, no one can convict him of Sin in the heavenly court.
Because he is Lord, because He is God.
One of the early Church fathers described God as a ball of fire, this is perhaps the least heretical metaphor for the Trinity that I know. From that fire, he described three flames coming out – one the Father, one the Son, and one the Spirit.
They live in perfect unity with each other – they are the same essence – but they are different flames each serving their unique purpose. One substance – three persons.
In this, they live in perfect obedience one to another and they live in perfect love one to another.
Where you and I fail to love well – where you and I have an inward tick towards constant rebellion – the Trinity loves itself perfectly – the Trinity glorifies itself perfectly – and the Trinity is perfectly obedient to itself.
It is because of Christ’s role in the Trinity – it is because of Christ’s humbling of Himself that he can claim that no one can convict Him of sin.
In fact, there is an element of irony because we KNOW that Christ will come again – we claim this every time we gather to worship – we know that in Christ second coming – Christ will come to judge both the living and the dead.
Not only can no one convict Christ of sin – but Christ will be the one whom every man and every woman will stand before – and Christ will be the one who will rightfully judge every person.
It is Christ who will convicts all of sin.
It is Christ who has born all sin.
It is Christ who forgives sin.
II. I do not seek my own glory
Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone? Or even perhaps sat through a sermon you felt was too long? And suddenly someone says,
“Hey! Are you listening?”
I suspect we’ve all been here before – where, whether from hardness of hearts – frustration with the other person – stubbornness – laziness – or poor presentation on the part of the presenter, we find ourselves not listening, and suddenly you are jostled awake by this seemingly rude question.
“Hey! are you listening?”
And you burn hot within and are stoked into self-defense mode and perhaps you sputter some self-defensive response.
Christ does this to the leaders this morning:
“Are you even listening to God’s word?”
Whoever is of God hears the word of God.
Whoever is of God hears me and is obedient to me.
But the reason he gives for their lack of obedience – their lack of knowing and doing God’s word – is that they do not belong to God. Rather, they have stopped up their ear’s to what he is saying, and they have hardened their hearts to what he is doing.
We know that the act of hearing is not simply being aware of the sounds that we hear – it is not simply acknowledging the giggles of the children, the chirping of the birds, the wind rustling in the bushes, or the words coming out of teacher’s or loved one’s mouth.
To genuinely hear something or someone means that you are somehow affected – you are somehow moved by what you have heard. To hear is less about the audible recognition of words and more about the internal affect those words have.
And here is a part of the reason the leaders were so offended. Had they not read the scriptures for hours on end? Had they not read every commentary that was available to them? Had they not memorized so much?
Of course, they had heard!
They knew the scriptures far better than the most devoted amongst us this morning.
But too often they sought their own glory, too often they read their own meaning into the text, too often they made scripture all about themselves. They had not heard – they had not been converted.
And too often – we do the same.
What are the questions you ask when you come to the word of God?
It should not be “what does this say to me?”
But what does this say about God? What have I learned about His glory, his character, his nature? What does this say about Christ? How is he revealed here? How is he glorified?
When you read scripture – start with how God is revealed in it and go from there.
But when the Jewish leaders are convicted of their sin, they do not repent, but become defensive, they attack Christ and say that he has a demon, they say that he is a dirty Samaritan.
And he responds that he does not seek to glorify Himself – he does not seek to honor Himself, but He honors the Father.
In the incarnation – In Christ becoming man – Christ humbles Himself – Christ seeks one thing – the glory of the Father. He seeks the honor of the Father.
It is not as though Christ does not deserve glory and honor – no we know that He does, and in fact the church exists that he might be glorified upon earth – but first Christ came in perfect humility and perfect submission to the Father.
Christ recognizes, and knows that a life lived out of a selfish pursuit of self-glory will always fail.
A Christian musician once made note of this – he was contemplating legacies – and he noted that if he sought to leave a legacy – sought to leave “his mark” on the world – then the legacy he would leave would be that of an attempt to leave a legacy.
But if he sought to glorify God – then he would leave a legacy of God’s glory behind.
My friend – the church does a lot of beautiful things – we gather and enjoy each other’s company, we enjoy singing beautiful songs together, we bring kind things for local charitable organizations, we encourage one another, we create a comforting community.
But my friends – the church does not exist for your comfort; the church does not exist as a social club
– the church exists for the glory of God.
Just as Christ laid down his life for the church – so you are called to lay down your life for Christ.
You are called to live for the glory of God.
Do not seek your own glory – but glorify God.
For your glory is nothing – but God’s glory is everything – and only God’s glory is eternal. Only God’s glory will last into the ages of ages. Only when you rest in God’s glory – will you experience true glory.
Death is a scary thing – there is a mystery there, no matter how faithful we are. Thomas Cranmer, the leader of the English reformation, died this day 465 years ago and stands as an example of this fear and burning for the glory of God. His martyrdom is particularly interesting.
Amidst the turmoil of England bouncing between protestant and Roman Catholic rule he had publicly recanted much of his protestant conviction. It seems fear of death gripped him for a moment. But then in an act of rebellion, in an act of deep conviction he got up and from the pulpit announced that no, in fact he stood convicted that he must follow Christ even if it meant death. He stated boldly and plainly that he would follow Christ no matter the cost.
And he was taken to where other martyrs, where he had seen his friends before him burned to death – to where his friends Latimer and Ridley had lost their lives for the faith, the faith they confessed to be true – and there on that spot he too was burned.
As he was burned, he cried out – “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit ...; I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
Cranmer – like so many that came before Him and came after him realized his life was of no account, was of no merit if he did not live and die for Christ.
Our life is of little merit, if we are not living, and dying for Christ.
As Christ lived for the Father’s glory –
You are called live for the father’s glory.
III. I keep HIS word
I am a forgetful person – I hope and pray that the word of God is slowly changing my heart into something gentler, and something kinder – but I find that I need to be constantly reminded of things.
Perhaps you’ve asked me something – especially on a Sunday morning, and you’ve received the response “would you please email that to me?”
It is not that I don’t care, I hope this is clear – it is simply because I know that by the end of the morning, I will have forgotten that we even talked. I wonder if others can sympathize with this?
I wonder if you can sympathize with this sentiment that – it can be hard to remember and follow Christ at times. It can be hard to remember his words – especially in the heat of the moment.
But where you have failed to follow the word of God – Christ was that word – and in this Christ was perfectly obedient to the will of the Father.
As he shows that he is – without sin, seeks to honor and glorify the Father, and is perfectly obedient to the will of the father, he moves towards something truly shocking – he says – “Your father Abraham,” for the leaders referred constantly to their father Abraham, making their lineage the central authority – where Christ made God-the-Father the central authority.
“Your father Abraham,” he says, “rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
Like so many other passages in scripture – this is profoundly understated.
When we read that Abraham rejoiced – we should not think that he was merely glad, or some how mildly satisfied.
No Abraham felt such joy that this day would come that he wanted to scream the news of the incarnation from the roof tops.
St. Luke describes the joy of the heavenly court at the news that Christ had come – as the heavens bursting forth in His glory, likewise – Abraham burst with joy – and so you are called to burst with joy. For the one who was perfectly obedient had come.
And now the Jewish leaders find what Christ had said as mockable. No longer is it dangerous – it’s just foolish. How could this young man be known by Abraham? How could this man who isn’t even fifty have been known by the patriarch who lived over a thousand years ago?
And they laughingly ask him this.
And Christ’s response – is scandalous – what Christ says, if it is untrue is blasphemous – but if it is true – what Christ says is central to the Christian claim and the Gospel, he says:
Before Abraham was -
I am – the ancient proclamation of God himself –
I am said the voice of God from the bush,
I am said God through the prophets.
In this proclamation that before Abraham was – I am – Christ links Himself with the Father and the Holy Spirit – in this Christ links himself as a unified part of the Trinity, in this Christ says to the Jewish leaders – I was, I am, and I am to be.
In this Christ says – I am God and I am eternal.
I will judge, I will be glorified, I will be obeyed.
Christ reveals His character to the Jewish leaders and to us – and in doing so it builds up to this incredible climax.
All this builds to Christ’s bold statement – the statement which we proclaim to be true every time we gather – that Jesus Christ is Lord, that Jesus Christ is our God, our king, our prophet, and our priest.
it is precisely because Christ is Lord and God that we can accept the claims of the book of Hebrews and – that we can proclaim with its author that which we heard this morning: Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
It is in Christ that we are bound to God – that a new covenant has been made – a covenant that does not depend upon you, that does not depend upon your performance, your will, your past, your present, or your future, but rather – it is solely dependent upon what Christ has done for you.
My friends – I hope it is not that you have heard this news 100 times before and you find it boring now – I hope that this news excites and enlivens you ever time you hear it. Our reading from the Gospel according to St. John this morning reminds us yet again that:
Before creation: Christ is.
Before Abraham: Christ is
Before you were born: Christ is.
And Christ will ever be.
He is the eternal mediator who lived, who died, and who was raised for you.
That in your living.
That in your dying.
You might be raised to life with him today and forever.
Now let us say together:
Glory to God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is not, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 1 Chron. xxix. 11.
REMEMBER the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts xx. 35.