The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 25, 2012


You Be the Judge

John 8:46-59

Scripture Readings

Genesis 12:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-15
John 17:1-5


158, 388, 173, 352

[Jesus said], “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly 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. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

In the name of Jesus, the Son of God, dear fellow-redeemed:

In the later years of the apostle John’s life there lived a man named Cerinthus. Cerinthus taught that Jesus was the son of Joseph and, therefore, just a man. Cerinthus believed that a part of God was put into Jesus at His baptism and that it stayed with Him until just before His death when it was removed, but He was not the Son of God. Meanwhile, the conflict between many of Jews and Jesus did not disappear after Jesus died. They too rejected any idea that Jesus is true God and continued to oppose the Christian Church.

With that kind of hostile atmosphere toward the person of Christ, we can well understand why the Holy Spirit would lead John to write in the way he does. In his Gospel account, John shows the conflict between Jesus and His enemies who thought He was nothing more than a troublesome man. John used these events as opportunities to repeatedly show that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. John wrote what he did so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God(John 20:31).

Nothing has really changed over the years. There is still much opposition to the fact that Jesus is the very Son of God. The matter of Jesus’ deity is not a minor issue. For if Jesus is not true God then He is not the Christ. Then He is not our Savior from sin nor can He be, and we need to look and wait for God’s promised Christ to come.

Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God brought the charge of blasphemy against Him. This was the charge with which the Jews convicted Jesus. Is Jesus’ claim fact or is it blasphemy? YOU BE THE JUDGE. Today we go to a courtroom to hear both sides of the case so that you can decide for yourself, IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD?

I. We hear first from the accusers:

I speak to you today on behalf of the Jews of Jesus day. I cannot say that I speak for all the people in Israel of our day, though I might wish that it were true. You refer to us as “Jesus’ enemies.” When Jesus’ so-called apostle John wrote about us he always said, “the Jews,” but we know that he didn’t mean every Jew—he meant us, the leaders and others opposed to this Jesus of Nazareth.

As for us, let me first state our position and then give you proof. Is Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, the Son of God? We answer with a defiant ‘No!’ for we know that He has a demon and is nothing but a trouble-maker among the people who leads them away from our teachings and our beliefs.

Jesus’ popularity among the people had grown great in the last few years. As His popularity grew so did our concern. We could feel the people slipping away from us. Imagine! This Jesus from little old Nazareth—who ever heard of anything good coming out of Nazareth? This Jesus was teaching and preaching and doing all kinds of amazing signs, leading the foolish people of our land away from our teaching and tradition and our laws!

Jesus claimed to be a prophet from God. We didn’t believe Him because what kind of prophet goes around with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners of every sort? He rebuked us and was a friend to them! Surely, that in itself is evidence enough that He is not who He claims to be.

I remember the day in question very well. We had been talking to Jesus at some length. He told us that we were trying to kill Him—which, I’m to tell you the truth, was accurate for how could we let Him live when He was doing such harm among the people. Jesus told us that we were liars and children of the Devil!

He asked us if anyone could show that He had any sin in Him. I must say that we had tried and tried but none of us could, but…but…but that is not the point. This man was a trouble-maker and a false prophet who misled the people. We said, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?[v.48] There seemed to be no other explanation for this man called Jesus other than that He was a heathen unbeliever and demon-possessed.

Jesus, of course, denied that He had a demon and went on to say more. Then He told us something that proves beyond doubt that He is possessed by a demon. Jesus said, “If anyone keeps My Word he shall never see death.[v.51] Can you believe it? We told Jesus, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?[v.52-53]

Jesus actually had the audacity to stand in front of us and claim that He could give eternal life! Even Abraham is dead! Even the great prophets are dead! And this man from Nazareth claims that if someone listens to what He says and teaches that he won’t die. Nonsense! This man is not greater than our father Abraham and he speaks lies. We will defend the honor of our great father Abraham. We are Abraham’s children and this man, Jesus, is nothing.

Jesus said more. He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.[v.56] More nonsense! This gave even more proof to what we knew was true about this man. How could Abraham have seen his day when Abraham has been dead all these many years? We asked Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?[v.57]

What Jesus said next is the final bit of evidence against Him. What He said so enraged us and it still makes me angry within. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be in existence before Abraham! He said He is “I AM.” Our Jehovah God calls Himself the “I AM”—the one and only God who exists (cf. Exodus 3:14). This man’s claims were utter blasphemy!

We were enraged all the more by such words coming from this simple man’s lips. We know God’s Law well. It says, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death(Leviticus 24:16).

We all picked up stones to carry out God’s Law against this blasphemer, but somehow He hid Himself and slipped away. We just all of a sudden lost Him and later He was back out among the people. I can’t explain just how that happened or how we lost such a good opportunity to do justice for God upon this man…but we did.

Actually, there are many things about this man that we cannot explain but let me say this: what we have seen and heard establishes without any doubt that He is a blasphemer and a danger to the people. He is from Beelzebub and we know He has a demon.

II. We hear next from the Defendant

I am Jesus of Nazareth—Son of Mary and Son of the Living God sent from Heaven to do the will of My Father by being the substitute for sinful mankind. I came to live a perfect and holy life and so to fulfill the demands of the Law that rest upon all people. I came to take the sins of every sinner sins upon Myself and to suffer the agony of their eternal consequence so that all sinners could be rescued from being eternally separated from My Father.

As you have heard, the Jewish leaders and some of the people did not—and still do not—believe Me when I say that I am the Son of God. I used miracles, and my words, and my life, and every opportunity in an attempt to lead them to realize their sin, to repent, and to put their trust in Me. Most would not hear.

I did indeed speak harsh words against the leaders because bold words from God’s Law are what they needed to hear. If only they could get past their own fleshly lusts and pride and see the truth! But alas, their ears were closed and their hearts hardened against my Word.

In one of the discussions I had with my enemies I asked them, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?[v.46] It was nearly three years since I began my ministry and almost from the very beginning they had been trying to find fault with Me. They laid traps. They sent their wisest and most cunning of men, but they couldn’t find anything wrong in what I did or in what I said. What I said did not please them, but neither could they rightfully say it was sin.

If sin had been found in Me, then all the opposition from my people would be justified. As it was, they could find no sin despite all their best efforts. Even at the time of my last trial, they had to bring false witnesses in order to have a case against Me, and they couldn’t even find two false witnesses whose testimonies agreed with each other.

When I asked who among the Jews could expose some sin in Me, no one answered because they couldn’t. If there is no sin in Me then what I say must be truth so I tried to lead them to the truth by asking them, “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?[v.46] My enemies could not and did not answer this question either.

My enemies accuse me of being demon-possessed. They know this is not really true for I have worked against the kingdom of Satan by casting out demons. I did not come to the earth to serve anyone except my heavenly Father and the sinners of the world whom I so dearly love. I did not come to serve Satan nor did I come in my own self interests. As I told my enemies, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.[v.49-50]

As evidence of my true purpose, I submit to you my childhood. Already at 12 years old I knew the work for which I had been born and I went about my Father’s business in the temple. My enemies could have asked my mother to know that this is true.

As evidence that I came to serve and not to be served, I submit to you my whole life, words, and actions. Examine them all in detail—they’re recorded for you in the historic record of the Bible. When I did use My power I did not use it for Myself, for any personal advantage, or for any demon that I am accused of having.

In my trial before Annas, Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, and King Herod, I uttered not one word in My own self defense. The only times I spoke was to give testimony to who I am and what I came to do. I was as Isaiah prophesied, “The lamb silent before its shearers(Isaiah 53:7). This was not to my own benefit. It did not serve me to stay upon the cross when so many jeered Me and taunted Me with challenges to come down and prove Myself. It was the Father’s will that I come and lay down my life for sinners, and this I gladly have done that you might be saved from your sins and live with Me eternally in Heaven.

I spoke of My true purpose when I told My enemies, said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.[v.51] My enemies immediately scoffed and ridiculed at this and thereby proved their misunderstanding.

Yes, many of those who put their trust in my words will die on this earth. I Myself died, but neither they nor I see the full reality and finality of death for there is also a resurrection from the dead. Just as I have risen now from the dead, so too all who believe in Me and the truth of My words will be raised to life. Death can no longer hold them nor defeat them. They will live eternally! “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die(John 11:25-26).

When I told my enemies this, they asked who I thought I was that I should make myself greater than Abraham and the prophets who are already dead. It is not I who make myself great nor give glory to myself. That kind of honor means nothing. I told my enemies, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.[v.54]

My Father honored Me in many ways. He did so by declaring both at My baptism and at My transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” My Father “has highly exalted [Me] and given [Me] the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth(Philippians 2:9-10). The God whom my enemies claim to be their own is truly My Father who glorifies Me.

The Scriptures my enemies read and know tell of me. I have fulfilled them all. Look and see! My enemies were actually lying to say that they knew God. If that were true they would have known Me. They wanted me say that I am not the Son of God, but if I did that I ‘d be as much of a liar as they are. I said to them, “You have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.[v.55]

My enemies want to be saved by their relationship to Abraham. They believe that because they are blood descendants from such a great man that they themselves are great because of it. This simply is not so. Salvation does not depend upon family blood lines but in trust in God’s Word. John describes these as those who “…were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God(John 1:12-13).

I told My enemies, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad[v.57] Abraham saw me through the eyes of faith. Abraham saw his son Isaac and in Isaac he saw Me. God promised Abraham that through Isaac a great nation would come and from that nation the Savior. When Abraham held his son in his arms He knew God’s promise was true and He saw the ancestor of his Savior from sin.

Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.[v.58] I am the LORD God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. I am the LORD God of the Old Testament Scriptures. I am the “Word,” the Son of God, made flesh (cf. John 1:1ff). The testimony of my miracles, My preaching which was different from any one else’s, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies, the working of the power of My Word in your own hearts—all of these give testimony to the truth that I am the Son of God.

My enemies wanted to stone me, but I avoided death because My hour had not yet come. In the end, the Jews were not the ones who killed me. They were the earthly agents who took Me to Pilate. He sentenced Me and the soldiers crucified Me, but it was not they who would determine the time of my death. I willingly laid down my life for the sheep and only when my hour—the Father’s appointed time—had come.

Yes! I AM the Son of God, Your Savior!

III. You Are The Judge…

When Jesus was on trial before Caiphas and made His claim, Caiaphas asked his fellow leaders, “What do you think?” You now have heard “both sides” of the claim. What do you think?

As we examine the evidence we find Jesus to be sinless as Peter would later write: “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed(1 Peter 2:22-24).

Jesus is the sinless Savior and just what we needed to rescue us from our condemnation. He is what the Old Testament promises. We have God’s own words of testimony concerning Jesus recorded for us in His sure Word. His miracles, life, and preaching give witness. Jesus’ words have proven their power in your hearts.

The attacks on Jesus’ divinity continue. Some believe that because of their ancestry or culture that they cannot embrace Christ as the Son of God and their Savior. However, no blood line or culture is forbidden. Jesus came for all. Being “children of Abraham” neither excludes nor automatically includes anyone. Salvation is through faith in the one whom the Father sent. “All should honor the Son just as they honor the father, if any one does not honor the Son, he does not honor the father who sent Him(John 5:23).

In the light of Scriptural evidence the only rightful conclusion is this: “I believe that Jesus Christ true God begotten from the Father from eternity and also true man born of the virgin Mary is my Lord. He is the Christ, the Son of God.”

This court stands adjourned. Amen.

—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt

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