Monday, March 18, 2013

My Father

Fifth Sunday in Lent - Judica - March 17th, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
My Father – John 8:4-59                Vicar Jason Toombs

Last week, if you were fortunate enough to be at our 3rd midweek service, Pastor preached a wonderful sermon based on the Lord’s Prayer.  Beginning the sermon by calling God, “Father, Abba, Daddy,” he reminded us how Jesus addresses God the Father at all times.  It is only the Son, and those who are found in Him, who can call God, “Our Father.”  Apart from Jesus we have no right to call God, Father.  We can call Him: the Judge, the Righteous One, Holy, Lord, God Almighty, Jehovah, the Great I AM, but we cannot call Him Father except through the Son.  And the Son is the One who shows us who the Father is: the One who seeks us, the One who judges us.

The Jews tried to judge Christ, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father-even God.”  They claimed that Jesus was an illegitimate child, that Mary was an adulteress and was found to be with child.  In the Talmud, a second or third century Jewish writing, Jesus’ father is said to be a Roman Soldier named Pantera or Stada.  This was the oral tradition that was passed on from generation to generation among the Jews.  They thought they knew who Jesus’ father was.

They also thought they knew who they were, judging themselves and their actions.  “We have one Father-even God.”  They could track their genealogy back to the great father of the faith, Father Abraham.  They were sons of Abraham, sons of Isaac, sons of Jacob.  They were children of the promise, the promised son of Abraham was their father, Isaac.  They knew their family tree and said, “We are sons of Abraham.”  And through Abraham they could track their lineage back to the first man, the God breathed man, the son of God.  They thought they were sons of God.

But the Son of God, the Truly breathed Son of the Father, was standing in their midst speaking with them.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but He sent me.”  It is as if Jesus told the Jews who spoke against Him, “You do not love God the Father because you do not love the One whom He sent, rather you are judging the Sent One.”  The Sent One, Jesus Christ, said, “I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24 Lent 2).  He was sent by God the Father to redeem Israel, to rescue and redeem the children of the promise.

Jesus came to rescue and redeem us from the devil.  Jesus rightfully judges the Jews and says to them, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”  The devil’s goal is to defeat Christ and he tries to align himself with anyone he can.  So he gets the Jews to do his bidding, all while thinking they are doing God the Father’s bidding. 

The Jews think that they will be judged gloriously by God, all while following the devil.  They are doing the will of the devil instead of the will of God. 

We also do the will of the devil.  When we speak evil of our neighbors, our family, and our friends, we are not obeying God’s law.  We all seek our own glory: on the field, in the classroom, at work, and at home.  We exalt ourselves over our teammates, our classmates, our coworkers, even our own family.  We look down at those who we perceive as lower than us: those dirty oil field workers, those lazy town dwellers, those people needing assistance, just barely getting by on handouts.  We have an us versus them mentality.  We are exalt ourselves, and those close to us, all while putting other people down. 

We judge one another on a sliding scale, “as long as I’m better than them,” “I may be a sinner, but I didn’t do that one sin they did.  That sin I’d never do.”  This is the way it is with fallen humanity, judging one another and not realizing that we are being judged likewise.  But our judgments are nothing compared to God’s judgment.

We all stand convicted; we are all guilty in His presence.  But before He can pronounce His eternal guilty verdict, in steps the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our only advocate, our only defender.  He alone can stand before the Father as the innocent party.  He was judged in our place.  He paid the punishment that we deserve: DEATH!

Jesus alone does the will of God, being sent down from heaven, traveling to the cross, face like flint toward Jerusalem.  This was why Jesus was sent, sent to die on the cross.  There, on that cross, He took God’s judgment, the full wrath of God, upon Himself.  God’s judgment has been poured out upon Jesus on the cross.  He took the judgment that we deserve, that the Jews deserved, and paid for it.

He shows the Father His nail printed hands, His pierced side, His empty tomb.  And the Father reads the verdict: acquitted because of Jesus.  Acquitted.  Not Guilty because Jesus has paid the punishment, taking the death sentence that we deserve.  All our punishments were paid for by Jesus on the cross.  Everything that we deserve, all of our sins, has been paid for by Jesus. 

The Father’s wrath toward sinful humanity has been fulfilled, fulfilled in His Son’s holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.  The Righteous Judge’s wrath was paid for by Jesus.  He paid for our sin of judging others and we, we are judged innocent covered in His blood.

And so we discover the Father, the One who judges, the One who seeks us.  He doesn’t seek to harm us; He seeks to bring us back to Himself.  He sent His Son to call us back, calling us back to the loving arms of His Father.  The Sent One, Jesus Christ, said, “I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24 Lent 2).

Israel is the Old Testament bride of God.  The Church is the New Testament bride of Christ.  The Church is the new house of Israel.  You are the house of Israel.  And the Father sends His Son to rescue you, to rescue me, and everyone who leaves the fold of the Church.

We are the sheep who have left the fold, “We like sheep have gone astray.”  We have wandered away from Christ and His saving action.  We have listened to the devil, the world, and our sinful selves.  We have gone our own way, heading further and further away from God.  Every time that we are directed toward ourselves, our faith, our keeping the law, our anything, we are heading away from the cross, heading away from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And in that moment God seeks you, sending out the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, calling us back to God, our loving God.  Calling us back to the cross where God’s judgment was poured out.  God is sending Himself out in His Word to call sinners like you and me back to Himself, back to His loving arms.  He is seeking to rescue and redeem us.

He has rescued and redeemed you in the waters of baptism.  Rescued and redeemed you in handing over His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  And He is constantly rescuing and redeeming you, constantly acquitting you from His eternal guilty judgment, constantly seeking to save you.  So, no matter how ashamed, how big your sin is, the Father is always there for you.  Always loving you to the very end because you are in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

The Son is the One whom the Father sent, sent Him to not seek His own glory but your glory.  And He glorifies you before the Father, the One who is All Glorious.  The Great I AM is the one who judges us acquitted because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And the Great I AM is the one who is seeking to bring us to heaven where we will be gathered with all of the great fathers of the faith, gathered as His dear beloved children.

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