Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Judica, Lent V (March 9, 2008)
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TITLE: “The Taste of Life”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read from John chapter 8. We focus particularly on Jesus’ words, If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.
One of the things we have largely lost in our culture is a sense of transcendence. It is difficult for people to think about spending money or time or energy on things that will last, because we live in a day and in an age where up-to-date-and-speedy is much more important than enduring and steady. Whether you’re talking about a fast food menu, a car, the music on the radio, a computer, or the look of the furniture in your living room, if it isn’t the newest, the freshest, and the neatest, then, well, it just isn’t worth the effort is it? Why spend time or money on things that will last when they will be out of style in three years?
Transcendence means something that goes beyond its own time, reaches back into the past and forward into the future. Transcendence is one of the characteristics of God. But sin, of course, is almost always about the moment. Instant gratification rather than humble service, self-promotion rather than sacrifice, do what feels good now, and worry about the consequences later. That is the way we all operate, to one degree or another.
This is, I believe, a big part of why the church, if it is truly being the church, is always so far out of step with the society and culture of the day. When we say something like don’t live together before you’re married, don’t gossip, don’t covet, or honor your father and your mother, or any of the rest of God’s Laws, we are out of step with what our culture considers important.
This, though, is not about cultural analysis or even simple family priorities. It is about you, who you are before God and before your neighbor. For Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins changes you, who you are and what is important to you. Jesus says before Abraham was, I am. What that means is that the things that matter in your life are not the things at all. What matters in your life is that your very life is worth more to God than His own life.
Now let’s think about that for a minute, because it is profound and changes everything. God Himself says that He loves you so much that He is willing to sacrifice everything, suffer everything, give up life itself for you and for your salvation. What does that mean about the importance of your life? What does it mean about your understanding of sin and grace, forgiveness and eternal life?
What it means is that the things in this world which we consider important, the toys we have, the stuff we acquire, that these things are not what life is all about. Who you are in Christ is infinitely more important than what you have in this world.
This is what our Lord is talking about when He says that Abraham rejoiced to see His day. Abraham went up the mountain to kill His Son, but the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. In the place of Abraham’s son, Isaac, a ram was found for the sacrifice. That ram points us to Jesus, for He is the one who fulfills the sacrifice of Abraham. Jesus’ death is the center of all human history, the pinnacle of God’s love for mankind. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, the saints of old, indeed, all of heaven itself peers down and watches to see the drama of our Lord’s life and death and life again unfold.
But the key to this is understanding that it is all for you. For you he lived and was baptized. For you he preached and healed the sick. For you he raised the dead and comforted the brokenhearted. For you he suffered. For you he died. For you he rose again from the dead. He did all this for you so that you would never taste death. The bitter gall of sin cannot sour and poison you. All it can do is kill you, and it cannot even do that right. When you die He completes what He promised to you in your baptism. God promises to see you to Himself in heaven.
Abraham saw Jesus’ day and rejoiced. You, too, see our Lord’s day here, in the Divine Service. Here our Lord comes to you with all of the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation which only He can give. As we come near the end of Lent and we journey with our Lord to His cross, remember this: He does it all for you. You are holy and precious in His sight. Rejoice now with heaven and earth, as God Himself brings you into His holy presence. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.