Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Judica, Lent V (March 21, 2010)
TITLE: “The Taste of Life”
How many of you know who the quarterback for the Packers was the last time they won the Superbowl? I thought so. How many of you would sit in the rain and sleet and snow to go to Lambeau field for a game? I thought so. Many of you would drive hundreds of mile and sit in terrible weather to watch the Packers, even if they lost. And I bet many of you, five months away, could tell me when the first game of the season is in September. And if it isn’t the Packers, it’s the Bears. And if it isn’t football, it’s baseball, or golf, or basketball, or sewing, or needlepoint, cars, or stamping, old movies, or some things I’ve never even heard of! If something is important to you, if it gets you going, then you will go through most anything and suffer quite a lot to make it happen. We all would.
Now let me ask you another question: How many of you know who the grandson of Boaz was? How many miracles did Jesus do in John’s Gospel? Why was it important for Abraham to say, “God Himself will provide for us a lamb” in our Old Testament lesson? For these and other questions of the faith, our answers are not so forthcoming.
Why is it that we will indulge our hobbies or even work to no end, and when it comes to spiritual matters they always get second place? That’s a pretty uncomfortable question, isn’t it? The fact is that each one of us makes choices and decisions that have deep spiritual consequences every day. We may not recognize them as such. Where do you put your time, treasures and talents? It is so easy to take Christ and the Gospel for granted, to assume that it will always be here or that this is just kind of window dressing to your life. You have more important things to do that hear God’s Word or send your children to Sunday School or the Academy, or even to pray for your nation in the time of war, or for your friends and family when they are in need. These things don’t come naturally, and so it is very easy for each of us to ignore them or reject them entirely.
There was another man, many years ago, who faced such a crisis of faith. His name was Abraham. Take your son, God said, your only son, the one whom you love, and go and sacrifice him on the mountain I will show you. God demanded perfect obedience from Abraham, even in the face of a request that seemed impossible and perhaps even sinful and wrong. Sacrifice your son. What kind of a God would make such a ridiculous and horrible request? Sacrifice your son. I am to give up my family, perhaps even my very life, or the life of my son, for God? It’s not reasonable. No, more than that. It’s wrong.
But God is always making impossible demands upon you, isn’t He? Keep my Law perfectly! Not when you feel like it. Not when it’s convenient. Perfectly. No exceptions. No backing out. That is God’s expectation.
Now, you might say, how can God demand something of you that you cannot possibly do? Think of it this way. When your credit card is maxed out, when you are up to your ears and debt and in mortgage, sooner or later the creditors are going to come to you and say, PAY UP! They’re not going to ask if you are able to pay or not. They’re not going to ask you if it interferes with your vacation plans this summer. They don’t care. You owe a debt. It is your responsibility to pay. If you can’t pay, well, that is not their fault. It’s yours for going into debt.
This is what scandalized the Jews. They knew they could not pay the debt of the Law. Their sin was overwhelming. Now when you are confronted with your sin, you have three options: repent, ignore it, or attack. They had tried ignoring their sins, and Jesus, to no avail. They could not see their sin and so could not repent. The only thing that was left for them to do was to attack. As our text says, Then they took up stones to throw at Him. At this point in John’s Gospel, the leaders turned against Jesus. They could not control Him. They could not ignore Him. They had to destroy Him. And in destroying Him, they actually brought about the salvation of the whole world.
Now what does this mean for you this Passion Sunday, and as we approach Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter? It means this for you. God’s Law is before you. He has declared you guilty. He knows your sin. You cannot hide from him. He calls on you to repent of you sins and recognize that you cannot save yourself. How will you respond to His call to repentance?
Understand, though, that the real scandal for the Jews and for us is not God’s Law, but it is His Gospel. What He demanded of Abraham, and what He demands of you, is what He Himself did on Calvary for you. You and I can’t make heads or tails of our lives. We can’t keep His Law, even if we wanted to do so.
But He did. He is the eternal Son of God. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the ram caught in the thicket that saved Isaac’s life. He is the lamb of the Passover that saved the lives of the Israelites. He is your sacrifice. He poured out His lifeblood on the cross so that you do not have to live under the threat of the Law. Cling to Christ, for in Him lies your redemption and your salvation.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.