[I need to give credit to my friend and brother-in-office, Rev. David Petersen, for some of the ideas and language in this sermon. Thanks, friend! -Peperkorn]
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel just read from St. John chapter
8. We look at the words of the Jews, who do you make yourself out to be?
Before Abraham. Before the waxing and waning of the tide. Before sound or even light. Before there were roads or trains or airplanes. Before Prozac and Prilosec. Before Lipitor and methamphetamines. Before malaria and AIDS. Before hatred and racism. Before pediphilia and rape. Before divorce and children without fathers. Before the heartbreak of this life. Before loneliness and depression. Before death. Before anything. Before everything. Jesus is. Not Jesus was. Jesus is.
He is the great I AM. He is always in the present tense, never before or after. He is without beginning or end. He is the divine three-in-one who spoke from the bush to set His people free from slavery. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Word of the Father’s Sprit. He is Love incarnate. All things were made through Him, and it is only through Him that all things will be remade anew. He is Mary’s Son and Mary’s Lord. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one who died for the sins He did not committ and rose victorious with the indestructible life that He now gives for you. All the earth is in His hands, and He rules from the Father’s right hand with love and mercy for you, always for you.
But somehow, this is hard for fallen sons and daughters of Adam. They think themselves greater than they are. They are blind and deaf to what they do not wish to see and hear. It is easier to hide in the sand with cotton in the ears than hear the simple reality that they are not gods. They want to live a life of significance and control. They want their deeds to be remembered. They want to wage wars great and small. They want to make the world a better place whether the world wants it or not. They want to build a tower to the heavens. They want the kingdoms of the earth to bow down to their ingenuity and wisdom. In a word, they want to become gods, knowing good and evil and reveling in their own power.
What they cannot bear is a God who would become Man. God, who cannot be contained by the heavens and the earth, surely He cannot become man. The mystery of the Almighty God, contained in a mere person? Never.
If God were to become Man, at the very least he should be the greatest man who ever lived. Beautiful and terrible. Smart and to be feared. Strong and cunning. He should be a leader of men, the product of many years of careful work and planning. If God were to become man, he should be that greatest man ever.
But that is not Jesus. Jesus is not that man. He is of lowly birth. A carpenter turned rabbi. He is greater than all and yet is nothing to look at. He is greater than Abraham and all Israel, and He stands before the leaders of that same Israel and says that HE IS GOD IN THE FLESH. Really? This backwater carpenter-rabbi? He may be even worse than a shepherd like David, if that’s even possible. That is the best God can do? What is God saying about us? Is He saying that we are that lowly, that broken and in need?
So they reject Him. They reject Him, and in doing so, reject the very Word that alone is their salvation. They reject the One who is, who was and who is to come. They kick against the pricks, like Saul on the road to Damascus. They take the Lord of Life and kill Him. They don’t want that kind of a God. They don’t want the kind of God who would become lowly like them, because it reminds them of their great need. They won’t turn the other cheek, for that is for weaklings. They won’t show mercy, because they want to make sure that everyone gets what’s coming to them. They will not stoop down and help the sinner on the road, the woman caught in adultery. They will not get dirty with the man trapped by a demon. They will not touch the suffering, the lepers and drug addicts, the murderers and backstabbers. They are above such people. And because they will not wash the feet of those in need, because they see themselves as better than the broken, they miss their own profound brokenness.
So they reject Jesus, and in rejecting Him, in killing Him on a tree, they reject their very humanity. The fling stones at the cornerstone and rock of their salvation.
They reject Jesus, and so do you. Every time you refuse to serve your neighbor in love. Every time you look in lust toward another, to possess them no matter what. Every time you take what is not yours. Every time to speak ill of your friends and fellow redeemed. Every time you set yourself up as the one who is oh so better or smarter or wiser or holier than those others. Every time you press another’s sins against them, force their sins upon them and will not let them go in forgiveness. Every time you do these things, and you do, every one of you as do I, every time you do these things, you reject Jesus anew like those people so long ago.
But there is another way. There is submission to the Mighty Stone and Rock, and that Rock is Christ. Fall upon this rejected stone and be broken. Be broken, but don’t be afraid. Confess your sins. Recognize them for their destructive evil. Come clean. Be who you are, a broken sinner desperate for Jesus. Be who you are, for Christ is who He is for you.
Christ comes to you now with healing in His wings. Christ comes to you not as a judge, but as your Savior. Christ comes as the great and everlasting door, as the one, great sacrifice for your sin and mine. He comes to redeem you from your empty way of life. He has come to interrupt your road to Damascus and hatred. He has come to pick up on on the road, to wash you and make you clean. He has come to feed you, to give you the drink of ever living waters. He has come to give you the Bread of Life, the bread that gives immortality and the life that never ends.
Your end was never in doubt. God is always a God of mercy and compassion. He comes to you humble and lowly. He comes to you in peace, as the prince of peace who reconciles us by His Blood.
Come and trust the Word made Flesh. He is your Isaac. He is the ram caught in the thicket of your life. He is the one, eternal sacrifice of all time. You cannot be harmed. You may be rejected by the righteous and holy of this life, but you will never, never be rejected by God. He is God for us. He is Immanuel. He is your God. Behold Your King.
In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.