Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 8:46-9:1 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” 48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Once again our Gospel recounts for us how Jesus was attacked in both his life and his doctrine. The first verse introduces the whole gospel: “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” Sin and doctrine. If they convict him of sin, they condemn the way he lives his life. If they don’t believe him, they condemn his teaching. Once again, as we move through the season of Lent, the suffering of Jesus comes to the fore.
So, what are the specific accusations? The first one: “Are we not right in saying you are a Samaritan?” To the Jews, the Samaritan was the worst of all sinners. With this statement, they defamed his life by calling him a sinner. As if to say, “If you were really from God, you would not sin, for no one who comes from God sins. Therefore, you are not of God. You are a despicable sinner, worse than even a gentile, you are a Samaritan.”
Then they defamed his doctrine by saying he was of the devil. “Are we not right in saying you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus retorted and he spoke only the truth of his Father so his doctrine was pure, and he asked them why they did not hear the words he spoke. Jesus correctly places the blame in verse 47. The reason why you do not hear the words of God is that you are not of God. For “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10). But, those who are not his do not hear his voice and they cannot have faith, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
This they could not tolerate. It was their pride and glory to be the children of God. For that reason they now rage away at him all the more defaming his life and his doctrine. But, they have no reason for their unbelief other than that they are not God’s children, therefore, he brings down the verdict on them and says, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” This is nothing other than to say, “You are of the devil.”
This is true not only for those people back then, but also today. For those who do not hear the word of God are not and cannot be believers. They are not of God, but are of the devil.
So Christ teaches us here how things must happen with us and with his word. Both our life and our confession of faith must be condemned and defamed and this will be done by the most distinguished, wisest and greatest people on earth. Those who call themselves the most intelligent people on earth, those who claim to be the most knowledgeable in the sciences and arts, the most educated, are the ones who defame our lives and our teaching. How often do judgmental people accuse you of some fault or mistake or even a sin. The world cannot tolerate righteousness and those of the dark hate those of the light. When they see you are a Christian, they will attack, and they will throw stones.
Is this not a common thing among us today? In the political arena, it is seldom we hear a debate on the issues. All we get today are ad hominems, personal attacks on one’s character, intelligence, knowledge, education. It happens to us Christians too. That is the way people try to defame us when they don’t like or agree with us. Sometimes it is because of jealousy, pride, or an attempt to elevate oneself by putting down another. It is a power play that they think makes them look superior in the eyes of others. But God sees all and knows all. We don’t fool God. Therefore St. Paul said, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies,” (Romans 8:33).
Not only do they try to defame our character, they delight in defaming the doctrine of Christ and say we are fools to believe such myths and superstitions, that we hold to an antiquated morality and views of marriage and sexuality, and they can never be satisfied in their accusations, but always thirst for more.
But, in our gospel, Christ defends himself and says, “I do not have a demon,” which is to say, “My doctrine is true for I preach the grace of God through which he is to be praised, loved, and honored by believers. The heavens declare the glory of God, but you dishonor me, that is you call me a devilish liar, who disgraces and dishonors God.
Jesus then completely destroys their argument when he says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” With these words, Jesus completely turned them against himself, because he not only defends his doctrine, but also ascribes to it such power that it becomes a lord over the devil and death and sin with the power to give and preserve eternal life.
How can a human being grasp that one simple, oral word should redeem forever from death? But let such blindness go away from you for this is a beautiful passage. Whoever keeps the Words of Christ will not see death, for “He is the resurrection and the life.” Now where he speaks of keeping the Word, he is not talking about the law nor about keeping the law with its works. The Word of Christ must be kept in the heart by faith, not with works. He is talking about keeping the Gospel, that is, believing the promise given by God and grasped by faith.
And this he calls, “keeping,” for it is a matter of struggling and fighting when sin bites, when death oppresses, and hell pierces. Then it is called holding onto the Word and not being separated from it. Here we see how Christ praises the Word for it has divine power and he exalts it above all the heavens and all creatures.
How is it that Abraham died and yet he had the Word? Here Jesus makes a distinction between death and tasting or seeing death. He says in our gospel, “If anyone keeps my Word he will never taste death.” He also says, “I anyone keeps my Word he will never see death.” He does not say he will never die. For Abraham died. Moses died. David died. But he who has the Word, though he die, shall never taste the bitterness of death nor see death’s horrors. He merely falls asleep in the arms of Jesus.
The Word of God makes this distinction. A Christian has and keeps the word in death, and for that reason he does not see or taste death. But the godless person does not keep or have the word, and for that reason he sees no life, buy only death. So he must also sense death which is bitter and eternal death which is torment. Thus Christ says, “He who believes in me shall not die, yet he shall live, for I am the life.” (John 11).
Here we see what a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian; one who has already been eternally redeemed from death and can never die. His death or dying looks externally just like the dying of the godless, but inwardly there is as great a difference as between heaven and earth. The Christian sleeps in death and goes through death into life; the godless goes from life into death and feels death eternally. We can see how some people tremble, doubt, and despair in their death throes.
For that reason, in scripture death is called a sleep. Just as anyone who falls asleep does not know what happens and wakes up in the morning, so we will suddenly rise on the last day and will not know how we came into death and through death.
But, the non-believer understands none of this because of their carnal minds, and for this reason they accuse Jesus of being a liar.
But, for the one who keeps the Word of Christ, this is pure joy and comfort. What a wonderful privilege you have. What a wonderful promise you have. What a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian. Amen.