FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT – MARCH 22, 2015
TEXT: JOHN 8:42-59; HEB. 9:11-15; GEN. 22:1-14
IF ANYONE KEEPS MY WORD HE WILL NEVER SEE DEATH!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” That is, Amen, amen…death he shall not at all see forever.


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: Jesus speaks God’s truth against the bitter enemy of death. He speaks a word of incomparable sweetness! “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” It is a word of the great I AM in the flesh. “Truly, truly, (Amen, amen) I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him…


There is no medical marvel that can undo death - no scientific discovery that releases from death - no herb in the garden or health-food store that can counteract death. Because man is powerless to change death he sinfully seeks to redefine it as if he knows it and controls it. Scientists - doctors - politicians who promote euthanasia assume that death ends suffering. This claim, that nothing comes after death, is one of incredible faith – tragically the wrong faith. Such statements convey no knowledge about what can be tested and verified.  The truth is that the living sons of Adam who make such pronouncements about our state after death do so without knowing. Having not experienced death (Hebrews 9:28) they can speak only from their world view – their beliefs.  

 

 

FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT – MARCH 22, 2015
TEXT: JOHN 8:42-59; HEB. 9:11-15; GEN. 22:1-14
IF ANYONE KEEPS MY WORD HE WILL NEVER SEE DEATH!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” That is, Amen, amen…death he shall not at all see forever.


Dear hearers of the Word made flesh: Jesus speaks God’s truth against the bitter enemy of death. He speaks a word of incomparable sweetness! “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” It is a word of the great I AM in the flesh. “Truly, truly, (Amen, amen) I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him…


There is no medical marvel that can undo death - no scientific discovery that releases from death - no herb in the garden or health-food store that can counteract death. Because man is powerless to change death he sinfully seeks to redefine it as if he knows it and controls it. Scientists - doctors - politicians who promote euthanasia assume that death ends suffering. This claim, that nothing comes after death, is one of incredible faith – tragically the wrong faith. Such statements convey no knowledge about what can be tested and verified.  The truth is that the living sons of Adam who make such pronouncements about our state after death do so without knowing. Having not experienced death (Hebrews 9:28) they can speak only from their world view – their beliefs. 

 

As we draw close to Holy Week we are comforted by the words of the Second Adam. “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews – depending on their blood connection to Abraham were unbelieving. Are you greater than our Father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? They zeroed in on His claim concerning death. His promise placed Himself far above Abraham and the prophets.

 

Who do you make yourself out to be? Of course, they already knew the answer to their question. He had healed on the Sabbath. He had preached sermon after sermon about Himself! He proclaimed – As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself (John 5:26). You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me (5:39). The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (6:51). The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life (6:63). If you knew me, you would know my Father also (8:19). So, while they asked, who do you make yourself out to be…they knew very well who He confessed to be! In fact, they (The Jews) were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (5:18).


That’s why this exchange is so sharp and salty and strong. Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God…he sent me…Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil…In their sin of unbelief they sought to convict Jesus of sin. “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.  


Dear Christian, there is nothing more ultimate – no judgment more severe than for Jesus to say “you are not of God.” Not to be of God is not to hear and receive God’s Word. This is the root sin that caused Adam’s fall - that now infects us all! Apart from the Holy Spirit’s use of God’s Word in our life – we are in the viselike grip of unbelief. Sin is not something you can resolve or reform your way out of like a bad habit. True repentance is not like a diet plan to take off a little sin here and a little sin there. Sin is a disease in you that is as deep as death. You must be reborn! You must be made new! Your new life of repentance and faith must be fed by the Word made flesh whose words are Spirit and life in this groaning and dying world.


If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” “Anyone” is both personal and universal! This promise is open to “anyone” - to all sinners in the world! If anyone keeps…“keeps” is a word that grows out of Jesus’ own love and obedience – His own keeping of the Father’s word. Here He says, “I know and keep his word” (8:55). He says in another place, If you love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:15) that is, His mandates. The word “commandments” (entolas) is not limited to law commands but includes all that Jesus reveals. If you love me you will keep what I reveal about God’s will and God’s love – indeed, His love for the loveless – love unknown outside Jesus’ coming. To “keep” Jesus’ word means to receive in faith what God reveals through His Son! It means observing, watching over, obeying, treasuring the speaking of Jesus.

 

Jesus here reveals that responsive love for God is not limited to emotion. It finds expression in hearing and believing and walking in the words Jesus speaks (which He taught includes also the words of His apostles – His sent ones – Luke 10:16; John 15:20). If anyone (anyone in the whole world) keeps (hears, believes, treasures, guards, responds to) my word (not Buddha’s word, not Watchtower’s word, not the philosopher’s word, not Mohammed’s word, not Joseph Smiths’ word, not academia’s word, not the majority’s word, not the word of your own inner voice) my word – that is, what I reveal – what I give…Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word…death he shall not at all see forever.


Jesus speaks a word of incomparable sweetness and comfort concerning what His children experience into eternity - for unlimited time. This verse does not mean your heart will not stop beating here and fall silent in earthly death! Death is the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23)! It is appointed for you once to die (Heb. 9:27). This verse does mean how you will be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul. Baptized into Christ, believing in Christ, death you shall not at all see forever. You have been given life that passes through death with Christ (Psalm 23: 4) – life that does not experience nor abide in the second death (Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8). This gift comes from outside of you. That’s why the risen Christ speaks His Word to you in your baptism! That’s why the living Christ speaks His word to you today!

 

Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word…death he shall not at all see forever. Not at all! Forever! Death, where is your sting? Or positively concerning eternal life, Jesus says in another place, Amen, amen – I say to you whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24). You see, eternal life is not just your future possession - not something you are born to on the day of your death. In the forgiveness that Jesus bestows upon you now – you have passed from death to life – eternal life is your present possession. If your earthly death should occur on this day, there is no question as to your eternal standing in Christ.


How can you be sure of His word – His promise? Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. Throughout the Old Testament the most frequent name for God is Yahweh (I AM). Jesus’ use of it here – before Abraham was, I am - is clearly understood by those opposing Him. They picked up stones to throw at him – to end not only His life but also His claim to be God in the flesh! They would slay the Prince of life – but not on this day and not by stoning! The great I AM – the God/Man was bound for sacrifice.


It was He who called to Abraham when he was tested to offer up Isaac. It was the pre-incarnate Christ on Mount Moriah staying the hand of resurrection-believing Abraham. In Hebrews the Holy Spirit caused to be written (11:17-19), By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Beloved, as the father of the faithful, Abraham believed if anyone keeps God’s word death he shall not at all see forever.

 

Notice that Abraham did not call that place – The Lord has provided (even after he had received the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering) - but rather – the Lord will provide. He is directing us to the greater rescue Jesus will bring! Mount Moriah where God provided the ram as a substitute for Isaac is actually, physically in the same location as the temple and Golgotha – where the Lamb of God taught and provided Himself as the substitute for us all. When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. How secure? Amen, amen – nothing more secure than God’s “amen.” How eternal? If anyone keeps my word…death he shall not at all see forever.

 

Jesus here preaches a beautiful sermon on the Third Commandment and on the Third Article of the Creed.  As He hid himself from stoning on that day – so on this day - He hides and yet reveals His glory to you in His Word. He is God’s light and God’s truth! Through His Word He is bringing you to God’s holy hill – to the altar of God – to God’s exceeding joy! You are on the way through death – already possessing eternal life!  Christ’s eternal future belongs to you – as a gift!


As you travel along, what was true for Abraham is also true for you. Testing will come to you that can only be resolved by the bodily resurrection from the dead. Your faith has been and will be tried and tested in the furnace of the cross. This world is full of corruption and personal cares – of disappointment and despair – of loneliness and loss and lies all around – of testing and temptation – and no none gets out of here alive – our Lord not returning first!

 

How easy to grow weary! The questions of the Psalmist are real – Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? In our weakness and failings it is easy to be in turmoil - feeling that our faith doesn’t measure up – that we will never have the faith of Abraham. But listen closely! The most important human figure in these Old Testament verses is not Abraham. The central figure is Isaac. The testing command concerning him will never be given again! It was given only to the father of those who believe – only through the son of promise – only at the place of where God would provide the once for all sacrifice of Christ - only in view of the promised resurrection of the body!

 

The Lamb has come securing an eternal redemption for you. Risen from the house of death He has entered once for all into the holy places by means of His own blood. He is the mediator of a new covenant. Today He bids you drink of His blood (of the New Covenant – the New Testament - that) purifies your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. He doesn’t just make Himself out to be the first and the last – the great I AM! He is God in the flesh! His exceeding joy is what He now makes you to be – His beloved child – body and soul - evermore! Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word…death he shall not at all see forever.

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a