5TH SUNDAY IN LENT – APRIL 6, 2014
TEXT: JOHN 8:42-59; HEB. 9:11-15; GEN. 12:1-14
BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS - I AM  
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. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. Moses asked God at the burning bush – when people ask who is the God who sent me…“what shall I say?”  God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.”  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Throughout the Old Testament the most frequent name for God is Yahweh (I AM).  It is used over 5000 times. Jesus’ use of it here – before Abraham was, I am - is clearly understood by those in opposition to Him. They picked up stones not only to end His life – but also to end His claim to be God - to be Yahweh (I AM).


The topic of conversation and conflict was their descent from Abraham. Jesus spoke of His doing the will of the Father with the authority of the Father. They spoke of Abraham and God as their father. He spoke of their lifting Him up - of their attempts to kill Him. If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God…If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. The depth of His longing for them sounds forth in a painful question – Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot hear my word. The reason is tragic - You are of your father the devil.


“Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.”  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 you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

5TH SUNDAY IN LENT – APRIL 6, 2014
TEXT: JOHN 8:42-59; HEB. 9:11-15; GEN. 12:1-14
BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS - I AM  
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. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. Moses asked God at the burning bush – when people ask who is the God who sent me…“what shall I say?”  God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.”  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Throughout the Old Testament the most frequent name for God is Yahweh (I AM).  It is used over 5000 times. Jesus’ use of it here – before Abraham was, I am - is clearly understood by those in opposition to Him. They picked up stones not only to end His life – but also to end His claim to be God - to be Yahweh (I AM).


The topic of conversation and conflict was their descent from Abraham. Jesus spoke of His doing the will of the Father with the authority of the Father. They spoke of Abraham and God as their father. He spoke of their lifting Him up - of their attempts to kill Him. If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God…If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. The depth of His longing for them sounds forth in a painful question – Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot hear my word. The reason is tragic - You are of your father the devil.


“Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.”  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 you do not hear them is that you are not of God.


Dear Christian, there is nothing more ultimate – no judgment more severe than to say “you are not of God.”  Not to be of God is not to hear and receive God’s word – but to reject it. No sin is more commonplace than this. No sin is more critical than this. We are all from God – created by Him. Fallen in sin, however, it is only God’s voice that restores us to be of God.”   To receive God’s Word in faith is to be “of God.”  To keep God’s Word is to believe what He promises.


If you were Abraham’s children you would be doing the works Abraham did…  But consider the work God commanded Abraham to do at Moriah when God tested him. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”  As the events unfold - Isaac said to his father Abraham…”Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  So they went both of them together.


The journey was long – over two days. The agonizing struggle this would have been for Abraham concerned the son of His old age. Isaac was the one through whom the promise of a great nation and a great blessing was to come. His conception was a miraculous gift of God. Now God seemed about to use Abraham to end it all with one stroke. Despite Isaac’s piercing question about the Lamb – Abraham journeyed on. On the third day final preparations are then carefully made at the appointed place. First the altar is built. Then the wood is arranged in order. Then it gets so difficult as to even contemplate. God’s command to Abraham was direct and clear and it still stood. All is in readiness. This father then tied the limbs of his son whom he loved like he would a sacrificial lamb. Abraham bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. What a staggering command – what an incredible type of what God would do in this place centuries later. It is a command God will never give again!


Where is Christ in all this?  HE IS RIGHT THERE!  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”  And he said “here am I.”  He said “do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear god, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  THIS ANGEL IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD – THE MALACK YAHWEH - THE PREINCARNATE CHRIST -WHO CLEARLY IDENTIFIES HIMSELF AS GOD – you have not withheld your son – FROM ME. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of the place, “The Lord will provide.” 


Notice that Abraham did not call this place – The Lord has provided – but rather – the Lord will provide. He is focusing us on a greater rescue!  Abraham is preaching Jesus to us!  That very place – Mount Moriah – is closely connected with the temple in later centuries. The very place where God provided the lamb as a substitute for Isaac is virtually physically identical to the location of Golgotha – where the Lamb of God provided Himself as the substitute for us. What took place between Abraham and Isaac and the Christ is the clearest Old Testament picture of what would take place on Mount Calvary.


Why did God give this command to Abraham?  How could it have been pleasing to God for the man of promise and faith – Abraham – to move ahead so fully in response to this command to slaughter his son?  We know that God is not sadistic – nor does He needlessly cause suffering for His children – nor does he delight in their heartaches. This event leaves unbounded room for sinful human imagination about what God intended and about what Abraham believed. Such speculation, however, would never arrive at God’s revelation of what really took place. In Hebrews the Holy Spirit caused this 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.”


Dr. Luther therefore expressed Abraham’s thoughts this way:  “Today I have a son; tomorrow I shall have nothing but ashes. I do not know how long they will be scattered; but they will be brought to life again…”  Luther continues, “Accordingly, Abraham understood the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, and through it alone he resolved the contradiction, which otherwise cannot be resolved…”  Beloved, God has not abandoned you or me or anyone to speculation and imagination here!  God rather anchors all hearers of the Word in the certainty of bodily resurrection – to fulfill all God’s promises.


Children of promise - saints baptized into Christ’s death - what was true for Abraham is also true for you!  There is no possible way to resolve so much of what you see outwardly or feel inwardly with God promises - except by the reality of the bodily resurrection from the dead. This sinful world is full of challenges to God’s gracious and loving promises – war – sickness – loneliness – disappointment – depression – despair – corruption – deliberate lies - debilitating pain – and death!  In the midst of this - faith lives from God’s promises – even when the testing is severe. Even when every sense and every ounce of human wisdom cries out “no,” God’s promises in Christ Jesus cry out – “yes!” 


How easy then to get the impression that our faith will never measure up – that we will never have the faith of Abraham. But listen closely!  The most important human figure in these verses is not Abraham, but Isaac, the type of Christ. Today, God has not asked us to sacrifice Isaac or anyone else. That testing command 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 God’s eternal provision!  Today God invites us to trust in the Lamb that He Himself provides. He is the one speaking so sternly and confidently in the temple to those physically descended from Abraham. It is an awesome and amazing exchange!  Listen to Him! (+++) “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here…Whoever is of God hears the words of God. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”


(-) Are you greater than our father Abraham who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you make yourself out to be? (+++) “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  Indeed – it was the pre-incarnate Christ on Mount Moriah staying the hand of resurrection-believing Abraham. What rejoicing there was in Abraham’s heart as he returned with Isaac – with God’s words ringing in his ears and settling in his heart - awaiting the day of God’s full provision!  So the Jews said to him, (-) “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, (+++)“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.


This man – the Son of Man – the God/Man – was not for stoning!  He was however fit for sacrifice – bound for crucifixion!  Unlike young Isaac – Jesus knew that He was God’s Lamb - heading toward the altar of the cross!  The wood He carried was nothing compared to the sin of the world He bore. On Calvary God the Father did spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all!  He did see death – its full curse – it’s damning weight. He cried out Father, into your hands I commit my spirit and breathed his last. Until – until – the third day!  When eyes were lifted up then – it wasn’t the place of sacrifice seen from afar but the place of resurrection seen from up close. The eternal I AM was seen and touched in the flesh!  He was breathing again and breathed on His disciples giving them the Holy Spirit and sending them out with the forgiveness of sins. He has entered once for all into the holy places by means of His own blood thus securing an eternal redemption. Listen to Him!  By His promise to be among two or three gathered in His Name – He says to us on this day…


(+++) I am from God and I am here – for you!  You provide the problems – the persistent sin – the pursuit of passing things – the personal plans to control - the misplaced priorities and passions. I am from God and I am here – for you - to provide the pardon (full and free) – the peace (the world cannot give) – the purity of conscience (with blood that cleanses you from all sin) – the promised eternal inheritance. I am from God and I am here – for you - the Mediator of a new covenant – the New Testament in my blood. Take and drink. Before Abraham was, I am. Today – I AM. When your earthly life has run its course – I AM. And you also will be where I am.


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