Truth vs. Lie
St. John 8:42-59
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. John 8:51 [Jesus said] “Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… Abraham and Isaac – it is one of the greatest stories in all the Old Testament. God had given Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac, when Abraham was a hundred years old and Sarah was over 90 – truly a miracle by anyone’s standards. God had promised Isaac to Abraham many, many years before. Abraham had spent most of his life trying to second-guess God, trying to figure out how to keep this promise that God had given to him.
By God’s mercy Abraham finally had the faith to see that God is the one who would keep the promise. For it was God, you see, who had promised that through Abraham’s seed – through his family – all the world would be blessed. In other words, the Messiah would come from Abraham’s son. So, when you are hearing about Abraham, you are hearing about Jesus.
Finally the miracle happened: Isaac is born, and he grows up to be a young man. And then God did something impossible. God told Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son, his only son, whom he loved, and to kill him on an altar on the top of the mountain. Abraham could hardly believe it. Didn’t God know what He was doing? Did God not say that the Messiah would come from Isaac? If Isaac was killed then the whole world would be lost in sin. And besides, Isaac was Abraham’s SON! He had waited a hundred years to have a son. How could God ask this of him? It was inconceivable.
So Abraham, this man of faith, the one called “Friend of God” went to the mountain and was prepared to sacrifice his only son. It was a hard journey as you can imagine. Isaac, a young man by this time, asked his father, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Do you see that faith? Father and son went to the mountain together; one to lose his only son, and the other to die to keep the will of his father.
They came to the mountain, and Abraham bound his son, put him on the altar, and was prepared to do the unthinkable. How could he do it? How could he make sense of this all? What was his hope? His hope was that the God who made the heavens and the earth could and would raise his son from the dead. Abraham knew that if God said that all the world would be blessed through his seed, then that was the truth. If that meant that God had to raise Isaac from the dead, then God would do it. And so Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son.
In the end, Abraham did not have to sacrifice his son, and yet, at the same time he did. He had to give up his belief that it was all about him. He had to sacrifice the idea that he could manipulate God and control the world around him to fit what he thought was right. Abraham had to sacrifice the false idea that he could make sense out of everything God said and did. God gave Abraham the faith to see eternity in the face of the death of his own son. It was as Abraham said to Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.”
That, dear fellow redeemed, is not about a ram caught in a thicket 3,500 years ago. It is about Jesus Christ, the son – the offspring – the seed – of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God would not finally ask His servant Abraham to sacrifice his only son. God would sacrifice His own Son. He would send His son to die the cruel death of a criminal so that Isaac and you and I and all the sons of Abraham might live.
This is what, in our text, the Jews could not bear. They could not bear the thought that God would sacrifice His own Son. So when Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad,” it was too much. The truth of God’s plan of salvation was simply too much for them to bear.
Satan’s tool for this gruesome act of murder was the one we are all familiar with – the lie. Satan wanted Abraham to believe that he could understand all of God’s ways, or that he had to break God’s commandments in order to keep God’s promise. This is perhaps the oldest weapon of choice in a war. Someone once said during WW I, that “the first casualty when war comes is the truth.” If you can convince your enemies that they have lost, or that your friend is actually your enemy. Then you have won. In the Cold War it was called “propaganda.” Today it is called “spin doctoring.” It simply means taking the truth and spinning it or turning it so that it suits your purposes.
This is what is going on in our text. Jesus had gone throughout Judea and Galilee doing good and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. He was the Son of God, the very image of the Father. But the people would not accept it. They could not bear to hear the truth, and so they convinced themselves of the lie. And in order to hold up the lie, Jesus had to die.
In our text Jesus tells the Pharisees and the Sadducees what is what. He told them that they are of the devil because they do not hear and believe God’s Word. They rejected God’s Word concerning the Messiah. They believed that because they were the physical sons of Abraham that they somehow deserved God’s grace and mercy; therefore they were better than anyone else. They were the righteous ones, or so they thought. They believed the lie about themselves, and so they could not stand to hear the truth about the True One who had come from God. They did not understand that the great thing about Abraham was the faith that God gave to him, not his bloodline.
Jesus knows their lies. He knows their schemes for salvation by works. He knows their plans to control and manipulate the people for their own benefit. But He will not let them hold on to their lies. And so He tells them that they are of the devil, because those who hear the truth hold onto Him.
You can understand their response. They responded by claiming that Jesus has a demon and that He is a Samaritan. At least they were half-right, for Jesus is THE Good Samaritan who comes to save us when we are lying half-dead in the ditch. But Jesus does not have a demon; He is the true Son of God who comes to bring salvation and redemption to a lost and condemned world.
I think it is hard for us to imagine that Satan’s greatest weapon is the Lie. Think about our Lord’s Passion and death – it was all about lies. They lied about Him at the trials. The Chief Priests lied about what laws Jesus had broken. The people lied when they released Barabbas instead of Jesus. They knew Jesus was God in the flesh, but they had convinced themselves that He had to die.
We can understand how inconceivable it is to kill the Son of God. How could God sacrifice His Son in order to save a world that hates Him? It is the truth, but everything in our sinful nature just cannot hear the truth. Why would God’s Son have to die? I’m not so bad. Sure, I’m a sinner, but I am basically a good person. I haven’t killed anyone, I haven’t stolen anything really big or done anything all that bad. I guess I’m OK.
But that’s part of the Lie, you see. Whether it is a big or little lie, we are rejecting God and putting ourselves in league with Satan. St. John wrote that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). So when we say we “don’t sin all that much,” we lie; we don’t tell the truth about ourselves, and, in the process, we call God a liar.
Left to ourselves we cannot believe the truth; we believe the lie. And we cannot fix that with any of our own doing. But the miracle of the Gospel is that God has vindicated us, and that because of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross God will judge us as worthy to receive His forgiveness, love, and grace.
That is why Jesus said, “Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word he shall never see death.” When you keep – when you hold fast – to Jesus’ Word, you are kept from the Lie. But more than that, you will never see death, meaning eternal death and separation from God. Now there is a truth that matters!
But we cannot grasp this truth ourselves; only God can give it to us and give us the ability to believe it. Like Abraham, this faith comes to us as a gift. Jesus gives Himself to you each and every time you receive, by faith, His Holy Supper wherein He gives you His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus delivers to you His forgiveness each and every time you hear the Gospel, receive Holy Absolution, and receive His body and blood. These are the things that will keep you in the truth and safe from the Lie.
In the next two weeks we will have several opportunities to receive our Lord’s Supper. I commend to you the privilege of receiving this Holy Meal as often as it is offered so that you may be better prepared to continue your walk with the Lord and for Him, through these means, to keep you in the one true faith. For Jesus and His gifts are the only truths that last.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.