Judica - Lent V
St. John 8:42-59
April 7, 2019 - Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia
“The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death.” Thus wrote Hermann Sasse in 1933. Sasse was among the greatest theologians of the 20th century, and vigorously opposed the Nazis, a dangerous position for a German pastor to take. But Sasse saw the lies of the National Socialists as part of a larger lie – a single great demonic lie that holds the world captive.
The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death. The lie kills nations. The most powerful nations of the world have been laid waste because of their lies. History knows of no more unsettling sight than the judgment rendered upon the people of an advanced culture who have rejected the truth and are swallowed up in a sea of lies. Where this happens, [history shows decline in every area:] religion and law, poetry and philosophy, life in marriage and family, in the state and society – … one sphere of life after another falls sacrifice to the power and curse of the lie. Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie. Where man denies that he and others are dying, the terrible dissolution [of his culture] is held up as a glorious ascent, and decline is viewed as an advance. [“Union and Confession”]
What lies of the culture have you believed? What lies have you told yourself? What truth are you avoiding?
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to reject the lie and embrace the Truth about the world. Not a truth, but the truth.
This Truth is summarized simply in the three articles of the Creed. Out of love, God made the world. He made our first father Adam for life and not death. To the fallen world God the Son came, taking on our humanity, dying our death, taking unto Himself and taking away the world-sin. Jesus rose from the dead, and is coming again to judge the world. The Holy Spirit is living and active in the Holy Christian Church, making us saints, daily and richly forgiving our sins, preparing us for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
This Truth therefore also tells you the true things about yourself. Who are you? A creature made by God; a sinner steeped in death yet baptized for life. You have meaning and purpose in serving family and neighbor. You are justified by grace and destined for resurrection.
Arrayed against this is the Lie. Not a lie, but the lie. Jesus says about the devil in today’s Gospel, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” It might be better to translate that, “When he speaks the lie.” The devil was, Jesus says, “a murderer from the beginning,” and he murdered not with war or weapons but with words, false words that began as a question: “Did God really say?” And he began to tell our first parents that God meant ill for them; he persuaded them to seek glory and power, knowledge and life for themselves. The lie turned them away from God and inward, so that they became curved in on themselves. That selfishness we have inherited. Look at your own mind and heart: are you not chiefly concerned about yourself, what pleases you? How often has even the best marriage or friendship fallen into trouble through selfishness, pride, thoughtless disregard for the needs of another?
Today is called Judica, and it means “judge,” from Psalm 43: “Judge me, O God.” What is the judgment we deserve? This is how Paul explains it in the first chapter of Romans:
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead….
If you look at the world, it is self-evident from creation that there is a Creator. Darwinism has collapsed, what masquerades as science is in fact philosophy without scientific evidence, and the intelligent atheists when you read their books, acknowledge the need for an entirely new worldview. Neo-Darwinian materialism is untenable. All this God’s Word already addresses, as Romans continues:
So … they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.…
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
There you have that same type of speech as in today’s Gospel: they “exchanged the truth of God for the lie.” Now the immediate context would seem to suggest that “the lie” is homosexuality. That what the next couple of verses address:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
It’s becoming dangerous to even say these things. But homosexuality, as you can see from the larger context, is just one piece of a general turning in on the self. The lie is that I am a god, I have my own truth, I am the master of my own destiny:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Which of those describes you? If you are untrustworthy, you have embraced the lie. If you are unforgiving, you are steeped in the lie. If you are full of envy, you are full of the lie. If you have caused strife by your words and actions, you are a disciple of the liar. Here is the conclusion of God’s Word:
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. (Romans 1:18–2:1 NKJV)
Today’s Gospel is not just addressed to scribes and Pharisees. It’s for us. Jesus calls us liars. Who is a liar? Listen to the Scriptures: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 Jn 1:10). “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:4). “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 Jn 4:20).
“All men are liars.” We lie to each other. We lie about each other. But far more importantly, we too easily lie to ourselves, embracing lies about the world, the meaning of the world, embracing lies about our life and the meaning of it. You may not have bowed down to idols, but you have worshipped health, success, prosperity, and despaired over sickness, failure, poverty.
Today we bring all of that false worship, all the lies, and throw them at the feet of Jesus who is the Truth. We hear God’s judgment against us and say, “True, Lord.”
But looking up, we see this Jesus as the one judged. All the lies He received upon Himself, and said, “True. I am the sinner. I am judged.” And He looks at you and says, “Your judgment is taken away. You are free. You will live.” That is now the truth about yourself. Be done with the lies. Listen to the truth. God’s Word is truth. You belong to Him. +INJ+