The Road Breaks Only Two Ways With Jesus

Text: John 8:46-59

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The road breaks only two ways when a person encounters Jesus: either a person repents and becomes captive to the Word, or a person persecutes and tries to eliminate the eternal Word.

In the case of our Gospel reading from the Gospel of John, we hear that the religious leaders did not go the way of repentance, but rather, they went the way of persecution and elimination.  You see, the religious leaders were confronted by Jesus’ teaching and the teaching of Jesus rocked their world.  It knocked them off their center of gravity.  So, instead of acknowledging that they were wrong and Jesus was right, they said that Jesus’ teaching came from the Devil – that Jesus was wrong.  And to prove how much they believed Jesus was wrong, they picked up stones to kill Him.

Dear friends, there are few greater fears in life than a loss of sense and order and meaning in our lives.[1]  We like to be right, and when we are challenged or told that we are not right, well it puts us in a tailspin.  We become stressed out.  We lose sleep.  But after we pull out of a tailspin and regain our composure, we begin a self-defense campaign to prove that we are right.  We gather facts that support our position.  We begin rehearsing our talking points in our head.  And then, we begin gossiping about the person that challenged us – of how wrong they are. Little by little, we build up confidence, and when the right time comes, we attack with our words to prove our right-ness.  And if necessary, we intimidate them with physical violence.

Sadly, we as Christians do this in the church as well.  Week after week in Churches across America, the Word goes forth into ears and minds of Christians.  And sometimes we that we are wrong.  Now, I am not talking about those times where the pastor is clearly in error or those times where the pastor misspoke.  But rather, I am talking about those times where God’s Word comes to us, and we find ourselves agitated or squirming in the pew.  I am talking about those times where God’s Word comes at us to undo us.  The times where we are wrong and God’s Word is right.  Well, in those times, we get angry.  And in our anger we avoid the Bible by leaving the church and perhaps then looking for another church that will tickle our ears. 

There is another option though; we can go to the nuclear option.  That is to say; we go the route of attacking Jesus’ teaching, as well as Jesus’ messengers.  Like the religious leaders who picked up rocks to stone Jesus to eliminate the uncomfortable tension and eliminate the uncomfortable notion that they might be wrong, we do the same when our anger lashes out and tries to eliminate the Word of God that so often confronts us.  Tragically, there are stories upon stories of good and faithful pastors being driven out of churches for speaking God’s Word and those very same churches will then go out and hire pastors who will tickle ears.  Frankly stated, some churches will hire unfaithful pastors who will not preach the Word but will protect the congregation from God’s interrogating Word. 

Looking back to the religious leaders in our Gospel reading, why did they want to stone Jesus?  Why do we get defensive with the Word of God?  The answer: we want to be free from being challenged and free to believe what we want.  We do not like being wrong, especially being wrong before God.  We want God to be on our side, while simultaneously having our incorrect opinions affirmed and celebrated.   

Dear friends, this is nothing new.  When Cain was confronted in the book of Genesis about his erring sacrifice, he killed his brother Abel.  When the people of Judah were confronted by the High Priest Zechariah for their sins, the people conspired and stoned him to death.  When Stephen confronted the stiff-necked people who had closed ears in the book of Acts, they became enraged, ground their teeth, and rushed at him with rocks.  And in our text today, when Jesus unsettled the religious leaders, they called Him a demon and then picked up rocks to stone Him.

With all this said, what is really at the heart of today’s Gospel reading is the Third Commandment.  We are being shown that we should not despise the preaching and teaching of the Word with closed ears or rocks in our hands, but rather, we should hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. 

But what does this mean? 

It means that hearing the Word will indeed make us uncomfortable.  It means that Jesus’ Word will challenge our behaviors, feelings, ideas, and values.  The Lord has power in His Word and that Word shapes and forms us – often different than the going trends of culture.  The Word – the teaching and breath of Jesus - is sometimes painful for us to hear, but make no mistake; it is also good.  You see, we do not come to the church primarily for social and fellowship reasons.  Instead, our primary reason for coming to church is to be brought before God’s Word.  We need to be shown where we have sinned.  We need to be shown where we have believed the lies of the world, the evil one, and our sinful flesh.  We need to be shown that “one who refuses to hear God’s Word is not of God but the devil.”

You though; you, who have ears, hear this: you are not of the Devil.  Yes, you Baptized Saints belong to the Lord and His Word is for you.  Therefore, repent of your attempts to protect yourself from God’s Word.  Repent of your willingness to trust the messages of the world, the flesh, and the devil, rather than the Word of God.  Repent of your apathy towards the Word and hear the good news of the Gospel that you are not of the Devil.  Indeed, you are Christians.  You are people of Jesus’ Word, not the vain and empty slogans of the world.  Your hands were not meant for rocks but for receiving the body and the blood of Christ.

Blessed Baptized Saints, you have been given ears to hear; therefore, hear the Word of God every week in Christ’s church.  Gladly hear the rebukes from Jesus’ Word of Law, knowing that they are not abuse but gifts.  Gladly hear the comfort from God’s Word of Gospel, knowing that the Word of the Gospel is to be placed into your ears to forgive you and strengthen your faith.  Yes, hear the Gospel; you are forgiven in Christ!  This is your medicine against eternal death.    

Furthermore, if the enemies of Jesus’ Word pick up stones against you, you shall not fear.  The Lord knows how to hide and rescue His own.  He covers you with His protection in evil times.  He hides you secretly in His safety.  Just as no one was able to harm Christ before the designated time of His crucifixion, so also no one can harm you in any way, before the appointed time of your departure from this life in the veil of tears.[2]

Blessed Baptized Saints, Jesus will not and cannot be silenced.  As the eternal Word, He cannot be muzzled.  Death did not eliminate truth.  The grave could not imprison truth. Jesus is alive, and so is the Word of God.  The Word of God is active and sharper than any two-edged sword to make you and me captive not to the world, the devil, or our sinful nature, but to our Lord. 

Hear this!  You are forgiven, Baptized Saints.  You belong to Jesus, because He bled, died, and rose because He says, it is so.  This is the Word that is for you to hear because you are the Lord’s. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2008), 85.
[2] Andrew Eckert, “Sermon based of Johann Gerhard thoughts on John 8:46-59,” LCMS Sermons, (accessed March 11, 2016).  

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