by The Rev. Mark Buetow
St. John 6:42-59
Why did these men want to kill Jesus? What did Jesus ever do to them? Jesus healed the sick. He made the blind to see and the deaf to hear and the lame to walk. He cast out demons and raised dead children to life. So why is it that the clergy are so anxious to grab stones and beat Jesus to death? What did He do? He looks them in the eye and says, “You are of your father the Devil!” What Jesus does is to rob these men of their religion and their piety and holiness. These clergy, who think they're so holy and keep God's Law so faithfully and love to be loved by all the common people who think those clergy are so holy and pious, have their false god stripped from them. The Pharisees of Jesus' day make a great show of being godly. But the ones they really worship are themselves! And when Jesus comes along and tells them their good works are worthless and the religion is a sham and the only hope they have is to repent of their sins and believe in Him, they want none of it! We could say it simply like this: Jesus is in trouble because, of all the things He does for the weak and poor and sick, what He DOESN'T do is flatter the holy rollers. He doesn't tell them how great they are and what a wonderful job they're doing. But, brothers and sisters in Christ, there's our repentance too! Jesus has come to demolish our religion, the religion of “me” which is really just the Devil's preaching. That's why mega churches are filled to overflowing with people. Because the Devil's preachers tell them what they want to hear: how great they are. But we're not immune from wanting to hear that!
Jesus didn't come to tell us how great we are. No flattery for you today. Jesus came to rescue us from our thinking that we are so great. Jesus came to be the sacrifice for the notions in our head that confess that we're pretty good people. Every boast about who we are and what we've done is carried by Jesus to the cross to be gotten rid of. Jesus came to be the Lamb that Abraham promised to Isaac. “God will provide Himself with a Lamb, my son.” What most aggravated the Pharisees, I suspect, was that Jesus didn't tell them they were so great and godly. Instead, He told them they completely misunderstood the Law, that they were sinners, and that He was their only hope. Jesus comes to die for us and shed His blood on the cross precisely because we think our lives are pretty good. He comes to shed His blood because we think we're worth saving when we're not. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world and that sin includes our being pretty sure we deserve a break from God. Jesus lets these evil men drag Him to the cross precisely because He knows they can never save themselves. He is nailed to the cross and bleeds and dies because they do not know what they do. He dies pouring out His blood for a world that loves itself and for people who love themselves. And all of that sin is blotted out. Covered up. Washed away. Scarlett made white as snow. Because Jesus is the Lamb and the only-begotten Son of God who is given up for us all.
You've got to watch out for this religion of the Devil! The problem with the Devil's religion is that it can LOOK and SOUND so like the Christian faith. But it's not! The commandments teach us to love God by loving our neighbor. The Devil's religion gets us to try to convince our neighbor of how much we love God. The truth is, our sinful natures are Pharisees from birth. We love to judge others as if we are better than they are. We love to talk about ourselves and make ourselves the center of attention. Maybe it's how much more WE do around church than other people. Maybe its about how much harder a worker we are than those lazy people out there who don't do anything. Perhaps it's how long we've been Christians or how much better we've raised our kids or how terrible so and so is because of something they've done. There is no end to our looking down our noses at other people and ALL THE WHILE showing up in church and being proud that we're Christians! And then, should we ever be called to repentance, if our sins are ever pointed out, well then there's a ruckus! “Don't tell me! Don't accuse me! Don't lump me in with the sinners!” Repent! Repent and recognize the Devil's religion for what it is. Turn from these sins of making yourself a holy person and thinking yourself a holy person. Turn away from thinking that your good works make you more impressive to God than someone else!
But how to get rid of being a Pharisee? How to be rescued from the Devil's religion? Jesus does that too. Three times He speaks about the Word of God. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. If anyone keeps my Word, He will never see death. I keep the Father's Word.” There it is. The rescue from the Devil's religion is Christ's Word. What word is that? The Word that delivers the forgiveness of sins. We're rescued from not keeping the Word by Jesus keeping the Word. Remember, Lent started with that! The Devil, trying to twist God's Word and Jesus throwing the true Word back in His face. The Word that saves, the Word that rescues is the Word that Jesus preached to the Pharisees but they didn't want to hear it. It's the Word that declares He is the Son of God who has come to give His life in the place of sinners. It's the Word we call the Gospel, the Good News. If anyone asks what the Gospel is, it is this: That because Jesus died and rose, God doesn't count our sins against us. The Word that saves us is nothing other than that word. Those who have the Devil as their father keep his word. His word tells you to trust in yourself. That you're better than others. That God loves you because you're worth loving. The saving Word, the Word of Jesus is that His blood cleanses you from all your sins. That His death counts for your. That He alone is your salvation. That is the Word that saves us.
But that Word that saves us is not just an idea. Not just a concept or a notion. It's real. Powerful. Active. It's the same Word that can take ordinary water and make it into a washing of new life in Baptism. Its the same word that forgives sins so that when even a guy like your pastor speaks it it counts in heaven itself! It's the Word that we hear from the Scriptures and preached in sermons and taught in Bible Study and Sunday School and read in our devotions—the Word that is always putting Jesus in our ears, His death for our sins, His resurrection for our life. It is the Word that adds to ordinary bread and wine the body and blood of Jesus so that we may eat the flesh that was given for the life of the world. So that Jesus lives in us and we in Him and He'll raise us up on the Last Day. The only hope we have against the religion of the Devil and the Devil's preaching, is the true and pure Word of God which is delivered to us by the Holy Spirit who turns our hearts away from our sins to believe His Word. That Word, in all the ways it is given, saves you! It promises your forgiveness. It delivers forgiveness. It marks you as God's child. It absolves and feeds you and keeps you in Christ. Ignore this word, despise this Word, and your souls will quickly latch on to the Devil's religion. Our sinful nature is born that way and always wants to go back! But you have been rescued from that religion of Satan. You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus so that by His Word you will have eternal life.
Throughout all of Lent we've seen this one thing: Jesus, on His way to the cross is driving out the Devil wherever He goes. But here the Devil has filled the hearts of evil men who will be the Devil's tools to try and destroy Jesus. What a surprise that to suffer at the hands of evil men is exactly how Jesus destroys the Devil's power! It is because of our sinfulness that we kill God's Son! But it is for our sins that Jesus dies and rises again, wiping them out! What the Devil thinks is his victory turns out to be his defeat! What sinners think is the getting rid of their enemy is their being once again God's children. What the world thinks of as some nobody on a cross God the Father reveals as the Savior of all people. The Devil's power is great. But it is no match for Jesus. By His suffering and death He casts down the Devil. By His Word He rescues us from the Devil's power. You are the Lord's. Nothing is more sure than that because Jesus' Word says so! Amen.
Created: March 30th, 2009