Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. In our text for today, we encounter a Jesus who isn’t exactly being friendly to the Jews with which he is arguing. Jesus is directly and explicitly confronting these men with their sin. They fail to recognize who Jesus is, and so they fail to recognize who God the Father is. To those of us who live in the hyper-sensitive, always-offended twenty-first century western world, we cringe at this. We say, “Jesus, you’re being too harsh on these people. Give them a break. All they need is more time and patience and they’ll come around.” Yet Jesus doesn’t heed our belated advice. And that shouldn’t surprise us. He is God after all. He knows better than we do. He knows the necessity of confronting sin directly so that it doesn’t fester and cause a deeper problem. And so, Jesus confronts these sinful Jewish men with the reality of their sin: “The reason why you do not hear [the words of God] is that you are not of God” (John 8:47b). “…you dishonor me” (John 8:49b). “If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you” (John 8:55b). These words are cutting. They are offensive. Yet they are true. These men are abiding in utter sin and they need the word of the law to show them their sin so that their need for a savior can also be manifest. And so, Jesus calls the thing what it is. He forces these men to take responsibility for their sin and to take it seriously.
2. We’re uncomfortable with this though. I would suggest that the reason why we are so uncomfortable with Jesus’ direct confrontation against sin is because we ourselves would rather avoid responsibility and not take sin seriously ourselves. Taking sin seriously is uncomfortable. It causes us to come across as not affirming, judgmental, even unloving to the world. But this is the world who has so twisted the meaning of truth and love that they can’t even tell you what the difference between a man and a woman is. Why do we care what the world thinks when they have so blatantly rejected the truth of God’s Word? Why do we allow the world to convince us to ignore our Lord’s command to “not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2a)? I’ll tell you why. It’s because we want to avoid responsibility and we don’t take sin seriously either. We think, “If I do this just once, it’ll be okay.” “God just doesn’t understand how this will calm or satisfy me and allow me to do what needs to be done.” “I still love God, but I’m just going to do this because he just doesn’t quite get it. I’ll show him that I can handle both things.” And so, we pretend like we don’t know what’s going on. We pretend like we don’t know that what we’re about to do is sinful, as if that somehow makes it better. When we take up this attitude of sinning willfully, we are essentially saying to God, “I’ll take your gifts, but I want them on my own terms.” We do this every time we sin. We do this every time we reject and abandon his law and try to take the goodness of this world for our own pleasure apart from his own institution and offices. We know better, and yet we avoid responsibility and don’t take sin seriously.
3. Jesus knows this about humans. He knows that we have a tendency to avoid responsibility. He knows that we have a tendency to not take sin seriously. This is precisely why he confronts sin. This is precisely why he is so harsh to these Jews in our text. If Jesus didn’t love them, he wouldn’t have continued to dialogue with them. If Jesus didn’t love them, he would have dismissed them like he did the Pharisees. But he didn’t dismiss them. He continued to dialogue with them. He continued to hold up the mirror of the law to show them their sin. But he shows them their sin not so he can stick it to them. He shows them their sin so that he can take their sin upon himself because this is what he came to this world to do. Taking the sins of the world upon himself is the Son’s glory. It’s as Jesus said in our text: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me” (John 8:54). The Father seeks the glory of the Christ, but that glory is not in defeating these Jews through clever arguments or through strength of force, which is what they are used to and expect. The Father glorifies the Son, not in defeating these men through power but in being defeated by them in order to become a sacrifice for their sins. And so, as Jesus’ passion and death drew near, he would say on Palm Sunday: “My soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28a). And then a few days later, on Holy Thursday, as he prepared to be arrested, tried, and killed for the sins of the world, Jesus also said: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). It is Christ’s glory to take away the sins of all people by going to the cross so that we might be forgiven. This is why Jesus takes sin seriously and confronts our sin. If sin is not confronted, it cannot be forgiven.
4. My friends, this is why we must take sin seriously. One who is serious about sin is also serious about forgiveness. But we will not be able to take sin seriously so long as we let the world be our primary source of truth. We must leave behind the worldly definitions of truth and love. Love can only be known and practiced in conformity with an absolute standard of objective truth. And so, we must allow God’s Word to be our source of truth and our basis for defining love. We must guard and keep the truth of God’s Word carefully against the hostile forces of this world who are so keen to lead us away from the path to eternal life. This is why Jesus adamantly says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51). Jesus says that we must keep or guard the Word of God because he knows that if we don’t keep and guard is diligently, we will be swept away from his life-giving forgiveness by the whims of this world. If we take these words of Jesus seriously, then we must do two things: First, we must devote ourselves to the study of the Scriptures so that we may be taught by our Lord what truth and love actually are. Second, we must be direct and truthful in how we deal with sin. We need to stop pretending that our sin or our loved one’s sin is okay. We need to stop justifying sinful actions. We need to stop being lazy in matters of holiness. We need to get Christian help and support when we need it. We need to offer help when we see it’s needed. We need to be honest about the dangers of sin because it’s only when sin is confronted that true healing and forgiveness can happen. May our Lord grant us the strength and the courage to deal with sin seriously so that we might more fully experience the joys of forgiveness and eternal life.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.