Judica, the Fifth Sunday in Lent: Abiding in Christ’s Word

Jesus is teaching in the Temple.
Jesus is nearly stoned by the Pharisees in the Temple for blasphemy after faithfully proclaiming the Word of God (John 8:42-59). From a book publishing Martin Luther’s sermons, 1530.

Lessons: Genesis 22:1-14, Hebrews 9:11-15, John 8:46-59
Hymns: LSB 431, 420, 422, 743, 429

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      There’s a reason why we swear to the tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when we are on the witness stand. It is easy to just show a portion of the truth and then mislead or deceive people. Satan did just that as he mingled half-truths and lies to lead Eve into thinking that she would be better off by eating the very fruit God forbade. All around us, people make things up and portray as truth their fairy tales, make-believe fantasies, or outright lies.

      News outlets love to sensationalize mundane news by giving a partial story or spinning the events to make them appear super-important. Instead of reporting the facts, they sometimes create a narrative in order to win viewership polls, which result in greater revenue from commercials. The truth is compromised so that the almighty dollar can be maximized.

      When watching movies, we see lots of CGI, or computer generated imagery. This is done to make far-fetched scenes seem real. We know that movies are fiction. But what about when they use CGI on regular video coverage to make something appear to be something that it is not? It is so they can make things up, gain revenue, control or manipulate the masses, or maintain their own make-believe narrative.

      Banning TikTok is being discussed. This is reasonable to me, for we do not need a foreign Communist country monitoring our youth, nor do we need people to be manipulated through the mindless video watching and scrolling that takes place there. It is taking a huge toll on the mental health of our young. There are many reports of girls who get caught up with gender transitioning videos, who go from having no thoughts of being a boy to now taking hormone pills which damage their God-given bodies in making them appear more male.

      We are not playing with innocence or helping our young when we give them the thoughts, tools, and abilities to make themselves more like members of the opposite sex. We are playing with fire. It goes against the very decree of God, who made mankind male or female. It is destructive to their emotional health. Society is trying coerce the masses into acceptance and compliance. Christians are condemned for seeing through these lies and professing the truth. Two years ago, the President declared March 31 to be “Transgender Day of Visibility.” The occasion seeks to celebrate transgender people and create awareness of discrimination against them. Of course, Bible-believing Christians will be accused of discrimination when they say such behavior is sin. Last year on March 31, new Federal guidelines were released to promote puberty blockers for children, hormone therapy for adolescents, and even gender reassignment surgery for teenagers when they figure they may be transgender. These government measures allow people to prey on children by leading them down immorality and seek to prevent parents from intervening for what is good and right. These programs fail our children, for they do not get to the real causes that are causing astronomical increases in those who question their gender identity. Many are depressed and are told transitioning will help, only to make things worse. Their depression stems from the materialism all around us, lack of Christianity in their lives, broken families, and excessive use of social media.

      Making up lies and portraying them as truth is nothing new. The Israelites continually sought after the false gods of their pagan neighbors. Their belief in these fake gods did nothing but hurt them. Many Jews in Jesus’ day figured Jesus was possessed by a demon. That way they figured they could dismiss His teachings. They even called Him a Samaritan—basically a racial slur. People fell for it and believed these lies. After Jesus ascended into Heaven, false teachers arose within the Church, seeking to pull God’s people away from the truth of the Gospel of Christ. That’s why St. Paul, in his earliest epistle wrote to the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9). St. Paul continued to warn the same things, for, in his last epistle he wrote to the young pastor Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15-17). He also adds, “understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Also, inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul instructs Timothy (and all pastors) to “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).

      St. Peter warns, “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Pet. 2:1-3).

      St. John writes, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:19-21).

      St. Jude writes, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).

      St. James gives us good reason to correct erring souls. The Holy Spirit guided him to write, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

      Jesus Himself declared the benefit of holding to God’s truth. Just verses before today’s Gospel, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). In our world, there’s lots of confusion. Who said what, what really happened, which is right are all common questions. But when it comes to moral standards, God’s attitude toward mankind, or the way of salvation, we have absolutely clarity in God’s Word. While many who consider themselves Christian may contradict that clarity, that does not negate what God teaches. As Jesus prayed on Maundy Thursday, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

      The moral standards set forth in Scripture are not intended to oppress people, nor are they in need of an update for our modern era. Instead, they show the most peaceful way to live in this fallen world. Of course, as sinners, we do not stand up well to the moral law. We continually break His commandments. That’s why God gives us such clarity in the Bible of God’s attitude toward mankind. While He hates workers of iniquity, He also sent His Son into this world to pay for our sin. That way we are set free from our bondage to sin. We are forgiven. Jesus already paid the penalty for our sin. So in faith, we are covered with the very righteousness of Christ and are considered acceptable to Heaven. That is the gift given to us sinners by our gracious God. He does this out of His love for us.

      On this day, we have veiled our crosses. Jesus veiled Himself when they were about to stone Him in the Temple because they hated His truth and were listening to lies. His Passion, which is the most important time in the Church Year, shows what Jesus had to do in love for us to earn our salvation. He had to go to the cross to atone for our many sins. He had to render the ransom payment through the shedding of His Blood. He endured these things so that we can be reconciled to God and have life in His name.

      As forgiven Christians, we are declared not guilty of all sin. It is, then, our desire to “lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty” in this fallen world. We will uphold God’s truth no matter what. For the world around us is dying to hear it. Amen.        

     The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen