Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. The body of Jesus is not in the tomb where he was laid when He died. That is a fact that all people agree upon. Even the enemies of Jesus. The question is, what does this mean?
One might argue that the Pharisees were right. Jesus’ fishermen disciples overpowered the trained and battle-hardened Roman soldiers, and stole away the body. And then were willing to be tortured and put to death in the most painful ways imaginable in order to perpetuate a lie that a man rose from the dead. Or maybe Jesus didn’t actually die when they took him down from the cross. Maybe the Romans who know what death looks like better than even we do today, missed the fact that He was still breathing. Maybe Jesus survived the scourging, the nails, the asphyxiation, the spear in the side, the cold stone slab, and the complete lack of food, water and medical attention, and somehow got better. You might believe that the words “He is not here,” don’t really mean anything at all.
Or maybe Jesus really did rise from the dead. But that still doesn’t really mean a whole lot for us today. We don’t mind giving Jesus a big thumbs up for his absolutely unheard of accomplishment. But we’re going to go back to our lives, and live them as if what Jesus did has nothing to do with us. And what He said means even less. We’ve got ourselves to look out for, after all. We need to make sure we have everything we need. A good job. Kids in sports on Sundays. A 60-inch flat screen to watch football on. My day to day entertainment is far more important than someone who claimed to be God, rising from the dead about 2,000 years ago, and teaching me what life is all about. The words, He is not here, may mean that Jesus isn’t looking, so I can do what I want.
Or maybe Jesus really did rise from the dead, and I do like to pay attention to some of what He said. But I really only want to listen to Him on my terms. I’ll find Him in the places that appeal to me. I’ll worship Him in the way I feel like. I’ll make time for Him when I want. And if Jesus really wants to save me, then He’ll accommodate me. As if my heart was a true and righteous judge of things, rather than the source of all the evil that comes out of me, like Jesus says. I’ll only listen to the places where Jesus says something I like. And I can just ignore all the rest. That makes me feel good. I can be happy. I can see God in all the coincidences in life. I can be a spiritual person. And I can believe that this is what Jesus wants from me, because it’s exactly the same as what I want for me. The words, He is not here, mean that Jesus is anywhere I want Him to be.
Or maybe the words mean, He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Jesus said He would be crucified. Jesus said He would die. Jesus said that He would rise on the third day. He’s not here, so what Jesus said matters. All of it. You know what else Jesus said? Jesus said, “I am God.” Jesus said, “Every Word in Scripture is about Me. They’re My words, whether you like them or not.” And there is lot not to like.
Because Jesus has something to say about our desires. Jesus has something to say about how we speak about others. Jesus has something to say about what belongs to us and what doesn’t. Jesus has something to say about marriage, children, divorce, and homosexuality. Jesus has something to say about abortion, and assisted suicide, and merciful deaths. Jesus has something to say about anger and hatred. Jesus has something to say about authority, and the respect it is to be given. Jesus has something to say about how we treat His Word, how we use His name, and what our priorities are. And the world hates everything that Jesus has to say about all those things.
And so do we. Part of us hates those words. Because in those words, you and I are condemned. You and I are shown to be sinners of the greatest magnitude. You and I have failed to do what Jesus says. Because we hate the words of the man who claimed to be God, then didn’t stay dead. And you know what we’ve earned because we treat His Word that way? That cross right there. The cross up there is only there for one thing. Execution. You and I are not good people. Our hearts prove it. And nobody else is good either. No matter how much we wish we were. No, we have earned eternal death by our own sin.
And so the last thing anyone wants to see is the cross. Why do you think ISIS in the middle east wants every cross taken down? And kills Christians, even on Palm Sunday to make it happen? Why do you think the culture of the West wants every cross removed from the public eye? And takes Christians to court to get their way? Why do you think even Christians ourselves want to take the crosses in our own sanctuaries down? We don’t want to be shown something so gruesome. Therefore many new churches designed to appeal to the masses don’t have a single cross to be found. There is nothing more offensive than the cross. Because it is a reminder about the truth of who I am. What I deserve.
But it’s not me on that cross. It’s not me enduring this execution method. It should be. But it’s not. Instead, it’s Jesus. You see, Jesus didn’t just go to that cross in order to show off who He is. Jesus brought something with Him. Jesus brought your humanity. Jesus brought your guilt. Jesus brought your each and every sin to that cross. And those things all died there with Him. They were buried with Him. And when we look in the tomb, any tomb, there they all are. Here lies fallen humanity. Here lies the guilty. Here lies each and every sin.
But when we come to the tomb of Jesus, there are the angel’s words. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. And just as Jesus didn’t go to the cross just to show off who He is, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead just to show off who He is either. Just as Jesus took you to His cross, so also He gives you His resurrection from the dead. The very same body you have right now. The same body that is currently infected with your sin. The same body which will one day die. Jesus is going to raise that body from the dead on the last day. And He’s going to raise it without sin. Without death. Because those sins that stayed in Jesus’ tomb are no longer yours. You are forgiven. You are saved. You are alive in Christ. In the flesh. This is what Jesus has said about you! There is no better news that you could ever receive than this!
He is not here, the angel says when we look in the tomb. But Jesus is here, in His Word. Just as He said. Jesus is here, in baptism. Where you are both buried and raised with Christ. Just as He said. Jesus is here, in His Supper. This is My body. This is My blood. Just as He said. Jesus is here, in His Church. Serving you Himself. Forgiving your sins. Giving you the words of eternal life. Just as He said.
If Jesus stayed dead, then there is nothing in here worth keeping. If Jesus did not stay dead, then everything in here is critical. There is no in between. The words, He is not here, must mean something. And they do. They mean that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Part 1: John 18:1-11 (ESV)
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
It has been asked where in Scripture Jesus ever makes the claim to be God. It is clearly here. Though, for some reason, we try to hide it in the English. Jesus said to them, “I am.” And at His speaking of the divine name, they all drew back and fell to to the ground. For either Jesus has spoken the greatest of blasphemies, or He has spoken the truth. And either way, fear is a very appropriate response.
However, Jesus is not here to show His own glory. Jesus is here to give His life as a sacrifice on your behalf, to pay for your sin, your shame, your guilt. So Jesus does not chase them away. Jesus does not show them who is boss. Jesus goes with them, as they lead Him to His death. Because the work Jesus does is to die.
But Peter still doesn’t quite get it. And perhaps we might applaud Peter’s bravery and dedication in his decision to defend Jesus with his life. Except Peter doesn’t swing his sword at the soldiers. He doesn’t challenge the officers. He doesn’t charge into those with lanterns and torches and weapons. He instead takes a swing at a servant. An unarmed, defenseless servant. There to watch and report back to the High Priest.
We too want to help Jesus. We too want to be of service to Him. Defend His honor. Stand up for Him when the time is right. All in hopes of Jesus turning to us and saying, “Wow, look how well you did! I’m really proud of you.” But all our efforts to please our Lord by our own works look exactly like Peter’s. But it’s not our job to beat the enemies of Jesus. Put your sword away. Because the work Jesus does is to die.
Part 2: John 18:12-27 (ESV)
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
Jesus was betrayed in many ways this night. Judas had betrayed him for money. Peter betrayed Him by lies, thinking it was better to stay alive than become dead. And Jesu was betrayed by the people He had chosen through Abraham. And they betrayed Him in order to justify themselves. This trial was simply an exercise in making the Chief Priests and Pharisees feel right about their every action.
Jesus was to be given a trial by law. But the Law didn’t specifically mention that it had to be public. According to the Law, Jesus needed to be proven guilty, either by His own words, or the testimony of two witnesses. But the Law never said specifically whether those witnesses had to be telling the truth to carry out the sentence. Neither did the Law say specifically that the one on trial had to be respected. But Jesus willingly endured it. Because the work Jesus does is to die.
The sentence had been decided before the night had even started. It was not safe to be recognized as a disciple of Jesus. Peter was bold, sort of, when he though Jesus would fight by His side. But to fight alone? It was better to lie, and live to fight another day. It is not safe for us today as well. And we are not as bold as we claim. We too fear to fight alone, or to fight at all. Because there is too much to lose.
Three times Peter lied. Three times Peter betrayed Jesus. All for Jesus’ own good. Because Peter wasn’t any good to Jesus dead. Or so he thought at that moment. Likewise we too will lie. We too deny Jesus. Thinking that we’re preserving something important. But we’re not. Now, Peter was also pretty sure Jesus wasn’t going to be any good to him if Jesus died either. And that’s where Peter was wrong. Because the work Jesus does is to die.
Part 3: John 18:28-40 (ESV)
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
How ironic, that we can plan the death of an innocent man, and yet we refuse to enter the pagan building in order to keep ourselves holy before God. How ironic that we prefer the sins of Barabbas to the One who takes away our sins away. How ironic that we are a people who insist on truth when it’s to our advantage, and say, “What is truth,” when it’s not. How ironic that we call ourselves good people. Call those who we like good people, when every single one of us does exactly this every day. How ironic it is that we who die aspire most of all to live. And that the One who lives forever aspires to die on our behalf. Because the work Jesus does is to die.
But the kingdom of Christ is not of this world. Our victory or defeat here is not the same as victory or defeat there. A new heavens and a new earth is coming. And the old one will die. Yet Jesus doesn’t not avoid that death. Nor the death that will be inflicted upon Him. He does not circle around it. Instead He takes the path straight through. The wages of sin is death. That is the truth. But there is another truth that goes with it. Jesus does not let you go through alone. He is with you every step of the way. Even when both feet are in the grave. Because the work Jesus does is to die.
Part 4: John 19:1-16a (ESV)
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
He had everything a king could need. The royal robes of brilliant purple around Him. The kingly scepter in His hands. A crown adorning His head. Subjects hailing Him as their monarch. Only the robe was a mockery. The scepter was a reed that they beat Him with. The crown was made of thorns. And His subjects were taunting Him. Behold, behold, your king. This is exactly how Jesus comes to us today. Not as a king that we would kneel down to. But as One who is weak. As One who is in pain. As One who suffers, dies, and is defeated. He is a king without glory. Or rather, His glory is what we call shame. Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. If He is our choice, then give us no king but Caesar. The work we want, no the work we demand from this Jesus is that He die.
Or perhaps we should wash our hands of Jesus altogether. As if we had no part in sending Him to His death. We may say that it is better for one man to die for the people. We may say that it is better that the innocent man die, than the many suffer. But really, the one man must die, because we’re afraid we’ll lose everything we’ve gained for ourselves if He doesn’t. Even though the authority has been given to you from above. Even though our Lord expects you to proclaim His name to the world. To the people He has put in your lives. We are still afraid. Afraid to lose. It may be the work of Jesus to die. But why must it be ours as well?
And yet, Jesus endures this all on your behalf. Despite your failures to live up to the name He placed on you in your baptism. Despite your mistakes that cost others so much. Despite the times you can’t get out of your head when you try to sleep at night. Despite your sin, Jesus stays. Because the work Jesus does is to die. And He dies with you.
Part 5: John 19:16b-30 (ESV)
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The Place of a Skull wasn’t just any place to the Jews. In their oral tradition, they believed that Noah had interred the body of Adam himself on the Ark before the floods came. And that Adam’s final resting place ended up being right outside Jerusalem. It wasn’t just the place of anybody’s headbones, it was the place of Adam’s. The early church continued the tradition, even if we’re not sure today whether or not it’s true. Which is why in the ancient pictures of Jesus’ crucifixion, at the foot of the cross, you will find a lone skull. Adam’s skull. So the place where Jesus does His work, the place where Jesus dies is also the place where all humanity dies. The place where we die too.
But before Jesus dies, He says the greatest word that we could ever hear. Τετέλεσται. It is finished. And Jesus isn’t just talking about His life. Nor His ordeal on the cross. No. The wrath of God over our rebellion, it is finished. The Law, and all it’s demands which we cannot ever do on our own, it is finished. The sin of Adam, and all who follow after him, it is finished. The death of Adam, and all his descendants, it is finished. The curse that has affected all of creation, it is finished. Jesus’ work finished it all. For the work Jesus does is to die for you.
Part 6: John 19:31-42 (ESV)
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
We come back to Adam once more. The Lord put Adam to sleep once, and took, we translate rib, but literally, it was from the side, in order to create a bride for Adam. It was one of only two times that life was ever born from a man. The other is in our text today. For when Jesus fell asleep, when Jesus died, from His side came blood and water. From His side, the Church was born. From His side we are baptized. From His side we are told to take and drink, this is my blood, shed for your forgiveness. To this fact, John the apostle takes three oaths. So that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
We deserved none of it. We are responsible for our own sin. Our own treatment of Christ. And yet, Jesus has done His work. He has died on your behalf. Taking your responsibility and making it His.
Today is Good Friday. Maybe looking at Jesus’ passion, and suffering and death may cause us to ask why such a day as today is good. But the death of Jesus isn’t the defeat of Jesus. It is His victory. Not that Jesus wins despite death. But rather Jesus has won you back by His death. Let the rest of the world hide their eyes. Look and see. We don’t skip by the cross and run only towards Easter morning. This part matters. Because here, the work of Jesus is complete. He has died. God has died. And He died for your sake.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What do you know about covenants? And before you answer, we might want to define our terms. Twenty years ago, if you talked about covenant theology, you were probably talking about the Calvinist notion. That the Old Testament was a covenant of works, and the New Testament was a covenant of grace. And your salvation depended on the action of which covenant you were under. Now we have some pretty big problems with that, but that generally isn’t what most American churches today mean when they talk about covenants.
Today’s meaning stemmed from trying to find a better kind of promise. Twenty years ago, programs about promises were the big fad. Promise to do this. Promise to do that. And because you’re a good Christian, you’ll keep your promises, and do good. Maybe some of you even took part in programs like that. And I’ve got nothing against anyone working their hardest to do good. Nor using a program to try and accomplish that. Doing good is what every Christian should always strive for.
However, what happens when you fail? And we’re all sinners, so it isn’t an if, but a when. Some of these programs tied your ability to keep your promise directly to your faith. And if you failed, then it was actually your faith that failed. That’s not so good. However, that’s not necessarily the same problem that other churches diagnosed. Instead, it was thought that promises weren’t serious enough. That people didn’t have enough consequences when their promises were broken. And if they just upped the ante, people would take their responsibility more seriously.
And covenants did exactly that. Covenants were the kinds of promises made in the bible, after all. Jacob has a covenant with Laban. David has a covenant with Jonathan. Jesus has a covenant with His disciples. It’s like a promise, except the stakes are a lot higher. You can’t back out of them so easily. And so any commitment now was so serious, that it became a covenant. You have marriage covenants, purity covenants, stewardship covenants. Hey if you can promise it, it can be a covenant.
And did that help us keep our promises any better? Nope. All it did was take the word “covenant” and make it mean a lot less than it ever used to. So now we hear Moses sprinkle the people with the blood of the covenant in our Old Testament Lesson. We hear that God has made an even better covenant with us in tour Epistle lesson. We hear Jesus give us His own blood as a covenant, and it means nothing to us today. A covenant is just another promise, and promises are made to be broken.
However, just because we have ruined a word today, doesn’t mean that it never meant anything to begin with. In the Old Testament, a covenant is far more than a promise. Far more than even a contract. A covenant could only be made by making a sacrifice. No one ever made a covenant. That’s the wrong verb. You always cut a covenant. Because the animal sacrificed would be cut in half, and the two parties would walk through together. The implication being that if anyone who walked through broke this covenant, what happened to the animal would also happen to them. However, when God made a covenant with His people, He never let the people walk through with Him. The Lord always went through alone. So that if anyone ever broke the covenant, what happened to the animal would also happen to the Lord Himself, and Him alone.
Now, when we come to the New Testament, the Greeks didn’t have a word for covenant the way the Hebrews did. They had to choose a word that meant something close. But the range of it’s meaning did not line up as well as one would have hoped. Because the Greek word we translate in Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Supper as “covenant” actually means the equivalent of our English word “testament.” As in His last will and testament. It too is a legal promise, just like a covenant. However, the other party only gets something when the one who created the promise dies. And that’s a pretty major difference.
So a covenant is a death sentence when it is broken, and a testament is a promise fulfilled upon someone’s death. So, Jesus, which one of these words do you mean when You say, “This is my blood of the covenant, [or testament,] poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins”? Both. We have broken the covenant, and Christ dies. And yet, by His death, we are given everything that belongs to Christ. So whether we use the word covenant or the word testament, it doesn’t matter. Because in Christ, they are one and the same.
The old covenant and the new covenant are the same. The Old Testament and the New Testament is the same. What makes it new, is the body and blood of Christ. Which is what everyone who goes to the altar to eat and drink receives. You receive Jesus here tonight. Which is why repentance has always been a part of our preparation to receive our God giving Himself to us. And why it is a loving thing to ask those who are not repentant to refrain from coming up. Because telling you that you’ll be okay when stand before God while insisting on holding onto your sin is not something we wish on our worst enemies.
But our Lord does give repentance. Our Lord does give us mercy. Our Lord does give us Jesus. And when we hold onto Jesus alone, instead of our sin, then standing before God is the very best place we could ever be. Because He has paid the price for our breaking the covenant. He has named us inheritors on His last will and testament. He has given His own body to blood to us as a promise. He has gone to the cross and done it all for us. He has forgiven our every sin. It is finished.
So every promise that we’ve ever broken. Every covenant that we’ve failed to live up to. Every law that we’ve ever transgressed. Every sin we’ve ever committed. The blood of Christ covers them all. And tonight of all nights, we remember where Jesus goes. We remember what Jesus did. And Jesus brings that cross to us in the words, “Take, eat, this is My body. Take drink this is My blood.” The covenant is cut. Jesus bleeds. Our Lord dies. And He does it all for you. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This week is the single most important week in all of Christianity. Today’s Gospel lesson is the most important part of all of God’s Word. Everything we do. Every word we proclaim. Every action we take. All of it is to bring us here. Every Bible Story. Every Psalm and Proverb. Every Letter written to one of the churches is for bringing us here. Your favorite Bible verse is given to bring you here. Every Word in Scripture, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is written to bring us here.
Every time we baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is to bring us here. Every time we receive the body and blood of Christ, it is to bring us here. Every good work we do for our neighbor is so we can be brought here. Every time we are gathered together as Christ’s Church, it’s so that we can be brought here. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The Palm branches waived. The cloaks laid down. All of it brings us to here.
But here isn’t the most comfortable place to be, is it? The passion account of Jesus is not a happy story. Nobody likes to look at the cross. Especially not at Jesus as He bleeds and dies. The violence and the pain is enough all on it’s own to make us look away. But nothing averts our eyes faster than the knowledge that we did this to Him.
We fail to watch with Him, instead worshipping our TV Shows or sports teams. We betray Him when we walk by, ignoring someone in need. We accuse him falsely, when we’re angry with Him over what sin has destroyed in our lives. We spit on Him and slap Him when we plan out how our next sin will go down. We deny Him, when we are too embarrassed to be known by Him among our friends. We demand Barabbas when we excuse our own sin, while holding others to the higher standard.
We cry out for Jesus to be crucified when we see no problem with the way the world does things. We scourge Jesus with our bargaining for favors from God. We mock Jesus with our Sunday Morning Christian, Monday morning heathen act. We force Jesus to carry the cross with the unfettered desires of our hearts. We nail his hands and feet to the cross with our every sin. Yes, it is our sin did this to Him. Is it any wonder we refuse to look? Any wonder why we refuse to be confronted with what you and I have done?
But here’s the thing. Jesus never leaves. He could have at any point said to the world, “Nope, you all ain’t worth it. I’m not going through any of this for you.” He could have ended this passion at any point, and no one could ever have blamed Him for it. But He didn’t. Jesus carried it through to the end. Because He did it all for you. Jesus was anointed for death for you. Jesus felt sorrow unto the point of death for you. Jesus was betrayed by one of His closest friends for you. Jesus was tried in the middle of the night for you. Jesus endured false witness after false witness for you. Jesus was spit upon and slapped for you. Jesus was denied for you. Jesus was hauled before a pagan judge for you. Jesus was rejected in favor of Barabbas for you. Jesus was scourged for you. Jesus was mocked for you. Jesus bore His own cross for you. Jesus was nailed to it and lifted up for you. Jesus had his dignity taken and his clothes gambled away by soldiers for you. Jesus was forsaken by the Father for you. Jesus died for you.
That’s why we do not look away. That’s why we return here time and time again. That’s why Paul says, “…I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Because this it everything. You mean this much to Christ Jesus, that He would endure all of this for your sake. Therefore, this is where we look. This is where we are. This is where we stay. Because there is no other way. We look at the cross always. And there is no more glorious sight in all creation. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Some of those who were with them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” It’s not as though Jesus didn’t get the message they sent. It’s not as though Jesus couldn’t have made it in time to heal Lazarus’ disease. It’s not as though Jesus couldn’t have just spoken Lazarus well from where He was, like He did with the centurion’s servant. Jesus had done these things for countless others already. But this time, He just didn’t.
When [Jesus] heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Therefore, when Jesus finally does show up, the response isn’t relief, or gratitude, or joy. Why would there be. Jesus didn’t do anything. Instead, it’s anger. Where were You, Jesus? It’s grief. If You had been here, You could have done something. They felt betrayed. I mean, Mary wouldn’t even go out to see Him until He called for her. How could You leave them like this? How could You abandon them the very moment they needed You the most?
Is that what they should have cried out to Jesus? Is that what they should have said? “Where were you, Jesus,” is the cry of an honest heart. It’s better than pretending that death is somehow a good thing. Better than believing the lie that death is better than suffering. Better than speaking the utterly empty words that say he’s in a better place. As if being in the grave was better than being by their side. As if being a bodiless soul in heaven was how God intended us to be.
However, this honest cry does blame Jesus for Lazarus’ death. “Where were you, Jesus,” is to say it’s His fault when someone dies. Which, in a way, is to believe Jesus’ own promise. “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” If You conquered death, Lord, then why does Lazarus still die? Why do my loved ones still die? Why did my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my child still die? But we know why. And it isn’t Jesus’ fault at all.
This is the part we don’t like to look at. This is the part that is to hard to take. This is what brought even Jesus to tears. What put Lazarus in the tomb was his sin. As Jesus stood in front of his grave, What went through Jesus’ mind? Did He think, “Here lies my beloved creation. I was his God, and He decided to be his own. I put My name on him, and he despised it. I gave him My promises, and he forgot them. I watched over his ways, and he would rather go astray. I gave him life, and he chose death.” Why shouldn’t Jesus weep over Lazarus. Why shouldn’t Jesus weep over us all? Each and every one of us sins in the exact same way. Each one of us dies by our fault, by our own fault, by our own most grievous fault.
And yet in our question, there is something else we confess. When we ask, “Where were you, Jesus,” we imply that there is in fact something that Jesus does about death. And there is. But it doesn’t involve avoiding death. He doesn’t steer clear of the grave. Nor does He keep His hands clean by keeping us all away from being buried in the tomb. No. Jesus charges straight through death. Tackling it head on. Because if it’s going to take you, it’s going to take Him too. Where were you Jesus? The very place you will always find Him. On the cross. Dying with you. Dying for you.
I love the fact that we have a cross in the church. I like crucifixes even better. But there is no way to think of the cross as anything different than death. It can never be a symbol of the resurrection, even if it’s empty. The cross has only one job. Execution. And on that cross Jesus dies. Because when God dies, He catapults the stones away from the tombs. He rips asunder the earth covering our graves. He parts the seas to open the resting places of the dead. And brings the storm that carries back every bit of ash carried away by the wind. When Jesus dies, there is nothing left to hold back the dead.
That’s why Jesus waits to go to Lazarus. That’s why Jesus waits to go to our loved ones. Because Jesus doesn’t save any of us from dying. As if any one of us were going to escape it. Rather Jesus saves us from out of death. And He saves by taking us right through the heart of it. Through where it’s power is the strongest. Through where it’s teeth are the sharpest. Through where the stench of our rotting flesh is the strongest. All so that you would know that this isn’t some lucky break. That this isn’t a squeaker by the skin of your teeth. This isn’t a last second stroke of luck by which Jesus wins. No. This is Jesus’ overwhelming victory. A 100-0 blowout. Death has no chance.
Where were you Jesus? On the cross. The death of Jesus is the greatest victory. Because Jesus died with our sin. When we are our own gods. When we despise the name Jesus puts on us. When we forget Jesus’ promises to remember our own desires. When we ran away from Christ. When we chose death. All those sins are nailed to that cross with Him. They die with Him. They are buried with Him. And they stay dead forever.
And where is Jesus for you now? On the cross. Do you not know that all of you who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? This is My body given unto death for you. This is my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Every place that Jesus delivers Himself to us today is Jesus delivering Himself on His cross. Word, Sacrament, Absolution, all of it. We aren’t delivered by going around the cross. We aren’t forgiven by avoiding the place where Jesus died. We’re only saved by being brought straight through it.
And it’s only after the cross and the grave that we come to the resurrection. And just as there is a promise in the death of Christ, there is also a promise for you in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection, attested to by the eye-witnesses, is the guarantee that Jesus’ death indeed did what He said it did. And it’s a picture of the other side of what Jesus is taking us through today. The resurrection is the promise of life. Life for you after death. Life for your loved ones in the faith after death. Because the day is coming when He will cry out with a loud voice, “Come out.” And death’s total defeat will be revealed to all. We will all rise from the dead. Even better than Lazarus did.
Nobody said it was going to be easy. Nobody said that it wasn’t going to hurt. Today is the cross. Today is the grave. The resurrection isn’t until that last tomorrow. But that also means that Jesus is with you both today and tomorrow. Your cross is also Jesus’ cross. And no, He isn’t going to take you out of this world just yet. However, He is with you. Weeping with you at the graveside. Suffering with you through this death filled world. Pointing you again and again to His cross. Promising that at the end of this journey through the valley of the shadow of death, there is the resurrection. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Who is this Jesus, anyways? You know, it’s not as if I were born deaf as well as blind. I can hear Jesus talking about me as if he were some sort of object lesson. Seems to be just another teacher who is more interested in his students than he is some random beggar on the street. I mean, His disciples are more interested in me than this Rabbi is. And they ask the very same question I’ve asked himself over and over again. Why me? After all, sin is exactly the reason anyone is born blind, or deaf, or with any other issue. But whose? What did I do to be cursed by God? To grow up without sight. To now live as a beggar on the street? Despised by everyone? Or what did my parents do that led to this unbearable life? Or do we go back as far as Adam and Eve and blame them for it all?
Who is this Jesus anyways? He spit on the ground in from of me, and used the mud that his spit created to soil my already broken eyes. I didn’t ask for this. I don’t even know why He did it. Why in the world would He do something so humiliating to me? Although, He certainly wasn’t the first to make fun of me. Go wash in the pool? Where else can I wash? No one will stoop so low as to bring me the water to wash. And that’s the only place I can find.
But then what is this light? What are these images appearing before me? Am I imagining things? Is this what seeing feels like? Just who is this Jesus anyways?
That’s was the question on everyone’s mind when they saw the man born blind walking around looking at everything. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” They heard him, but the real question after that was “Who is Jesus?” And so they asked him. He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” And so, wherever he went, he was asked. Who is Jesus?
Well, this man’s story eventually came to the Pharisees. Because apparently, the day his eyes were opened for the first time was the Sabbath. And one of the things that Jesus did was to make and apply mud. The Jewish Mishna, the Oral Law that explained what the Written Law meant, explicitly forbids working with dirt. In fact, even dragging a chair through the dirt on the Sabbath is strictly prohibited. Lest one accidentally make furrows for planting. And so the Pharisees are investigating this to answer the question, “Who is Jesus.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” In other words, they asked the man born blind to answer the same question again. Who is Jesus? He said, “He is a prophet.”
Not sure if he was telling the truth about even being healed, the Pharisees called in the man’s parents. And his parents told them, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” They were not willing to answer the question of “Who is Jesus.” Because they knew that if they gave the wrong answer, it would cost them. Their son had already given an answer to that question. And so his fate was beyond their help. And indeed, they brought him back in to answer the question yet again.
“Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” So answer the question very carefully. Who is Jesus? He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” Back and forth they went. Over and over again, the question at the root of it all was our same question. Each time he had to tell who Jesus is, the man born blind learned more and more about who Jesus is. Jesus had started as a rude rabbi who liked to put mud in peoples’ eyes. And then the man who gave him his sight. Then a prophet. Then a man who stood sinless before all. Then a man worth following as a disciple. And finally, the last straw before they kicked him out, this man realized that Jesus was indeed sent by God Himself.
One of the things that we’re called to do in the world is answer the question of who Jesus is. We call that evangelism. And we instinctively measure that by how many people we get to follow Jesus. But look at the man in today’s text. He tells everyone he comes across who Jesus is, and none of the people he tells believes. Not the people on the streets. Not his parents. Not the Pharisees. No one comes to Jesus by his words. And yet not a single one of those answers was wasted. Not a single Word returned to God void. Because by proclaiming Christ to the world, this man learned all about who Jesus is.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Did Jesus make this man’s life any better by opening eyes that had been blind from birth? Not by this world’s standards. Granted, it was bad already. But as Jesus said at the beginning of today’s text, that was the work of God. And afterwards, things kept going downhill the more he proclaimed Christ. His parents abandoned him. He was branded a traitor by his community. Who would even give him a coin if he were to go back to begging? Confessing Jesus was a death sentence.
And make no mistake about it. It still is today. So long as you stay quiet. So long as you don’t answer the question, “Who is Jesus.” As long as you don’t say anything to the world, you can stay a beggar. Or if you answer it in a way that the world is looking for, they wont set their sights on you just yet. You think it used to be better than it is today? That thirty, fifty years ago in our country it used to be any different? Or did maybe the world hide behind the mask of moralism and manners in order to get what it wanted? No, if you confess Christ, your life will look like Christ’s. With your own betrayals, your own friends who abandon you, your own crosses. Just like the man born blind lost everything, that’s what’s at stake today too when you answer, “Who is Jesus.”
And I’m here to tell you today that Jesus is worth it. Because just look at what Jesus accomplished through His suffering. Through His loss. Through His dying on the cross. Who is Jesus? He is the one who said, “I am God.” They killed Him for it. And He didn’t stay dead. And through that act, Jesus paid for the sins of the entire world. Including each and every one of yours. He paid for each time you have been afraid to speak. For each time you were too intimidated by the world into not answering the question, “Who is Jesus.” For each time you abandoned others who were confessing Christ to the world. For each time you sided with the world in throwing out those who dared to talk about Jesus. No matter who you most resemble in this Gospel lesson today, Jesus died for your sins. And rose from the dead in order to give you His life.
That’s who Jesus is. And even if the world doesn’t want to hear it, we proclaim Him at the tops of our voices anyways. Because even if no one ever listens, there is Jesus for you and me. Teaching us who He is. What He’s done. Taking us from helpless beggars to children of God. And even though that path takes us through all the places we fear to go the most. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Not around, but through. We’re not alone in the journey. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, becomes a beggar right by our side. He’s not afraid to get down in the mud for us. And despite the consequences, He opens our eyes, whether we want Him to or not. That’s who the world fears most. That’s who has saved us from our sin. That’s who Jesus is. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There’s not a lot of mistaking what kind of woman comes out to Jesus at the well. She had five husbands, and the one she’s with is not her husband. She shows up in the heat of the day, when the more respectable women came early in the morning. And odds are, she didn’t show up to the well at this time of day just to draw water. I think the most polite way we have to describe her today is to call her a harlot.
Not the kind of person one should be seen with. She’s the one you warn your sons about. She’s the one you warn your daughters not to be. She is an outcast from Samaritan society. But that said, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see Jesus here. He’s always being found talking with the prostitutes, and the tax collectors, and the sinners of Judea. Why should it be any different in Samaria? The only real difference is that this conversation is recorded for us. So who is this woman? We know what she is. But there are a couple of different ways of taking who she is.
Is she a victim of circumstances? Did she suffer misfortune after misfortune, as each husband was taken from her? Did she have no choice but to turn to this kind of life in order to eat each day? Is she the kind of person, when you hear her side of the story, your heart just aches for her suffering? Or is she the kind of person who always has her claws out? Always on the look out to take advantage of people? Always ready to step on anyone and everyone on her way to the top of her mountain? Is she the kind of person who has embraced this life in order to spite anyone and everyone who dares go against her? Whichever one you choose will paint how you see her every action in today’s text. So choose carefully, because the woman in the text is also supposed to be a picture of you.
In that case, let’s look at her though compassionate eyes. After all, that’s how we would want someone to look at us. So when she comes to the well, she comes in sadness and shame. But when finds Jesus asking for water, her curiosity is piqued. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus, seeing her great faith turns the question around. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
But she doesn’t yet understand what He means. But she knows it must be pretty amazing water. “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Therefore, Jesus explains just what His water does. What baptism does. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” She believes Jesus’s Word. She wants this water. She reaches out in faith, even when that faith is still learning just what Jesus means. But Jesus isn’t done teaching yet. Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” And this made her sad. Because she remembered her misfortune. The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
What an amazing thing to say! He recognized her plight. Maybe this man was sent from God to talk to her. What else could she do but believe? But He was a Jew, and Jews didn’t worship in the same place the Samaritans did. Maybe this was the right person to ask where was the right place to worship God? The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” This man was incredible! Maybe, just maybe. The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” With that, she dropped everything and ran back to town to tell everyone the good news.
What a faithful woman. What a great example for our own faith. After all this woman is supposed to also be a picture of us and Christ. The people of Sychar came out to hear Jesus because of her message. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
But what happened after that? We don’t know. The woman presumably had the same faith she had before Jesus showed up. Only she got to see the Savior she was waiting for with her own eyes. But this wouldn’t have changed her standing as an outcast. She would’ve still had to rely on her harlotry to eat. If we were expecting her faith to change the circumstances of her life, Scripture leaves us very disappointed.
And it is little different today. If we come to Jesus with our circumstances. Come to Jesus with all the times the world has been unfair to us. With all the reasons why it’s all not really our fault. With what others have done. With the story that we have really tried the best we could with what we had. Then Jesus is still there for us. But what changes? They will still revile us, persecute us, and say all kinds of evil against us. Only now it will be on Christ’s account as well. Our life is practically no different at all. And faith changes nothing that we can measure. And while the last day coming up will be nice, what do we do in the mean time?
Personally, I think that’s a lousy place to leave us. So let’s start over. Only this time we wont be looking at the woman at the well as someone who was a victim of her circumstances. Instead, let’s see her as someone adept at taking circumstances into her own hands in order to make victims. All the while remembering that she is also a picture of you and me. And this time, our own sin is laid bare before us to see.
So instead of coming to the well in sadness and shame, she comes in anger and pride. Angry at such stuck-up prudish people who don’t want to draw water with her. And the pride that she will continue to successfully rebel against what they think is right. Just like we are angry at the circumstances in our lives that cause us pain and hardship. And proud of the fact that we believe we’ve done everything we can to make our lives better.
And there at the well is a Jewish man, who is so bold as to as her for a drink. Those Jews down there think they’re so much better than us Samaritans, do they? It’s time to shame this man. Show her dominance over Him. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”
We’re not any different in our sin. We justify our every action. Believe that we’re in the right no matter what we do. And there’s part of us that loves to prove them wrong, whoever they happen to be. We can imagine the conversations in our head. And imagine the victories when we lay bare their errors. Sometimes, we even try it for real. But it turns out much differently than we expect, doesn’t it?
Same with this woman. Her jab at Him should have worked. He should have felt the shame. But apparently this guy was a bit wrong in the head. Because He said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Oh really? So, you’re one of those kind of people. Okay hotshot, “…you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Let’s see Him reason His way out of that one.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Oh, ho. I see what you are now. You’re the latest snake oil salesman. Time to expose you for the fool you are. Time to notch another victory on my belt. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband.” Ah no. Not going to fall for the oldest trick in the book. Not going to miss this opportunity to silence this man’s ludicrous boast. Not going to walk away from this victory. This conquest. “I have no husband.” “You are right in saying ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Alright, this guy isn’t the fool I took Him for. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve had my victory over five men already who thought they could tame me. I’ve got another in the palm of my hand. I will shame this man sitting at the well along with them all. And He’s a prophet of my people’s arch nemesis to boot. This will be sweet.
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” So go ahead and prove your ignorance. Prove that you have no idea what your own Scriptures teach. Prove that you actually hate Jacob and Joseph. Prove that your definition of who God is is completely and utterly wrong. But Jesus doesn’t answer the way she expects at all.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” What did this mean? Who could she be talking to? The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I AM. [And] I’m speaking to you.”
When we take the veneer covering our sin away. When we pull off the masks we wear when we look in the mirror. When we have to look right at the things that shame us most about ourselves. It’s then when we shudder. It’s then when we’re rightly afraid of what we see. Because there I am. Proud of my sin. Vengeful when challenged. Gleeful at the pain of others. Relishing my own spite. Angry at everyone. I look at the woman at the well in that light, and I see me. I am the hateful person who wants to conquer Jesus by my own hand. It is a raw sight. And it is to my own great shame that she is me.
But she is the one Jesus speaks the Gospel to. Not the mild mannered. Not those who have their lives together. Not the cordial, the pleasant, the polite. Not the ones who have covered their sin well enough. Not those who look good in the eyes of others. Nor the well justified. God’s Word of Law is for those. To break every disguise we put on our sin. To shatter every mask. To reveal what really lurks beneath us all.
But when this woman who had nowhere else to hide her comes across Jesus, then He speaks to her. Saying, “Here’s my living water. Here’s baptism Here you join me in my death at the cross. And all your sin is buried with me.” And that changes everything! Because Jesus didn’t come to change your circumstances. Jesus came to change you. To take your sin away. Not just the little ones. Not just the socially acceptable ones. Not just the ones you’re not too embarrassed about. Every single sin you have. Even the ones you’re afraid to see for yourself. They all hang with Christ on the cross.
When you believe your sins are little, then what Jesus does doesn’t seem like much. But when your sins are enormous, and they are, then what Jesus does is even bigger than that. And even if we’re afraid to look, Jesus is right there by our side. Standing with you. Standing for you. Holding your hand. He’s got you.
Our sermon hymn today, I think really nailed it. Recall the outcast woman; With whom the Lord conversed; Christ gave her living water; To quench her deepest thirst. Before she saw her sin, she didn’t know just how badly she needed the water of life that Jesus gives. And we are in exactly the same boat. The living water of our baptism flows right out of Christ pierced side. His death on that cross quenches, washes, and overflows in us. Because so much has been forgiven.
And yes, the circumstances in the world don’t really change all that much because of it. But that doesn’t matter. Because those really aren’t problems that will always be there. Every one of them are temporary. Even when they lead to death itself. For Christ has already overcome the very death we’re so afraid of. And His resurrection has been given to us.
Not only that, [as St. Paul says in our epistle lesson today,] but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that [while the woman at the well was still a sinner, Christ died for her.] [W]hile we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Thanks be to God.