Readings: Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 43 (antiphon: v.5); Hebrews 9:11-15; John 8:42-59
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Moments before our Gospel reading many Jews believe in Jesus as He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) But breathes later they are rejecting Him. He, the Light of men, was judged by those who did not believe in Him. They did not trust in Him. They trusted in themselves. That’s the one thing God can not stand: self-love or self-trust. For you on your own apart from God are sinful. You can not accomplish any good thing with reference to God. In terms of your neighbour on this side of heaven where intentions, love, and faith matter less than what is actually done, yes, you can choose good, whether your heart truly wills it or not. But before God—where your faith, love and trust matter, for He knows and judges the secret heart—you can do no good.
As for Jesus, He went the way of the cross to save you. You, who trust in yourself, while you were yet trusting yourself He already saved you (Romans 5:8). He threw Himself on His Father’s mercy. He perfectly trusted His Father with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His might (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is what He has done for we who if we are honest pray, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) He helped by trusting perfectly in your place when and where you can not. Even on the cross.
And so today’s Psalm (and the Introit based on it) are again an expression of Jesus’ on the cross; of His faith there, even when the Father had to turn His back on Him so that sin be punished, and paid for in full by Him who knew no sin, but became sin to save you (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our Lord throws Himself on His Father’s mercy, throughout His life, like in situations such as John 8, and especially when a human verdict was declared over Him by unbelieving Gentile authorities (John 19:15-16). He was judged and put to death though He was innocent. But He trusted in His Father saying, “Vindicate me O God.” (Psalm 43:1) That is, “You must judge me. Judge my case. Render a decision because everyone is judging me. I willing undergo their false judgement, for though their charges against Me were trumped up and false, my death will work their peace. But Your judgement of Me, O God, is all that matters.”
“From a deceitful man, a liar, you must deliver me.” (Psalm 43:1b) That is, “Don’t abandon me to death, don’t give me over to Satan, the father of lies.” Our Lord knew Satan had no authority over Him, but nonetheless, He cried out to His Father. He threw Himself on the mercy of the Father that night before his trial (Matthew 26:36-44), perfectly trusting in Him, not taking His name in vain but calling upon it in every trouble, to pray, praise and give thanks. (Luther’s Small Catechism: Explanation to the 2nd Commandment)
“For you are the God in whom I take refuge. You are my protection, my strength, my shield. So why have you rejected me, cast me off, and pushed me away? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why do I go about mourning because of my enemies?” (Psalm 43:2) Literally, “Why do I become dark and go in distress being an enemy?” But Our Lord knows the answer to this. He is counted as an enemy of God, one whom the Father must turn His face away from, one on whom the sun can not shine (Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34), because the Father must forsake His only begotten Son (John 3:14-16) that whoever believes in Him should not perish. He was given up to scorn and ridicule, and cursed by God as an enemy, taking our sin, that we might not be cursed as we deserve and cast off as He was, but live under Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. (Luther’s Small Catechism: Creed: Explanation of the Second Article) He became an enemy of God enduring the Father’s rejection and curse to spare us that curse. Like the snake in the wilderness lifted up on a cross, Christ our enemy becomes our salvation, when looked upon in faith. (John 3:14-16; Numbers 21:9)
Send out your light and truth... Moments before today’s Gospel (John 8:42-59) Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” and, “if you abide in My word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:12, 31a, 32) How does God send out light and truth into the world? By sending His only begotten Son. Here in this Psalm Jesus on the cross is praying for His own mission! For His own sending. For Jesus comes into the world to be the atoning sacrifice–the offering of blood—which wipes away the sin of the first man from all mankind. By being sent into world and offering His blood He dies. After His death that day He went to paradise with His Father (Luke 23:42-43) where He entered into the holy place, not the tabernacle made by Moses, by human hands, but to the heavenly tabernacle, to the presence of His Father, to the greater and more perfect tent not of this creation (Hebrews 9:11). You see, Jesus’ sending into the world makes His blood shedding possible by which He enters into the heavenly tabernacle atoning for our sin, propitiating for it with His own blood (Hebrews 9:12), cleansing not just bodies, but both body and soul from the works of death you have done, you still do, and all those which have been done to you (Hebrews 9:13-14).
So that our Saviour comes to the altar of God His Father in heaven singing songs of praise! (Psalm 43:4b) There He rests from His work of saving, for it is finished. The battle is over. The rest is won. The saints and the angels sing in glorious praise led by the Lamb who was slain, but lives, (Revelation 7:9-12) and is the great High priest (Hebrews 9:11a).
Why is our Lord’s heart, or any of our hearts, cast down, heartsick, sorrowful, thrown into confusion? Why do we wail and moan? (Psalm 43:5a) It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious for anyone who has lived a day in this world. But in this psalm Christ our Lord asks the same question to catechize us, to teach us to confess not only that this world is in the death throws of sin, but that His being on the cross, His shedding His blood, His atoning for mankind’s sin—both the first sin and every sin since—means there is hope (Psalm 43:5b). Not just a vain wish. But sure and certain hope. For God your God will vindicate those who hope on Jesus, those who trust in Him. Those who by their trials and tribulations have learned to forget themself, reject themself, and trust in Him. So we pray, “I believe Lord. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) And He does. For He perfectly believed for you. Even on the cross. And though His mourning lasted the dark night of His Father’s forsaking, joy came for Him in the morning (Psalm 30:5b). For come that Saturday morning He was in paradise with His Father praising the saving faces of God—God the Holy Trinity. The God who saves has victoriously vindicated His Son and in Him, you.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON