Jesus spends quite a bit of time in John chapter eight showing the Jews who questioned Him that there is no difference between the faith of Abraham and the faith of New Testament Christians. Yet Christ’s own people have no joy in believing the long promised Messiah Who stands before them is the One Whom Abraham trusted for His salvation.
Jesus says Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. Abraham saw it when the Lord God said to him I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The Lord God also said Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. Just after today’s Old Testament reading concludes God says to Abraham in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice. Saint Paul confirms these words in Romans chapter four: That is why [the promise] depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
How could the Jews disputing with Christ be so blind and deaf not to know the Scriptures or believe what they say concerning righteousness before God by faith in the Promise of the Savior? Jesus’ answer right before today’s Gospel reading begins makes it clear why. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
That’s harsh. It’s also the truth. Either you are with God in trusting His promise of salvation in Christ Jesus or you are against him and take your stand with Satan. There’s no middle ground. The middle ground, though, seems to be the safest place to stand. It’s a place to hedge your bet. What if Jesus is right? I can sprint to His side. What if all those promises made to Abraham are empty words? I can sprint away and find safety elsewhere.
Outside of Christ there is no safety. You can’t say you’re a child of Abraham simply because of your blood line or because of your nationality. Being a citizen of the United States of America doesn’t guarantee your place in heaven. Being German or Danish or Irish or Jewish means nothing if you don’t trust Jesus as your Savior from eternal death. Saint Paul makes it plain in Romans chapter nine: not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
All who cling to Christ as their hope for everlasting life are children of Abraham. This happy message creates joyful hearts and soothes troubled consciences. Think of the many Scripture verses that bring you comfort. Most, if not all, are pure good news that declares your sins covered in Jesus’ blood and Satan’s head stomped in our Savior’s resurrection.
Think of the many hymns we sing in church. Today’s Chief Hymn, for example, a hymn usually sung around Holy Week, brings us great comfort. “Fulfilled is all that David told in sure prophetic song of old, that God the nations’ king should be and reign in triumph from the tree. On whose hard arms, so widely flung, the weight of this world’s ransom hung, the price of humankind to pay and spoil the spoiler of the prey.”
The burden of every sin of every human being who has ever lived, or will live, goes on Jesus Christ, the innocent Lamb of God. That message is all over the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and psalms. That promise weaves through the history of the Israelites and later the tribe of Judah. Even in exile in Babylon God promises ransom not only from the Babylonians but from their sin. How can you not rejoice in the promises God makes in Scripture! How can you not feel sorry for those who seek to discredit Jesus by calling Him a Samaritan and possessed by a demon.
Jesus leaves them, and us, with a HEY WATCH THIS moment. As the young people say, He drops the microphone by telling them before Abraham was, I am. Behold the Son of God, Messiah Himself, telling His own people He is the God-Man long promised to them. Yet they picked up stones to throw at him. Jesus’ hour had not yet come to be handed into their hands. That time comes soon. For now, Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. We can only shake our heads at their impudence.
What about our own impudence? What about all the times we have shook our heads at what the Scriptures say about how God saves us? He doesn’t give us any opportunity to help him out. It’s so easy to distort the clear teaching of the Scriptures to make them say what we want it to say. What it says, however, is that the Scriptures cannot be broken. That is why the Church has seen fit to put this reading so close to Good Friday and Resurrection Day. You must hear how Jesus deals with those who will not hear what the Scriptures say about Him and what He comes to do for you.
You must hear the Living Word willingly lay down His life for your sake and pick it back up again so that you have life with Him. He doesn’t need your help. He doesn’t give you half credit or even leaves part of the job in your hands. He puts the Word of life in your ear and makes a stony heart into a heart of flesh. He works repentance. He declares your sin forgiven. You’re covered. You’re baptized. You cling to Jesus’ cross alone, for there all your debt is paid. You rejoice in the empty tomb, for there you see your future: your empty grave.
Abraham’s bosom isn’t a bad place to be. You’re there with Lazarus because of Jesus. The promise is for you, O child of Abraham. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.