Jesus makes it plain in today’s Gospel that He is the promised Messiah on Whom all the faithful of the Old Testament have set their hope. He tells the Jews, Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. Before that, though, He tells them, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, “He is our God.” If that wasn’t enough for them to pick up stones to throw at Him, He takes on the divine name, before Abraham was, I am.
The last two words Jesus speaks are the tipping point. No longer can the Jews hide their hatred of Jesus. They pick up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. His hour has not yet come, but is fast approaching. The Jews can deal with Jesus as a pious teacher. When He takes on the divine name and says He is before Abraham, while also being the One in Whom Abraham believed and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, that’s too much. This cannot be the Messiah they were looking for.
Yet there He is. They have to deal with what He says. Their way of dealing with it is to make sure He is arrested, tried, found guilty of something He is innocent, and let the Roman authorities do the dirty work of ridding Judea of this meddlesome Messianic figure.
We also have to deal with what He says. Jesus says, Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? The Jews were not able to show Him the littlest sin he committed. They must recognize Jesus as perfectly holy, including what He teaches. They call Him a liar and say He doesn’t speak the things of God but the things of Satan. What do we do with the many pronouncements of innocence in His judgment? What about His resurrection? What about the Word of the Lord growing to the ends of the earth? If what the Jews say about Jesus in John chapter eight is true, then Satan is Lord and not Jesus Christ.
Now you see the foolishness inherent in the Jews’ slander of our Lord. They can’t prove anything. Neither can we when we find ourselves saying and believing the same things they said and believed then. Jesus is a liar when I don’t get everything I ask in prayer. Jesus has a demon when I discover He dies for all sinners, yet not all sinners are spared everlasting death and hell. I love what Jesus says in the Gospels, but I can’t get behind everything He says, especially the stuff about loving my enemies. “They” are my enemies for a reason. Maybe Jesus will look the other way just this once and let me have my way.
You want your way with Jesus? Your way is the way of death. Your way is the way of the Jews who accuse Jesus. He can’t be greater than Abraham. Abraham is our father. We have no king but Caesar. As for this Jesus, well, He says and does a lot of good things, but He’s not for me. His way is too narrow. He lays down too many rules and regulations. I can’t live like I want. I’m not what you’d call a holy person. I have my own problems. I have my own life to live. I can’t be bothered with a Middle Eastern man telling me what to do and what not to do.
Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. Had you, and the Jews who accuse Him, read the Scriptures, you would have seen this to be true. Who will you believe, the Son of God Himself Who testifies about Himself and glorifies His Father in heaven? Or will you believe a group of scholars who are more interested in preserving their way of life?
The yoke and burden of Jesus Christ is to carry your sin to the cross and bury them in the tomb. Jesus comes to die for sins committed by both Jew and Gentile. Only a sinless sacrifice is able to atone for sin. This is what the author of the epistle to the Hebrews refers when he writes that Jesus, the Tabernacle with skin, entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…. He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Jesus comes to take care of the Father’s business. The Father’s business is to mediate a new covenant, a new promise that only He can make and keep. He makes it to Satan in Adam and Eve’s presence. He keeps it when His only-begotten Son is implanted by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the Word spoken to her. He keeps it when His chosen people, for whom Jesus came, did not know Him. His own people gave Jesus into the hands of the authorities to have them crucify their Savior. The cross becomes the holy place where Jesus enters, once for all, to make the ultimate sacrifice for sin. His blood is sufficient payment. He becomes what He was not, sin, in order that you become what you were not, righteous.
This is what Abraham saw and believed when he took his only son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him just as God told him. He believed God would provide the sacrifice even though he was ready to slay his son. God provided that sacrifice for him: a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. The ram is a sufficient substitute. Jesus is Abraham’s, and our, sufficient substitute. You will never taste death, for Jesus Christ has kept His Father’s Word for you. He delivers you from your enemies. He rescues you from the man of violence. He declares you righteous by washing you in baptismal water and feeding you with His very Body and Blood. He alone cuts the cords of the wicked and sets you free.