Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
April 7, 2019
“Which one of you convicts me of sin?”, Jesus asks his crowd of antagonists. And of course, they cannot convict Jesus of any wrong doing. Jesus has only taught the truth. And he only does good. What, are they going to condemn him for healing the sick and feeding the hungry? Yet, it is important for you to believe that Jesus does not say these words for himself alone. He speaks these words for your benefit.
Jesus is without sin. He has done nothing wrong. He is perfect and therefore impervious to condemnation. But the eternal Son of God did not become a perfect human being for his own sake. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (vs. 30-31) Jesus’ righteous is for us. He proves to his antagonists that they cannot convict him of sin and so he proves to us, who trust in Jesus, that no one can convict us of sin either. Because, Jesus says in John 16, The Holy Spirit “will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (vss. 14-15)
What Jesus has is righteousness and glory from his Father. The Holy Spirit takes this righteousness and declares it to you. This is why St. Paul says in Philippians chapter 3, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” The Jews cannot convict Jesus of sin. And because Jesus gives us his righteousness, neither can anyone convict us of sin.
Again, this is why St. Paul says in Romans 8, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Who can convict Jesus of sin? No one. Who, then can bring a charge against you, who trust in Jesus? No one. Jesus is our perfect High Priest, who offered himself without blemish to God and purified our consciences with his blood. Jesus gives his righteousness to us through faith. And so, with great joy do we hear Jesus say, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?”, knowing that no one can find a single fault with Christ and Christ is our righteousness.
Think what this means! It is not just these charlatans, who cannot find guilt in Jesus, but neither can the angels in heaven nor the devils in hell, not even God the Father himself. No one can convict Jesus of sin. Therefore, no one can convict you of sin. Through faith in Jesus you have a special relationship with him, which gives you great benefits beyond what you can imagine. The Prophet Isaiah says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10) This is the relationship faith gives you. Jesus freely gives you all his riches, his status, his name, his innocence. Through faith, Jesus declares you more beautiful than any crown in heaven, as the Bridegroom says to his Bride in Song of Solomon chapter 4, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”
Jesus’ words are comforting to those who believe them. They mean that God finds no fault in you; that he finds you righteous and beautiful as he does Christ. But listen to how Jesus’ opponents respond to Jesus. “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” This is how the opponents to the truth argue. Since they cannot appeal to the truth to prove Jesus wrong, they demonize him.
God put enmity between the woman and the serpent and between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed. The woman’s seed is Jesus. The serpent’s seed are all those who follow after Satan by rejecting God’s word. Yet, Jesus is not alone in the battle. Everyone, who belongs to Christ is Satan’s enemy. Which means that all those who follow after Satan are at enmity with Jesus’ Christians. “If they called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (Matthew 10:25) If you share in Christ’s righteousness, then you will be hated by Satan and all who are on his side.
All the saints in the Bible were attacked by followers of Satan. Abel was killed by Cain. Israel was afflicted by Egypt. Saul persecuted David. And the apostles were all persecuted along with all who followed in their train.
So, pay careful attention to how Jesus argues with these antagonists. They demonize him, because they cannot appeal to the truth. But Jesus does not defend himself. He doesn’t glorify himself. He lets the Father glorify him. Jesus teaches us to cling to God’s word and let God glorify us. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord, who declares you righteous for Jesus’ sake.
You will not win by demonizing your opponent. The two commands on which hinge all Scripture always apply, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” You will never win by demonizing your neighbor. Now, you will be demonized. You will be accused of hatred, blasphemy, stupidity, and so forth. If they did it to Jesus, they will certainly do it to you. But Jesus teaches you not to hate your neighbor, but to cling to the truth. Do not call evil good, even if the whole world insists upon it. Do not forsake the truth of God’s word to accommodate lies. Repent of your sins and trust in the forgiveness Jesus earned for you on the cross. Believe that God finds you righteous for Jesus’ sake. And no one in heaven or hell or on this earth can take God’s glory away from you.
Jesus’ opponents demonized him, because they could not appeal to the truth. They do the same thing today. Assassinate a man’s reputation, destroy his name, make him the devil himself and it doesn’t matter what he says or does, he will remain the bad guy. And it works. Many righteous men and women, who held firm on the truth have been hated by all as a result of this tactic. Jesus teaches us not to behave this way. But there is an important distinction to make. God does not want you to demonize your neighbor. That does not mean that you should not call evil, evil. To keep God’s word means that you confess that God’s word is true and that which contradicts God’s word is false. Jesus plainly tells his opponents that they are not of God, because they do not follow his word. He even says that they are of their father, the devil, because they desire to kill him for speaking the truth. This is not needlessly polemical speech on the part of Christ. Jesus is speaking the truth in love, even as he did when he said to his disciple Peter, “Get behind me Satan,” when Peter would have prevented him from dying on the cross for the sins of the world.
Keeping the word of God is done not only by the heart, but in word and action. To keep the word of God means to defend those who are being mistreated, to repent when you sin against God by living contrary to God’s word, to forgive those who sin against you, to confess Christ, and to reject everything that is contrary to God’s word; this includes idolatry, sexual immorality, slander, and covetousness. If you do such things without repenting and turning to Christ for forgiveness, then you cannot say that you are of God.
You are either of God or you are of Satan. Those who are not of God do not listen to the words of God. Those who are of God do listen to the words of God. Jesus makes this very clear. Jesus’ opponents are not of God. They will not listen to Jesus’ words. They go so far as to deny the resurrection, a teaching their father Abraham trusted in. Jesus knows that they are not of God, because they will not listen to God’s word.
This means that if you are to be of God, if you are to be God’s children and to share in Christ’s righteousness, then you must keep Jesus’ words. You must hear them, believe them, and cherish them. Hold on tight to the promises God makes to you even if the world crumbles down around you.
This is how you know whether you are of God or whether you are of the devil: do you keep Jesus’ words? Do you renounce what Jesus tells you to renounce? Do you believe the promises Jesus gives you in the Gospel, the promises of life and forgiveness? Or, do you ignore what God’s word says about how you should live your life? Do you demonize others in order to justify yourself? Do you form the convictions of your heart apart from consulting God’s word?
You will not know whether you are of God or whether you are of Satan based on how strongly you believe what you believe. Satan’s followers have strong faith too. You will know that you are of God if what you believe is grounded in God’s word. This means you must renounce yourself, kill your pride, and take solace in God’s word. Let God’s word be your teacher and source of truth, even if it means that you must admit that you were wrong.
Keeping God’s word sounds like it is law, because it sounds like something that we must work at. But keeping God’s word really means to treasure it and hold it as a precious gift, which can only be done through faith. And faith is a gift from God. When you keep God’s word you are holding precious the gift of eternal life, which God gives you through Jesus Christ. You hold to the promise that just as Jesus cannot be convicted of any sin, so too are you innocent of all sin, because God has forgiven you for Christ’s sake. God has removed your sins from you and placed Christ’s righteousness on you as a gift, like a new garment washed clean, which God intends for you to wear for the rest of eternity. And you wear this clean garment only through faith in God’s promise to forgive you for Christ’s sake.
When you keep God’s word you rejoice in the same day as Abraham rejoiced in. Abraham looked forward to the promised Seed, we look back through Scripture. But we rejoice in the same day and cling to the same promise.
Jesus’ antagonists picked up stones to throw at him, because he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” They hated Jesus for claiming to be God. Yet, we who hold to God’s word rejoice in these words of Jesus. “Before Abraham was, I am.”, means that Jesus is not just any man, but he is the eternal God. Which means that his words are trustworthy enough to die for. Jesus indeed died for these words, yet, he lives forever. And Jesus promises you that if you keep these same words, you too will live forever, even if you die.