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Abraham rejoiced to see my day

John 8:46-59

Pastor David Ernst

Fifth Sunday in Lent
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Apr 3, 2022 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Samaritans were the descendants of Israelites from the northern ten tribes and of foreigners brought to Palestine by the Assyrians. The Jews considered the Samaritans as mongrels and heretics, because they did not accept the Temple of Jerusalem as the true habitation of God. Here the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan, that is, not a legitimate Jew perhaps because of the mysterious circumstances of his birth, and a heretic as well. The Christians to whom John writes this gospel were often accused by unbelieving Jews of being heretics and Samaritans, because there were converted Samaritans in their congregations.

However, Jesus did not answer his claim of his ancestry, but of being a heretic and demon-possessed. The fact that it was impossible to find a sin or a blemish in Jesus' behavior was of paramount importance because Jesus could not offer himself as the vicarious atonement for our sins if he were not free from all guilt. As our epistle says (Hebrews 9:11-15):

“Not by the blood of goats or calves, but by his own blood, he entered the holy of holies once, having obtained for us eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on the unclean, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more does the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works, that you may serve the living God?”

Only once did Jesus give his life, only once did he shed his blood for us, but that sacrifice was once and forever, because he paid for the redemption of the entire world forever. The high priests of the Old Testament had to renew their atonement for the sins of the people every year, mainly because the sacrifices they brought were only typical and symbolic. The Old Testament believers did not put their trust in the essential merit of their sacrifices, but in the Messiah and his work, to whom all their ceremonies pointed. Through the annual atonement made by the Old Testament high priests, God's covenant with his chosen people was always renewed and Israel continually restored to her rights as a covenant people. But Christ, through his blood, through his salvation, has established a new covenant, one by which we are sure of God's mercy and have fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This word, the gospel or good news, is the one that those who keep in their hearts by faith never die eternally. The Pharisees understood that in order to grant eternal life to his followers, Jesus would have to be greater and more powerful than Abraham, the greatest of his patriarchs. And this was something that the Pharisees did not want to accept.

Jesus answered them: "Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad." When did Abraham rejoice to see Jesus' day? According to Martin Luther, the early church fathers and many rabbis of the Jews, in the birth of the son that Abraham and Sarah had waited for so many years, Isaac, Abraham could see the day of the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah born of the lineage of Isaac.

Our epistle of last Sunday (Galatians 4:21-31), says this: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons; one from the slave, and one from the free.” The main point of difference between the two sons of Abraham was that one, Ishmael, was born after the flesh, according to the normal course of nature, Abraham having taken Hagar as his concubine, and the other, Isaac, through the promise , by virtue of the divine promise, according to which God restored to Sarah the ability to give birth to this son. And the promise of the gospel, the good news of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

But, there is more. Who was the Angel of the Lord who stayed the hand of Abraham at the last moment of the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)? Throughout the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, the word “angel” or messenger of the Lord sometimes refers to humans, sometimes to heavenly beings who are not divine, and sometimes to a person who is clearly God Himself. Who was this person?

"Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am." I am without a predicate is the divine name in the Old Testament. When Moses asked the Angel of Jehovah in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush, “What is his name?”, God answered Moses: I AM THAT I AM. Also the Angel of Jehovah who appeared to Abraham on Mount Moriah told him, “Do not stretch out your hand on the boy, nor do anything to him; that I already know that you fear God, since you did not withhold your son, your only one.”

This divine angel does not appear in the New Testament. Why not? Because it is Jesus. It was the appearance of the second person of the Holy Trinity before the Incarnation. It was the Son of God who called Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac. Before the Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, on Mount Moriah our Lord himself provided Abraham with an animal to sacrifice in place of his son. And through the Law of Moses, he provided animals for the sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple. When Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am," he not only declared his pre-existence, but also his divinity.

The epistle to the Hebrews attributes to Abraham the belief in the resurrection, chapter 11:17-19. Abraham was going to offer the son of promise to the Lord only because his faith had led him to the conclusion that even from the dead God is able to resurrect.

Therefore, there was no trouble in Abraham's heart when God called him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham would only understand this in terms of a material sacrifice or burnt offering. But, God asked for a spiritual surrender of the son that Abraham demonstrates his spiritual surrender by his willingness to make the material sacrifice.

However, God does not lie or deceive anyone. A son of Abraham should die, the very seed that God promised to Abraham as a blessing to all nations. This son of Abraham is also the only Son of God.

Abraham knew the Son of God as the Angel of the Lord, but we know him as Jesus Christ. The fullness of the promise was revealed in Christ. Abraham did not know how his seed, Jesus, would be a blessing to all nations, nor the magnitude of his sacrifice. But we do. We have the evidence of God's good will, the complete revelation of his salvation.

In baptism we have received the same gift of faith as Abraham, but with the knowledge of the fulfillment of the plan of salvation. In this knowledge and trust we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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