Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sermon for the third mid-week Lent service - Jn 15:18-25

                                                                                                            Mid-Lent 3
                                                                                                            Jn 15:18-25

            “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  Now there are some cheery words to brighten your evening.  Jesus says, “if the world hates you.”  But the word “if” doesn’t indicate that this may not happen if you are lucky.  Instead, Jesus says that the world has hated him.  As one who believes in Jesus Christ, therefore the world will hate you.  If the world doesn’t hate you, then you are doing something in this Christian faith thing wrong.
            When the Gospel of John refers to the “world” it is describing our culture and all of the ways it is warped and twisted by sin. The world we live in is run by sin and therefore under the control of the devil.  John says this directly in his first letter when he writes, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
            The world hates Jesus, and the Gospel of John tells us exactly why.  Earlier in the Gospel we hear about the world’s response to the incarnate Son of God: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
            Jesus declares the world to be what it really is – a sinful and evil place.  The world thinks it is shining and wonderful.  Jesus reveals that it is covered in poop.  And the world does not want to hear this. Jesus says in this Gospel that the world “hates me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”
            The coming of Jesus has changed everything.  In our text Jesus says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”  And then he adds, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.”
            You can’t undo the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  You can’t pretend that the word of Jesus Christ has not gone out into the world.  A person can choose to ignore it, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus Christ’s life and witness confronts them through his word. And that is why he world hates Jesus.
            In our text, Jesus returns to something he had said earlier as he states, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  Our Lord says that if we believe in him, then we must expect persecution. 
            We certainly do see persecution of Christians around the world.  In places like China, North Korea and Iran our brothers and sisters in Christ are imprisoned because of the faith.  In countries such as Nigeria, Sudan, Libya and Egypt Christians are killed.
            We thank God that we do no face the threat of physical harm where we live, and that we are free to worship the Lord.  But persecution is present in other forms. The world sneers at the idea that there is an almighty God who has established what is right and wrong. It mocks the very idea of sin. In particular, in the area of human sexuality it stands ready to attack anyone who opposes homosexuality or the notion that there are only two sexes – male and female – and that you are born as one or the other.
            These views are developments that many of us have seen occur in our own lifetime.  We are surprised and shocked to find that the world now attacks us on these things.  But we shouldn’t be. After all, Jesus says, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” The nature of this persecution and the points of pressure may shift and change over time, but it has always been there.
            It will always be there.  It will because you are not the person you once were. You were conceived and born as flesh – as sinful and fallen.  In that state, you were a perfect fit for the world.  However, in our text Jesus says, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
            Jesus Christ chose you.  He called you by the Gospel. You were born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  You have been born again of the Spirit and so you are no longer flesh.  You may be living in the midst of the world, but you are no longer of this world.  You don’t fit in here.  You know that the deeds and ways of the world are sinful and evil. And for that reason, the world hates you, just as it hated Jesus.
            In our text the Lord says, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  Then he adds, “But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”  The world will persecute us because of Jesus. But this action simply reveals a deeper ignorance: the world does not know the Father.
            In the prologue to the Gospel, John tells us about the Son of God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  He declares, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And then he adds in the last verse of the prologue: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.”
            It is only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who can reveal the Father. But at the same time, to reject the Son is to reject the Father who sent him.  Jesus says in our text, “Whoever hates me hates my Father also.”
            You have been chosen by Christ.  You have come to Christ because the Father has drawn you.  You have been born again of water and the Spirit.  And so while the world hates Christ, and while the world hates you, you know about the true love that gives forgiveness and eternal life.
            The Father sent the Son in love.  He did it in love for you.  He did it in love for the whole world. We hear in chapter three, “For God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
            In love the Father sent forth the Son.  Jesus said to those who opposed him, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not come on my own initiative, but he sent me.”
            The Father sent forth the Son.  And during Lent we are preparing to remember and observe again the reason he did so.  Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
            The Father sent forth the Son to lay down his life for us on the cross.  Jesus came to lay down his life by being lifted up on the cross. Our Lord said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
            Jesus offered himself for our sins.  He was lifted up on the cross where he cried out, “It is finished!” and died.  And then in his resurrection he began the eternal life is that already ours through faith and baptism.
            The world hates Jesus. The world hates us because we believe in Jesus.  But in Jesus Christ we have received the Father’s love. We have received the forgiveness won by the Son as he obeyed the Father and offered himself in our place.  We have been chosen by Jesus so that we are no longer of the world.  Instead, we are the children of God who possess eternal life.  As John commented on this in his first letter, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God, and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, but because it did not know him.” The world doesn’t know Jesus in faith, but we do. And so we rejoice in the eternal life that is ours now as we look for Jesus Christ’s return on the Last Day. 



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