March 22, 2015
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A fallacy is an error in reasoning or logic. There are many different fallacies and kinds of fallacies, and they are often put into use when a person is proved wrong or doesn’t have any evidence for his assertion. You probably use them all the time without even knowing it.
A fallacy that you’re likely to find a lot is the ad hominem argument. This is a tactic for when you’re trying to disprove your opponent. Ad hominem means “against the person,” and it’s an argument that is leveled against a person in order to discredit what that person is saying. For example, if a farmer is trying to convince you that man never landed on the moon, you might respond by saying, “Well, you’re just a farmer and not an astronaut, so you can’t tell me that man never landed on the moon.” While the farmer’s assertion is wrong, the fact that he’s a farmer and not an astronaut is irrelevant to the argument and proves nothing. In fact, there are farmers who know quite a bit about aerospace.
The example I just gave was a pretty mild one; the ad hominem argument can also get really nasty, especially when you know that you’re wrong. Often times, when you’re presented with a truth you’d rather not accept, the best way to keep from accepting that truth is to insult and attack the person who spoke it. Politicians specialize in this kind of ad hominem, and they keep doing it because it really does work when you know that you’re in the wrong.
Today’s Gospel begins with an ad hominem argument. Jesus says, The one who is of God listens to the words of God; for this reason you are not listening, because you are not of God (v 47). The Jews don’t like what He has to say (it’s pretty blunt), so they respond, The Jews answered and said to Him, “Are we not rightly saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (v 48). They speak not one syllable to what Jesus says to them, but attack His person to discredit what He says.
Why a Samaritan? Samaritans may have been even more detestable to the Jews than full-blooded Gentiles. Samaritans were descended from the tribes of Israel, but their bloodlines were tainted. Which also mean that they were ritually and ceremonially unclean. And these were the people that Jesus kept hanging out with and talking about. He’s probably one of them. If being a Samaritan, or at least a sympathizer, wasn’t enough, all of His crazy talk is probably because He’s possessed.
The Jews were not the first to attack the person of Christ (that was Satan), nor were they the last. The first several hundred years of the Christian Church were spent trying to hash out who Jesus is. All of the really good heresies of the ancient Church were about the person of Christ. Marcionism and Gnosticism and docetism—that Jesus wasn’t truly man, but a supernatural spirit who only appeared to be a man; Arianism—that Jesus was not God, but a creature of God; Nestorianism—that the divine and human nature of Jesus shared nothing in common; Eutychianism—that the two natures melded into something new and unlike us; Apollinarianism—that the divine nature of Jesus occupied His human body in place of a human soul. Every one is an attack on the person of Jesus in order to discredit Him and what He says.
These errors didn’t go away in the first couple hundred years of the Christian Church. They lie hidden for years in the Church like a chronic disease that breaks out from time to time in new and particularly ghastly ways. When the first Lutherans were asked to explain what it was that they believed, one of the articles accepted by all was on the person of Christ—that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, that the divine nature and human nature are united in that one person, neither nature changing what it is, but each sharing its attributes with the whole person of Jesus. And so when Jesus died on the cross, it was the living God who died.
There would have never been one attack, one insult, one threat against the person of Jesus if He had just kept His mouth shut. It’s not Him that people don’t like, it’s what He says. His Word. It just rubs Old Adam the wrong way, because He shows that your Old Adam—that is, your heart, your desires, your natural religion—are not of God. Though God gave you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members when you were born, the devil had your heart. The world had your love. Your own self had your undivided attention. You were not born of God.
That is, you were not born of God until you were born of water and the Spirit. Jesus said, Amen, amen, I am saying to you, unless someone is born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God…unless someone is born of water and Spirit, he is not able to come into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3; 5).
When you were baptized, you were born from above, born of water and the Spirit of God, which is His Word. For without the Word of God, the water is plain water, and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. You are baptized, so you are of God. And because you are of God, you listen to His Word. And if you keep His Word, guard His Word, let nothing be added to or taken away from His Word, then the Word will keep you focused on Jesus.
The Word of the Eternal Son of God Keeps Your Eyes on Him
Amen, amen, I am saying to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will certainly not see death for eternity. The Jews are befuddled as to how Jesus can make eternal promises. But what He says next drives them absolutely apoplectic.
The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died—and the prophets—but you are saying, ‘If anyone keeps My Word, he will certainly not taste death for eternity.’” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died. What are you making yourself? Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies me, of who you say that He is our God.” And you don’t know Him; I know Him. And if I should say that I did not know Him, then I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him and I keep His Word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he would behold My day, and he saw and was glad. Then the Jews said to Him, “You don’t have fifty years, and You have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I am saying to you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM.”
Before Abraham came into existence, I AM. It’s not just bad grammar that Jesus uses. I AM is the divine Name of God, revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Jesus identifies Himself with the voice that spoke to Moses and all of the encounters God has with man in the Old Testament. Even though Jesus had only seen thirty-something years in the flesh, He existed before all flesh.
John begins His Gospel, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word (Jn 1:1). The Word is another name for Jesus, the One who existed from the foundation of the world as the self-expression of the divine essence. He was before Abraham because He is eternal. Without beginning.
And He is now. He is still the Word of God, the One who speaks plain water into a Baptism and a lavish washing of grace. He is still the Word of God, declaring your sins forgiven without any reciprocation on your part necessary. He is still the Word of God, who became flesh and now dwells among us under bread and wine. Amen, amen, I am saying to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will certainly not see death for eternity. His Word is His promise and His promise is for you.
And He will be the Word in the future. He is eternal. Without end. And as you have kept His Word, His Word will keep you until that last day. When your eyes awake from the slumber of death, He will be the One you see—the One who was before Abraham, who is now, and who will be into eternity. Amen, amen, I am saying to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will certainly not see death for eternity.
The promise that you will not see death for eternity doesn’t mean that you won’t taste death. Death is as inevitable as taxes and logical fallacies. You taste death even know—little bits at a time. But for you who have been born of water and of the Spirit, who keep the Word of God, death is not eternal. It’s the means to resurrection. You will taste death, but it’s a brief unpleasantness in the big picture, like a bitter taste on the tongue that disappears with a bite of something sweet. The sweet is your own resurrection in the body, eyes wide open to see your Lord and ears wide open to hear His Word forever.
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard