Sermon – Pentecost 1 – Trinity – June 16, 2019
John 8:49-59 ‘Before Abraham’
CT: Our ideas of who God should be and what He should be like conflict with the truth of Jesus being fully God for us, one with the Father and the Spirit—revealed for our salvation.
Intro: I can remember working under the hood of my 1st car; I could see everything and knew how it worked. But open the hood on a car today, and you don’t know where to begin. You just hope there’s a mechanic out there somewhere who does. And we accept that, but when it comes to God many people want Him reduced to someone they can put in their pocket.
Trinity: We are far from Adam and Eve who walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening, knowing Him as He wants to be known, loving Him, and desiring to please Him. Sin and rebellion, thinking we could know better than God, separated us from God, corrupted our reason, and our ability to both know and please Him. To top it off, Scripture tells us that the devil blinds the minds of unbelievers. (2 Cor 4:4) We would be lost forever and face not only physical death, but eternal death, forever apart from God who is love, life, and our only hope. Yet God in His mercy revealed Himself in words, spoken by His prophets and recorded for us in the Bible, and now most clearly through His Son. The mystery is: God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—3 persons but One God.
We call this the Trinity; a name we’ve given to describe who God says He is, and have tried to express this truth in the the 3 ecumenical creeds. The Athanasian Creed is particularly precise and at the same time, hard to understand. St. Augustine wrote a whole book about the Trinity; some would say he went too far and others not far enough. Yet rather than speculate about the hidden-ness of God, we need to be content with what He has told us!
There’s a story of St. Augustine walking down a beach contemplating the mystery of God when he came upon a child who had a dug a rather large hole and was making trip after trip from the ocean with his pail to fill it with water. When Augustine asked the young boy what he was doing, the child responded: “I’m trying to empty the sea into the hole I’ve made.” That’s when Augustine said it struck him. He too was trying to put the infinite into the finite. God is more than his head can hold.
Jewish people and Christians alike have struggled with God’s self-revelation. Moses wrestled with God’s identity wanting to know His name that he might tell the people who sent Him to lead them out of Egypt and slavery. And God said “I am who I am!” Yaweh, the great I Am! It’s the controversy that Peter pointed out in Acts, one Jesus put forward to the Pharisees in Matthew 22 about the Christ being David’s son and Lord. Jesus was describing who He is.
The Jesus Conundrum: The world continues to press for answers about who Jesus is, and often resort to passionate arguments, even anger. Jesus acted with kindness, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and taught with such accuracy that even the religious leader of that day could find no fault. Their sinful nature erupted against the One who is without sin. Jesus had already told this angry mob that the reason they cannot hear or believe His words is because their father is not God or Abraham, but the devil; the father of all lies. You can imagine how well that went over! And Jesus knew this because Abraham rejoiced to see His day: “He saw it and was glad.”
There is only one way this could be possible and the crowd and the Pharisees weren’t willing to go there—but Jesus did. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Our Conundrum: Over the centuries many groups have twisted Jesus’ words to mean many things or anything in order to avoid this mystery at the centre of God’s love for you and me. Without the intervention of God’s Word and Spirit, people can’t get past the devil’s lies that only allow for a distant, demanding God who tells us to pull up our socks and at least meet Him halfway in this mess we call life. Oh, God might reach in at arm’s length to poke around in the world, specifically touch one man or another, and even find one good enough to become a ‘god’ in his own eyes! But not draw close, or get His hands dirty, walk with us in our flesh, feel our pain firsthand, and then die for us.
God’s Truth: But that’s who Jesus is. He’s fully man living under God’s Law and the threat of death as we do, able to bleed and die. Yet Jesus is also fully God, living fully as the Father wills. He is the perfect sacrifice, sufficient in every way to pay for the mountain of sin that each one of us is part of. This goes way beyond walking a mile in our shoes; He walks the ‘Green Mile’ in our place. Jesus is not some God-made superhero but God Himself in our flesh able to defeat the father of all lies, undo the curse of sin, death, and eternal separation from God with a love and grace that’s wider and deeper than we can ever wrap our minds around. Rising from the dead, Jesus is God with us now—our living Lord; the God of the living.
God for Us: From the beginning of the Bible to the end, the Trinity—this unique unity and harmony of God is revealed in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see each person working at times for our benefit in ways that stand out and yet one is never apart from the other; as Jesus put it, “The Father and I are one.” God’s revelation of Himself is not that we should be able to satisfy our curiosity or master Him with definitions or put Him in neatly defined categories, but that we would know the fullness of God, all of God with nothing held back, is for us; that you and I might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, God for us and God with us, and that by believing have life in His name.