“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Telling the truth is good. It keeps us out of trouble in preschool, and at home and at work too. It shows people can trust us to do the right thing and that we care about what’s right. It shows we are sorry when we do wrong and we desire to do better next time. Sometimes telling the truth can be the difference between life and death.
Right before the start of today’s Gospel, Jesus had said that those who abide, who remain, in His Word are His disciples and know the truth, and the truth will set them free. That made the Jews mad. They claimed they’d never been anyone’s slaves. This was crazy talk, since they were Rome’s slaves right then, and their forefathers had served Babylon and Persia and Greece, and way back in their past was Egypt. But that wasn’t His point. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin….If The Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me because My Word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
This made them mad. They had the knee-jerk reaction of reiterating that Abraham was their father. He was their ancestor, but Jesus told them they’d forfeited their inheritance because they weren’t acting like him. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill Me, a Man Who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They claimed they weren’t illegitimate children, but had 1 Father – God. Jesus told them to think again. If they were God’s children, they would love Him, because God sent Him to them. They couldn’t understand Him because they couldn’t stand to hear His Word. That’s because their father was the devil, and they wanted to do their father’s desires. He’s a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because no truth is in him. He can’t help but lie. So those who belong to him can’t help but lie and not believe God’s Son.
That’s where today’s Gospel starts. He asked them to convict Him of a single sin, of lying. But He was telling the truth. He knew what He had heard in heaven. Now He was reporting it to mankind. His sheep hear His voice. Those who are not His sheep do not hear. They do not believe. They reject His Word and claim it is evil, when in fact they are evil. For the sons of God, those who are pure in heart, are those who believe His Word. They have been delivered from their enemies and lifted up above them so they cannot be harmed by sin, death, and Satan. They are judged in favor and delivered from the deceitful and unjust man by the God of their strength, Christ Jesus Himself.
Abraham saw His day and was glad. And Abraham knew Him. How could this be? He was no more than 33 years old! Surely He was possessed, they thought. There’s no way this guy could know Abraham! The great patriarch had been dead nearly 2000 years. Generations upon generations had passed on. Moses died before he could enter the Promised Land. Isaiah and Jeremiah had been martyred. There hadn’t been a living prophet for some 400 years. Yet St. John begins his Gospel by saying: “In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him; without Him nothing was made that has been made....The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of The Only-begotten Son of The Father, full of grace and truth.”
This Man Jesus is God The Son, The Second Person of The Holy Trinity. When The Father created all things, His Son went to work. Whenever God spoke to Abraham, to Moses and The Prophets, Jesus was speaking. He was not yet in the flesh, but they heard their Redeemer speaking to them. What did He tell them? He said that through the singular Seed of Abraham all the world would be blessed. He was not talking about the nation when He talked about Abraham’s Seed; He was talking about Himself. All the world is blessed through The Seed of the woman, The Virgin’s Child. Believing this promise Abraham went from Ur to Haran to Canaan. Believing this promise Moses led Israel out of Egypt. Believing this promise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the prophets wrote and preached.
Believing they risked all. They were preparing for eternity. They knew there was no more important preparation. If other things were more important or just as important, Abram would have stayed home back in comfy ol’ Ur of the Chaldees, Moses would have stayed in Midian or found a way to become Pharaoh, Daniel would have stopped praying when it was outlawed, and Joseph wouldn’t have fled to Egypt. They were preparing for eternity, for the longest and most important part of life.
Eternity is the longest and most important part of life – not childhood or adulthood, being a kid or a parent or grandparent, not grades, sports, scholarships, jobs, and money, play and recreation. None of those things are nearly as important as preparing for eternity. Abraham saw Jesus’ day and was glad. He believed Messiah was coming. So he left Ur because God wanted him to go to another place, and in that place fulfil His promises.
How do we prepare for eternity? We prepare by hearing God’s Word. Jesus says whoever keeps His Word will never experience death. The body will die, but it shall be like a slumber, for the soul of the believer is with God, awaiting the resurrection. Whoever keeps His Word will rise from the dead in glory on the last day to live eternally with Him.
Who keeps His Word? The person who believes, who trusts in Jesus. That’s what faith is. It’s simple trust in Jesus, that He died for you and rose again. It trusts that He took away our sins when He died, that He forgives us and loves us. It trusts that eternal life is ours because God died for us. Nothing we do can ever save us sinners; only Jesus can save.
Therefore whoever keeps His Word is saved. What is His Word? Nothing but The Holy Scriptures. This is the source of the message. This message tells you why you need a Savior: you are a sinner. You cannot keep any of God’s commandments perfectly; for example, the sinful flesh loves to hear and tell lies. You deserve eternal death. But God’s Word doesn’t leave you there. It then picks you up out of hell to take you up to heaven. Your Savior Jesus died for you to save you. He is fully in charge of your salvation. He has tied His Spirit into The Scriptures to lead you to trust in Him when you hear them.
That’s how you prepare for eternity: by hearing God’s Word, The Holy Bible. Read them, hear them, every day, every week. He works in you through them so you will believe them and He prepares you to live with Him forever. He governs and preserves you and leads you to everlasting life. And then you will be delivered from all your enemies, from sin, death, and Satan. You will be brought to live with God on His holy hill, yes, in paradise.