Katie discovered that I was attending the Seminary (and preparing for the pastoral ministry). I discovered that Katie was attending a Lutheran University just a few miles away. She grew up in a Lutheran home; I grew up in a Lutheran home. She worshipped at a nearby Lutheran congregation. I worshipped at a nearby Lutheran congregation. I assumed that being ‘Lutheran’ meant that we shared the same scriptural position that Martin Luther did. Only in the Bible do we hear that we are saved by grace [God’s undeserved love] through faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, like all good students, we griped about assignments. That seemed like a good topic at the time. In my final year of studies, I had to write a 40 to 60-page paper defending an argument. I did not look forward to that. Katie offered some advice. It went something like this:
“A topic on the Bible? That shouldn’t be too hard. Write whatever you want and then say: ‘That’s my interpretation.’ No professor can argue with what you think is true.”
Ten years later and those words still stick with me. That phrase: ‘It’s my interpretation’ is a fancy way of saying: ‘I will choose to believe whatever I want about the Bible. I will accept whatever seems reasonable to me. I will reject whatever seems unacceptable to me.’ When the heart says, ‘That’s my interpretation,’ no longer does God’s Word lead the heart. Instead, the heart tries to lead God.
On these Wednesdays during Lent, we meet opponents of truth. Each adversary confronts undeniable truth, but refuses to be led by that truth. Powerful officials claim the right to establish and enforce ‘truth.’
Those officials are the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin is a Jewish council made up of the high priest, teachers of the law, and other priests. Now, when you hear ‘Sanhedrin’ think: ‘American government.’ ‘Government’ is not one group of people. The ‘government’ consists of three branches: the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative. The President of the United States works together with Congress and Senate to form laws deemed legal by the Supreme Court. The priests, elders, and teachers work together to understand Scripture and apply it to the Jews. They stand as the final authority in religious matters.
Before them stands Jesus. They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” These scholars know to expect God’s Great One. Teachers of the law spend life poring over the law of Moses. In that law Moses points ahead to God’s Son: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him (Deuteronomy 18:15). The chief priest searches for God’s Ruler. After all, God promised the great Jewish king, King David, ‘I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom’ (2 Samuel 7:12). The Pharisees, who cut out pieces of Scripture and literally tie these scraps to their heads and hands and sew more pieces into the hems of their robes, they ache for the brilliant preaching of God’s Son. Isaiah said he would come: ‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations’ (42:1). The Sanhedrin search and hope and scour for the Anointed One.
Now here stands Jesus. They have seen unexplainable miracles. They have heard powerful teachings no one can dispute. They have Old Testament prophecy. Put them all this evidence together and hear Jesus reply, “You are right in saying I am.”
Just like that, centuries of waiting reach their end! [T]hey said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” They have identified the Son of God! Now they can follow Jesus! The high priest can hand over the chair. The Pharisees can let Jesus guide. The teachers of the law can listen— except that does not happen, does it?
Instead, the Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial. What a trial you observe! The teachers of the law ignore the law of Moses; they hold a trial under the cover of darkness. The Pharisees delete God’s Eighth Commandment; they encourage liars. No one reprimands the liars. No one calls a mistrial. The high priest sets aside the Fifth Commandment and wants Jesus dead. For leaders devoted to Scripture, you imagine they would hold a God-pleasing trial. They do not.
These officials confront undeniable truth: Jesus is the Son of God. Yet, they do not Jesus. They a politician. Someone to chase out the Roman overlords. Someone who ends hunger and poverty. Someone who creates an independent nation of Israel. That’s what they want. Jesus does not meet those demands. So, they get rid of him.
Instead of God’s Word leading the heart, the heart tries leading God. It tries making Jesus the God we want. The God who fills our expectations. A God who stuffs the accounts with cash and the house with stuff. A God who prevents all disease and cures all cancer. A God who punishes (those we consider) wicked and rewards (those we consider) worthy. A God who does not chastise my wandering eye. A God who does not correct my words. A God who does not expose my love for this world. A God who does not demand that I worship him above the [grand]child and sporting events, the weekend activities and getaways. A God who fills life with health and wealth! That is the God Jesus needs to be.
Then when I do not get my way, I threaten him. I threaten Jesus with no longer believing in him. No longer shaping my life to his teachings. No longer praying. No longer waiting for him to act. No longer holding him in my heart. Although I might never put that into words, the heart can foist me over Jesus and treat him less powerful than Almighty God.
The Sanhedrin, in all its might and wisdom claim the right to establish and enforce ‘truth.’ After years of deliberation they determine that Jesus cannot be the Son of God. (1) They reject the mighty miracles. (2) They push aside Scripture’s prophecy. (3) They deny God’s approval of Jesus. The ones with the Word trample God underfoot. How dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God! (Hebrews 10:29-31)
Because that is who Jesus is. We Have Heard It from His Own Lips! He is the Son of God! He speaks the truth!
Katie offered some well-meaning advice: ‘Choose to believe whatever you want about the Bible. Accept whatever seems reasonable. Reject whatever seems unacceptable.’ Except, the Bible is not unreasonable, nor can I just willingly set aside what God writes down.
All those Old Testament prophecies, like a flashing neon arrow, point to Jesus. Mary, a virgin, conceives a child and gives birth to a Son while staying at an inn in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2). Jesus, born of the Jewish race, rises up with teachings greater than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). As prophet, he preaches so that the world sees him as Savior of the soul! Jesus, born from David’s family tree, establishes a kingdom. No, not something earthly, with an army and a palace. Instead, Jesus rules hearts and minds. He speaks, the heart trusts. He speaks, the mind applies. Like a light shining in a dark place, Jesus makes this clearly known for us to read and hear and believe! (Isaiah 9:2)
All those miracles reveal that Jesus has the power God has. Demons driven out because the Majestic God orders them out. The diseased and deformed healed because the Creator God cures his creation. Water becomes wine, storms stand still because the Almighty King commands order. Those miracles speak truth: Jesus is God!
Even God the Father says— not once, but twice: ‘This is my Son. With him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). No one can deny that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, speaks truth when he says: “You are right in saying that I am [the Son of God].”
We Have Heard It from His Own Lips! What a truth we hear! The Son of God wraps himself in human flesh. He places himself under the law of Moses and fully obeys each command. He stands trial, but never accuses his Father of neglect. He receives the death sentence, but never gripes about unfairness. The Father turns his back and Jesus never lashes out. The Son of God steps into the place of the smug heart. He becomes the target of God’s anger. The innocent life of the Son of God removes every act of superiority.
Then, greatest of greatest miracles: Jesus rises (Romans 1:4). God the Father makes it abundantly clear that this Jesus, now living, is his Son.
We Have Heard It from His Own Lips. Jesus is the Son of God! He speaks the truth! When Jesus says, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ (John 20:23) that means, he has authority to erase the past. The devil cannot dredge up what you did and hang guilt over you. Jesus has removed it. He said so. He has the authority to make that a reality.
When Jesus says, ‘Because I live, you also will live,’ (John 14:19) that means, you will be in heaven. Some so-called intellectuals might mock that belief. Maybe you question if God can really piece together what has become dust. He can. Jesus said so. He has the authority to raise body and soul.
When Jesus says, ‘I am with you always,’ (Matthew 28:20) that means, you do not live life alone. Jesus’ Word gently lifts up the chin to see him. To remind you that you do not follow just anyone, but the One God sent. Our words cannot make things work out for own good, but Jesus’ words can and they do. We Have Heard It from His Own Lips!
On these Wednesdays during Lent, we meet opponents of truth. Each adversary confronts undeniable truth, but refuses to be led by that truth. Powerful officials claim the right to establish and enforce ‘truth.’ How foolish they act! They Have Heard It from His Own Lips. Jesus is the Son of God! They can blame no one but themselves for their stubborn rejection.
We Have Heard It from His Own Lips. Jesus is the Son of God! How wonderful that is! His life on the cross counts for us. He speaks the truth when he says we are forgiven. When he promises his presence. When he guarantees his help. We Have Heard It from His Own Lips! What a Word to lead the heart!