It is written: 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” ... 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” ... 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Thus the text.
Let us pray: Creator Father, You sent Your Son, who is God, to speak Your powerful Word to us who were born children of the devil. We are not Your children just because You created us rather we are Your children because we have heard Your Word. Grant us to keep hearing Your Gospel so that we may not see death; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Which one of you convicts Jesus of sin? Well, each one of us.
Each one of us was born in the devils kingdom. Jesus is the outsider in that kingdom. Jesus is from a foreign kingdom who invades and wants to take you away. Why do you, who have heard God's accusing Law and saving Gospel, not believe the Christ? You have no faith from above. You hear Jesus but you do not hear God because you are not children of God.
You have family and friends like this, too. They have no faith from above. They hear Jesus but they do not hear God because they are not children of God. And you weep for your family, your friends, even your enemies. They are good people but they have no faith. They are kind people but they remain children of the devil and are comfortable in His kingdom.
Jesus says, whoever keeps My Word, will never see death.
To often this is understood as keeping God's Law without faith. You try to be a good person, but you're never good enough. You try harder but to no avail. God's Holy Law is good but it is also an impossible law. Keep trying but death creeps closer.
Keep God's Word. For this you must be born from above St. John explained this to Nicodemus in John 3. You must be born by baptism in the water with the Word. God's Word and His Holy Spirit are never separated. Where you find water with God's Word added, there you find water with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-water gives you saving faith from above. The Worded Spirit water is holy baptism.
Keeping God's Word is receiving faith from Jesus, who is God. So, early on the first day of the week, you come here to receive from Jesus. Your hear His absolution and you receive this gift by faith. You hear God's Law and you receive the gift of His holy Law by faith and saying Amen. You hear God's Gospel by faith, of how He died a sinner's death so that you might be born from above, and you receive this holy gift by faith, trusting Jesus, knowing He will do what He says and He will give what He promises to you.
Keep God's Gospel by faith and you will not see death. Jesus does not say you will not die. Rather, Jesus says that those who keep God's Gospel by faith will not experience the full horror of death. Death, for the Christian, will be more like falling asleep at night and rising from the dead, for the Christian, will be more like waking up to a sunny day.
How do you fall asleep? You don't know how it happens but it does happen. You get tired. You lay down. You wake up in the morning. Sometimes you are so tired you are asleep before your head hits the pillow. Sometimes you are so stressed you count sheep into the middle of the night, but you still fall asleep. Sometimes you know your bedtime and when the hour comes you go through your routine and when you lay down you are asleep within a few minutes. In each case you fall asleep, but you don't know exactly how that happens.
How do you die? You don't know how it will happen but it will happen. Like sleep, you get tired, lay down, and wake up to Jesus. Some of you will die quickly, by accident or heart attack but you won't be fearful because you, by faith, you are born from above. Some of you will be ill for a long time before you die, but the pain won't be any greater than a sleepless night. Some of you will go through your evening routine and never wake up in the morning. The point is that you will not experience death and hell. That is for those who have no faith. You know people who have died in various ways. In any case you will die, even though you don't know exactly how it will happen. But even in dying you will be keeping God's Word because you trust Jesus to do what He has promised. Jesus won't keep you from death but He will keep you from seeing/experiencing death.
How can Jesus do this? Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Truly, truly, I AM God, says Jesus. God first gave His name as I AM to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus appeared to Moses and when Moses asked Him for His name, Jesus said, I AM, tell the Israelitess that I AM is sending you to free them from the Egyptians and bring you to the promised land. Sometimes you ask, Where does Jesus ever say He is God? Well, hear is one of many. Jesus said, the whole Old Testament is aout Me (John 5). Jesus is the I AM that led the Israelites of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry ground. Jesus is the I AM who gives you Himself in His Gospel. He give and you receive. One day, He will lead you to death but won't let you see death. Rather, you will wake up on resurrection day in a kingdom foreign to the devil and those who have no faith from above. And it will be ok. In fact it will be a renewed heaven and earth with no tear or sorrow; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard and protect your body and soul in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.