Judge Me, O God
Sundays in Lent are named after the first word in the Latin Introits. Today is Judica from "Vindicate" or "Judge me, O God."
Can you, dare you pray "Judge me, O God" you who really don't want to see the Jesus of the coming weeks? The Jesus spoken against, crucified, dead, and buried. The Jesus who goes to the cross helplessly, weakly, meekly. If Jesus doesn't even save Himself from suffering and death, how is He going to save you?
Are you willing to stand before God and say, "Judge me," when you're embarrassed by His Son for hiding Himself? Three verses after our text ends John reports, "When He had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid Himself from them." Jesus hides Himself today in plain looking Water, ordinary looking Bread and Wine, and in the words of a pastor that bore you. Do you dare pray, "Judge Me, O God," when you have a secret lust for the wonder working Jesus to show Himself and doubts about Jesus hidden Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion?
You really want God to judge you over against ungodly, deceitful, or wicked men? What case do you have against an ungodly nation or the most deceitful and wicked men? How are you different from them? Do you hate your life, your soul, or your self in this world as Jesus says? No you live, you worry, you act as if there is nothing beyond this world. Success, power, and pleasure for your life, your soul, yourself in this world is the best you hope for and your measure for being happy. Tell me how's that any different from ungodly, deceitful, wicked men?
It's not; yet you dare ask God to judge you? Do you really think you serve and follow Jesus more, better, or different than others? Are you even as faithful to Jesus as the Muslim is to Allah or the Mormon to his god? If God were to judge me right now on this score, all He would have to do is point to my being troubled at the economic situation. If mammon, money, and things were not my gods, I wouldn't be troubled so by their shaking.
Do you dare ask God for a word of judgment when you don't care about the other words He speaks? In the text the crowd hears God's voice speaking from heaven for their benefit. To some it was unintelligible; others thought an angel spoke, but no one paid attention to what he said. Do you? Have you? You think, "Bring it on" because you happen to be in church today hearing the voice of God. What about all the times He has spoken for your benefit and you were content not to know what He said?
Dare you pray, "Judge me, O God?" Jesus dared. That's how you should hear all the words God speaks in the Psalms. Hear them first and foremost in Jesus' mouth. Jesus, True God begotten of the Father from eternity and True Man born of the Virgin Mary is able to pray, "Judge Me, O God." He, a holy, innocent Man, really did have a case against an ungodly nation. He really did deserve to be rescued from deceitful and wicked men. When God spoke Jesus always heard. Though He had no place to lay His head and depended on sinful humans for food, He didn't worry like I do. He didn't love His soul, life or self in this world, but your soul, life, self and this world. He didn't turn away from suffering and dying as if that was failure but embraced going into the grave as a seed embraces planting in the ground in order to sprout, grow, and bear fruit.
Jesus could and did pray, "Judge Me, O God," and God took the side of ungodly, deceitful, wicked men. God took our side. It was like the case of twin brothers years ago in Los Angeles. One had committed a murder, got back to his house, and hid the bloody clothes. The police tracked the guilty brother back to his house, but while they were interrogating him, the innocent brother walked out in the bloody clothes. Case closed.
Your being ashamed for the weak ways God works and speaks was put on by Jesus. Your loving life, self, soul and personal happiness above all things was put on by Jesus. Your fearing, loving, and trusting in mammon more than God was put on by Jesus, and Jesus was found guilty.
So the cords of death entangled Jesus. He went down into the grave like you struggle in a nightmare entangled in your sheets. He fought; He struggled, yet still He died. Anguish of the grave that ought to come over sinners as they stare into that open hole came over Jesus. Remember how it pressed bloody sweat from Him in Gethsemane? Jesus says in the Introit, "I was overcome by trouble and sorrow," and in Gethsemane we see it happen. Jesus is like the child who really didn't do anything wrong whose parent suddenly rages at him. He's confused. He appeals to His Father but the Father turns away.
Jesus prayed, "Judge me, O God," and His Father did to the uttermost. All your sins, all your "failings," all your "weaknesses," were there. Your half-hearted devotion to spiritual things and your whole-hog devotion to physical things Jesus was judged guilty of. The black despairing of God's help we feel so righteous for having even though it's the worst unrighteousness Jesus bore for us. Blaming God for the temptations we give into by thinking, "Since I asked Him for help and yet gave in any way, it must be His fault," Jesus paid for. If it's a serious sin to blame your earthly father for your mistakes, how much more serious is it to blame the Holy Father for your sins? Yet we do, but it was Jesus who plead guilty for it.
Nothing we have, do, or say can stand up to God's judgment, not even our prayers. Would you dare say, "Judge me, O God" for even one Lord's Prayer? I wouldn't. How sinful, how fallen even my prayer life is. The only thing I give up faster than resisting temptation is praying, and it becomes a double sin because I mean to hurt God by withholding my prayers even as teenager can mean to hurt his parent by not asking for help.
Jesus bore the judgment such a weak, unbelieving prayer life deserves, but just as important is the fact that His prayer life didn't falter. Though God did forsake Him on the cross, though He let sinful men do whatever they wanted to Him, though He let Satan and the powers of darkness bring upon Him all the shame, guilt, and pain of the sins that bother you the most, Jesus dies praying in faith to His Father. Psalm 22 records the prayer 1000 years before it happens because the Holy Spirit shows David Jesus praying it. On His deathbed Jesus prays, "Father receive My Spirit."
Jesus died as guiltless, as blameless, as innocent of any human sin as any Passover lamb or Day of Atonement goat did. That's why He can say in the Introit, "Then I called on the name of the Lord, O Lord, save Me!' For you, O Lord, have delivered My soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling." Having died for your sin and guilt not His own; having paid for your sin and guilt not His own, death could not hold this Man who is God. Out of the grave He burst forth not crying and stumbling but living and reigning.
Jesus prayed, "Judge Me, O God," and because He did and because God answered that prayer by judging our sins in Him, we too can pray this prayer with all boldness and confidence.
The death of Jesus produced much fruit. Jesus compares it to a single grain of wheat. A grain of wheat produces about 40 more grains. Each one of those grains contains about 20,000 particles of flour ( HYPERLINK "http://www.grainchain.com" www.grainchain.com). One fruit of Jesus' death is the judgment of this world. The world says, "Believe what I believe; think what I think; do what I do, fear what I fear, and you will prosper. Go against me and you lose, you suffer, you die." Jesus did go against the world and He did lose, suffer, and die but in so doing He gained the world without end for us. The world judges us fools for clinging to the suffering, sighing, dying Jesus; Jesus judges us saved and the world condemned. So we can boldly pray, Judge me, O God" without fear of the verdict.
The death of Jesus bore the fruit not only of judging the world but driving out the ruler of this world, the Devil. This is Paul's famous equation. "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." The Devil can't hold our sins over our head ruling us with threats of the punishments they deserve because the power of sin is the law. Jesus kept the Law. There is not one law that the Devil can say is un-kept. Without the Law sin has no power over you; without the law what sin can you be convicted of? Occasionally you'll hear of someone going to trail only to find there is no law against what he did. He is immediately let go. We pray, "Judge me, O God," without fear there is a law that Jesus didn't keep that could condemn us.
Yes, you're that free, and if you're free of sin; you're free of death too, and death says Hebrews is what the Devil uses to hold people in bondage. Hebrews says by dying Jesus destroyed the Devil who holds the power of death and freed us who all our lives were held in slavery by our fear of death. You can pray, "Judge me, O God," without fear that God will or can find anything worthy of death in you. How can that be? Because He already found Jesus worthy of your death and Jesus died it. But what about the very real sins you know you still have?
You yourself judge them as unworthy of everlasting life, unworthy of life with God, worthy of death from God, don't you? That's the key right there. Do you judge them? Paul refers to this when he speaks about going to Communion. He says, "But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment." We judge ourselves unworthy of the Body and Blood of Jesus. We say what the Orthodox say when the priest holds before them the Body and Blood of Jesus. The priest says, "The holy things for the holy ones." And the congregation responds, "One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.'" We judge ourselves unworthy and Jesus worthy, and He judges us worthy to commune with Him.
Praying, "Judge me, O God," means we abide by all His judgments, not just the ones that condemn us but the one that free us. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Fifth Sunday in Lent (20090329); John 12:20-33