Fifth Sunday in Lent or Passion Sunday 21 March A.D. 2021

Passion Sunday                                      21 March A.D. 2021               

           The Epistle. Hebrews 9:11-15                                The Gospel. John 8:46-59

                                   We beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look
                                    upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they
                                    may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body
                                    and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.              Amen.

                                                      “The Great I AM”

        As we approach the end of Lent we can detect a note of urgency in the scripture selections for each Sunday leading up to the greatest event in Christ Jesus earthly ministry.  The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus after three years of earthly ministry.  I am not a numerologist nor do I subscribe to the following of number codes allegedly found in the Bible; but I do find it interesting how various number sequences occur and reoccur time and again in scripture.
Is the average seminary course of study three years because Jesus ministry was three years?
Just wondering.  But I digress. Instead let us look at the strong theme that is presented in our gospel reading as well as our epistle reading. 

1. The high priesthood of Christ. {Heb. 9:11}

2. The once and for all sacrifice of Christ, the shedding of his blood to seal our redemption, the revelation of truth in spite of the chaos and darkness that surrounded the times of Christ.
 {Heb. 12-14}

  The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote about the ancient and recent history of the Hebrew peoples, who would later be called Jews by way of reference to the two surviving tribes, Judah and Benjamin. From these two tribes come the kingship and the kinship that certifies Christ Jesus both in heritage and from a spiritual sense.  Christ is called a high priest of good things to come and yet he is not of the priestly tribe, the Levites. He is from the smallest tribe, Benjamin in the lineage of king David.       

11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;{expand the idea}
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.{eternal redemption because Christ is not of this world}
13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? {the perfect lamb of God, the ultimate Passover lamb, without spot or blemish; ie. Sinless}

15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. {this ties up the whole package}

  With the reading of the passage from Hebrews we get the historical perspective, now we look at the certificate of truth as presented by Christ Jesus himself.  

In the passage from the 8th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is arguing with a group of learned sceptics, who are questioning every aspect of who Jesus says he is. 
 First Christ calls them out for hearing the word of God but essentially not heeding the Word of God. {Christ Jesus being the LOGOS [logos], Word of God}.  

 They try to come back at Christ with the idea that he isn’t a Jew after all, but a half breed Samaritan and that he is possessed with a devil to boot.  Jesus retort is that he honors his Father and that they are dishonoring him and the Father.  The back and forth argument continues when Jesus states the coming promise of the death of death. [ When Christ comes back from the dead he conquers death].  The culmination of the heated discussion comes when the learned sceptics attack Christ on his statement “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death”.  
 Essentially they call out Jesus for being greater than the Patriarch Abraham and the prophets.  Jesus puts the nail into place when he states: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”.   
Of course this drives the crowd crazy, because Jesus has just declared that he and God are the same.  Remember when Moses was asking God what to tell the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt who sent him?      God tells Moses tell them “I AM” sent you.
  So when Jesus told these men that he was before Abraham, in fact he was I AM, they picked up rocks to stone him, because he was equating himself with God.  This was blasphemy in the eyes of those men. Since it was not God’s plan for Jesus to be stoned to death, another miracle happens. “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by”.  

Jesus will later certify his divinity when he returns from the dead three days after being crucified by the Romans. He will present himself to at least five hundred witnesses, people who had seen Jesus before he was crucified, many would over the next decades certify that they indeed saw Jesus alive AFTER his crucifixion.  

 These are pretty heady times, all of these prophecies are now coming true, the final work of Christ on earth is soon to occur. The once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the world is about to happen, because Jesus obeyed his Father and offered himself up as that pure, sinless sacrifice, the Pascal Lamb.

Let us pray:

O GOD, merciful Father, who despisest not the sighing of a contrite heart, nor the desire of such as are sorrowful; Mercifully assist our prayers which we make before thee in all our troubles and adversities, whensoever they oppress us; and graciously hear us, that those evils which the craft and subtlety of the devil or man worketh against us, may, by thy good providence, be brought to nought; that we thy servants, being hurt by no persecutions, may evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

WE humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of thy Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant, that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O GOD, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive; Receive our humble petitions; and though we be tied and bound with the chain of our sins, yet let the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us; for the honor of Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

 THE Lord bless us, and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, both now and evermore. Amen.