Sermon: "If I Had Not Come"
RandyP Layman Speaker/Apologist/Writer, pBiblx2 Developer, Musician
Today's Bible Text:
There are two immediate points in this text I would like for us to consider:
- "They" as in "now they have no excuse for their sin". Who are they?
- "If I had not come and spoken" and "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did".
In the chapter context "they" are "the world" (the world has no excuse for their sin). Also, the world (they) have "seen and also hated both Me and My Father". Think about what it is Jesus is claiming here. It is not they as in a relative small group of Pharisees, it is literally the fallen nature of all mankind; the world.
What exactly is it that Jesus said while He was here? What is it that He accomplished? That is what we will have to get a better sense of today, And as much as the world hates to discuss the subject of sin, we'll have to come to some sort of conclusion as to the nature of it under this lens of what Jesus came for, what He said and what He did. For if He had not come/spoken/done what He did according to this "they had not had sin".
Let's begin with this compound phrase "If I had not" and "they had not had sin".
For argument's sake let's say for a moment that Jesus did not come, the world today would be just the same as it always has been. Would there be sin? Of course there would. There would still be murder, there would still be idolatry, adultery, deceiving, false witness, theft, all the things we count as sins on a human to human plane. Certainly there would be this kind of sin; My guess is that there would even more of it had Christ not come. But, that isn't really what Jesus is saying here is it? "If I had not"/"they had not had" is how He put it.
Now let's consider the role of law. Place the law over the human nature and what do you have? You have people, usually a society, held to a certain level of civility and held accountable to a certain governing body. Now not only do you have individuals/gangs/organizations that are producing sin, you have a governing bodies often times producing sin. Sin is being managed by society in this instance (and there is some benefit from that level of control) however, this extra layer is only a superficial control over the actual sin nature still festering deep down below. Is this the sin that Jesus is addressing as "If I had not"/"they had not had"? Well we are getting closer to it but, I doubt if we have a full sense of it even yet.
Unfortunately this is as far as most people are willing to look into this plaguing sin issue, either they deny that Jesus has come else they do not fully understand what it is He said and did. What results is an odd awareness of sins existence. It is an odd exercise attempting to justify one's self above all of it. For the moment perhaps it doesn't much affect them. They've steered themselves clear of it for the most part. So many of them would ask "why then do they need to understand it any deeper"?
Maybe you are one who doesn't yet know what Jesus said or did when He came. Why should you want to go into this discussion any deeper? The Lord here tells us why we should. Let's look then at the connective tissue He immediately adds to this initial framework:
- That because of His effort we (all the world) have been stripped of any grounds for excuse.
- That core issue boils down to an hatred or enmity not only against Jesus who is pointing this out but, also the Father that sent Him to perform all this.
So let's now place Jesus back into the picture. Jesus came. Jesus spoke. Jesus accomplished. To that we (each of us) upon being confronted with His presence and accomplishment have reacted. How have we reacted? My friend, right there, that personal human to God reaction, this is where we now need to consider this more important core nature of sin to be. Jesus claimed Himself to be God. His works (the works no other man ever did) proved Him to be God. And now each of us in our own way have reacted (are reacting) in a manner that has left no excuse for ourselves and amounts to hatred toward the Father and His Beloved Son. All of us!
We only need to think back to the Gospel accounts of how all these various men reacted to Christ at the time to better observe the very same sinful traits present among ourselves. Need I remind you that even Jesus' own disciples reacted in a way that was contrary to the person of God. Many others in authority who should have known better, whom we trusted to know better reacted only to put Him down, to kill Him off, to elevate themselves, to end His name/legend forever. Still more of the public played the part of the simple minded, whatever happens happens, it's not my place to judge, I don't want to be bothered by any of it. There were even those who allowed themselves to be stirred up by the mob, used as useful idiots by the authorities, pawns crying for the release of a much despised political criminal in Jesus' place. There were those in a position to judge correctly that simply washed their hands of the matter in an attempt to appease everyone else's sensitivities. These accounts only go to illustrate the myriad of reactions to Jesus within each one of us. We need only to look as far as the bathroom mirror to see these Christ diminishing reactions staring each one of us square in the face.
When Jesus was but a newborn, there on the temple steps His mother Mary was told by the old prophet:
kjv@Luke:2:35 @ (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
When thus revealed, our reaction naturally is to take offense (strong/disproportional offense) in some form or another. As in our reading today, had Jesus not come/said/done (revealed), we would not had... (I'm paraphrasing now) reacted against Jesus with such offense and tried so desperately to explain ourselves some other way. The sin of our reaction would not be so great if it hadn't been in reaction to God Himself; that's the true offense of our sin.
The Apostle John elsewhere put the same concept forward like this:
kjv@John:3:19 @ And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
- "that light is come into the world" remember Jesus said "If I had not come"
- "men loved darkness rather than light" remember Jesus said "they had not had sin" (not that their deeds were not already evil, it is that they love they world as it is instead of Him; that ultimately is the condemning sin).
There is a logical dilemma involved that I would like to point out. It is implied that by knowing what Jesus said and did and was sent for man now could be held accountable for one very particular form of sin, the sin for which he is ultimately condemned. The dilemma is that there are so many people today who have no idea of what Jesus said and did and was sent for, nor do they have the slightest desire to know of this either; to know anything more than they already do would mean they would be offended by Jesus all the more.
We must ask ourselves honestly, what is it about Jesus that we are so averse to? What ever that aversion is (and we are likely not able really to define it intellectually), that brother is where the true core of the sin nature can be found.
The Works Which No Other Man Did.
Is it the His works of healing that rubs us raw this way? I imagine not. The multitudes brought to Him multitudes of the sick, blind and palsied. He healed every single one of them that was brought to Him. It's very odd. Perhaps scary and little uncomfortable but, is it something for which we would be averse? Certainly not!
Is it what He taught? His teachings on hypocrisy? His Parable of the Sower, the seed overcoming the fouls of the air/the heat of the sun/the cares of this world? Is it that He loudly rebuked the temple money changers, over turning their false scales ad balances? Is it that He called into question the religious traditions of the elite religious class and at the same time praised the simplicity of a poor widow's charitable mite? Is it that those that heard Him speak said of Him that He speaks with an authority never before heard? Is it that so many respected this Son of Man that they wanted Him to be their political leader right then and there so as to lead their revolution against the Emperor of Rome? We'd want to react cautiously but, again certainly not universally averse.
What is it then about what He has said and done that sets the heart of man off? that offends it to the point of excess? Here is what I believe it is: the fact that all of this that He said and did could only have been done by God. It is not that no other man has ever done it, it is that no other man can ever do it because these things can only be done by the incarnate Son of God. Had He not proven Himself through life death and resurrection to be the incarnate Son of God sent by God to restore our direct one on one relationship to God, we would still have every excuse for our sinful nature and it couldn't be said that we hate the Father and Son because it has yet to be revealed who the Father and Son actually are (or whether there is such a thing).
You see, if one can act and believe however they want as long as Christ has not come and is not who He claims Himself to be. One could say "yes it is wrong to murder and steal and bare false testimony". One might even call it sin. But one could say just as well "for the most part I have kept myself from doing it" and that "I should rather be rewarded for keeping myself from it". When it is Jesus that is saying in effect "what do you mean you have kept yourself from murder when in your heart and mind this very instant you are killing me and our relationship right now one to another"? "What do you mean you have kept yourself from from false testimony? ...I've heard what you said to others about me". "Shall you be rewarded for stealing my bountiful graces for 78 years of your life and the many daily exclamations of honor and gratitude due to me?"
See the core of our sin nature is in the broken relationship we have with God. Before Adam and Eve ever ate of the forbidden they had come to the conclusion that they could do themselves better. It was almost as if they thought that God was holding them back. How many people today start at the same starting point, that they could do themselves better, that a daily walk with God in HIS garden is just holding them back?
After realizing their fall, their first reaction was to hide themselves from God, also to cover their shame from each other. How many people today think themselves hidden from God, that God can't see them, that HE won't find them, that we cannot see one another as the fallen sinners that we really are?
Later to help man fully examine this fallen nature, when it came time for God to give Moses the HIS ten simple commandments, the people would go nowhere near the mountain for fear, they built for themselves their own golden idol, they danced around it drunken and naked. For centuries later they worshiped a form of this Law rather than come into relationship and added to it layer after layer of oral tradition; repeatedly proving themselves far distant and a harlot in relation to the God whom they professed to obediently represent. And we the Gentiles outside to them watched on and placed our selves above them, hated them, made our own better gods to serve us, and when these trinket gods were no longer enough for us we constructed for ourselves great philosophies and sciences and governances and scholarly institutions and religious high towers. Still no relationship mind you; still just as in the beginning and thereafter vilely adverse to the very notion.
Here we all are today. Look what we have built for ourselves. Pretty impressive the amount of work mankind has put into it; is it not? What exactly is it that we've all worked so hard to build? So what is it? Well sir it is certainly shiny. As far as we can tell mam it is made of gold. It has enough milk children for all of us to suck off of. Oh and there sure are a lot of friends and neighbors drunken and dancing naked around it. Shall we call it what it is? Man has built himself another idol; a bigger golden calf, yes the mother of all golden calves, that is what this world for us has become. Here's the odd thing, if Jesus had not come and said and done what He had, what we since have said and done building all of this had not been sin. Oh there would be sin as we said on a human to human scale, yes plenty of it but, it would not be that one condemning sin.
Here is what we are left to decide: either Jesus has not come and said and done, as long as we don't purposely go off and hurt someone else we can live with ourselves and this shiny golden calf for a while longer, or that Jesus did come and said and did and now we have to begin coming to grips with our adverse reaction to having some kind of fuller relationship to God. Which then will it be? That is the question left on the table here for each of us to answer.
"had I not come..."
Let's ask the Apostle Paul (once one of Christianity's bitterest enemies) what he believes Jesus to have said and done:
Let's ask the Apostle Peter (once a disciple and eye wittness of Jesus) what he believes Jesus to have said and done:
Or even our present author the Apostle John:
In the four gospels we have an ample account of what was said and done by Jesus that would warrant the words "but now they have not excuse". Later in both the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and the many apostolic epistles following it we have ample discussion of what product those immediate apostles believed these sayings and doings of Jesus to be. Even before the Newer Testament we have prophet after prophet, shadow after shadow, Christ type after Christ type in the Older Testament of what this person of Christ was supposed to mean. The message being delivered to us by these many scriptures is enormously clear and descriptively painted out. There should be no question as to what the Christ was going to say and do. There should be no question as to what He did eventually say and do. Likewise, there should be no question as to what the many people that follow Jesus even unto their own crosses made of Jesus' sayings and accomplishment. The only question really is what all of this could possibly means to each one of us here on this earth still today.
- Does it mean that because of it we no longer have any excuse not to be in full relationship with God His Father?
- Does it mean that we are no longer chained to our personal enmity against both the Father and Son whom HE has sent us?
- Does it mean that now because of Christ our ultimate condemning sin, that sin of relationship, is now put far aside, that He can now help us through all of these other sins that so easily beset us?
- Or does it mean we still are too adverse to the whole idea to believe in any of it? That we are fine with this world and this life just the way that it is?
Well I will leave you to yourself and to your conscience to work through all of that. It is ultimately between you and The Holy Spirit now that I have made this open offer of the Christ's Gospel (good news) known to you. Christ did come, He did say, He did do what no other man could do. Now I need no excuse, instead I can fall to my knees and openly confess. Now I no longer need to hate, instead I can freely love Him who first loved me a once fallen sinner and gave Himself. Now I can be all of this that has been promised by Him instead of all that promised by the world. I am purchased/quickened/adopted/indwelled/declared to be right not because of anything that I have ever said or done but, exactly because of what my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by HIS grace has said and done. I praise God for what all HE done and has said to purchased and secure for me, all this in order to bring me and my newly found brothers and sisters back into HIS good graces!
Still think that you can do yourself better? What would be any better than to be made all of this in Christ?
These are the recorded words of Jesus Christ as testified to by His disciple the Apostle John. To God be all the Glory. Amen?
Is there any one present here today who will stand along side me and offer their shouts of praise to Jesus Christ our Risen Lord?
In the "Acts of the Apostles" Luke quoted Peter on the Pentecost as saying:
If there are any new brothers or sisters in Christ who have not formally been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, would you please come meet with one the elders up here after this service to get that arranged! Amen?