“Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause!” The Sunday of the Passion — March 26, 2023

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26. March 2023


John 8:46-59

Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! (Ps 43:1-2)

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

We cry out to God for judgment. We plead to Him that we are delivered from the deceitful and unjust man. We demand that God bring this heavy accusation against our ungodly nation. We desperately want Him to make all things right. God’s redemption, rescue, justice, and defense of us come by His speaking. 

We hope that God brings His swift words of judgment against our enemies, those who accuse us, and those who make our lives miserable. We pray to God to be the judge against all those who hate us and seek our life. But won’t that alienate them from God? Won’t they spew a litany of defenses that would make the most triggered millennial or Gen-Z blush? Won’t they be driven away from the church, the Word preached and taught, and the Sacraments given to increase faith and life?

“You are so judgmental. You want to force your beliefs on me. You won’t leave me alone. You dare accuse me of wrong, but you’re a misogynist, bigot, patriarchal hater. You have no authority to judge me.” So, the oppressed class screams at the oppressor, accusing and excusing: “How dare you! Shut up and go away!”

Words can be perceived as aggression and violence and God’s Word especially. When Jesus speaks words of judgment against those opposed to nature and faith, the walls of self-defense go up. When the Scriptures expose rebellion against the created orders and estates, those who have done damage will go on offense. The old Adam, the sinner, has to fight back. He cannot bear to hear that what he fears, loves, and trusts are idolatrous, pagan nonsense. So, he goes after God seeking to undermine the Word and the institutions Jesus has given to preserve faith and life among us.

The prince of this world has had his way with us, convincing parents, educators, politicians, philosophers, and media that there is no absolute truth. There are only power games. The only rights that matter are the rights that I want to defend. Even our formal judiciary has lost its way and foundations in the jurisprudence of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta, and the Ten Words of Moses. This has made it easy to weaponize justice to get what you want. Our judges are partisan, ideologues, and immoral. At least, that’s what all the Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates say about each other. But of course, they’re impartial and moral and defer to the rule of law in their own eyes. The scourges of relativism, utilitarianism, and nihilism pervade all our conversations now because we deny nature and nature’s God as He reveals Himself in His Word. 

In this context, revealing sin to unbelievers is treacherous and difficult for the Christian, the Church, and her pastors. The accusation of hypocrisy is at the ready and often true. You cannot point out the sin of others without your own sin being exposed. Perhaps your version isn’t as gross, damaging to society, or puts yours or others at risk. Or maybe it is even worse? We invent categories of lesser and greater sins, like white lies and damned lies. We excuse our sins but demand repentance from others. Absent from Confession and Absolution in Divine Service, you’ll find yourself easy prey for any word of right judgment to be contradicted, and rightly so.

Praying for justice and asking God to fight for you can only be done in faith. Outside of faith that justifies through Christ’s shed blood, there can be no righteous prayer for vindication or vengeance. Before any cry for justice must come the confession of our sin and the forgiveness of that sin by a holy declaration from Jesus Himself. And living as forgiven, baptized children, our cries are inspired by Jesus’s Spirit in faith and according to faith. The Spirit cries out, “Abba! Father!” pleading for grace, mercy, and peace. 

Hear the Psalmist again: “Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me… Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of the Lord chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery, And let the angel of the Lord pursue them… Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly, And let his net that he has hidden catch himself; Into that very destruction let him fall.” (Psalm 35:1-9)

That sounds great! Down with the enemies and those who seek to hurt or harm us! But realize that you’re praying about your parents, siblings, children, neighbors, or others you love. And even worse yet, you’re praying against yourself, as the nearest enemy of Jesus is your own sinful heart. But that shouldn’t stop us from pleading with God. Only He knows how best to help in time of need. It’s not on you or me to fix this world any more than you can fix this church or your home. 

The only way for there to be vindication for your cause is for God in Christ to do it. And apart from Jesus vindicating you, you cannot possibly speak truthfully or righteously. Only Jesus working by His Word and Spirit, can bring about what you’re asking for that your enemy repent, believe the Gospel, and live! That is almost always lost in the declaration of judgment against sin. 

Apart from the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus, through His shed blood on Calvary, all your enemies hear is an ugly accusation. That makes you know different from the Pharisees or even the disciple Peter who denied the absolute need for Christ to suffer, die, and rise on the third day to justify the sinner. You want people to change and proclaim the life-altering good news of Jesus’ cross. There’s nothing God’s Word judges sinful that God does not also declare forgiven for Jesus’ sake. 

The Gospel Word that repents and forgives must be proclaimed to dominate the judgment of God’s Law against sin. Without absolution, there can be no repentance. Jesus forgave His accusers at the cross. He forgave Peter and the disciples after they betrayed and forsook Him. He forgives you for abandoning His Law and faith, restoring you through His Gospel and Spirit. 

You will hear those same tired accusations if you dare to proclaim God’s judgment against sin. “You are so judgmental. You want to force your beliefs on me. You dare accuse me of wrong, but you’re a misogynist, bigot, patriarchal hater. You have no authority to judge me.” And they’re right if you’re not always soon declaring them forgiven freely, for Christ’s sake. The goal of all judgment is repentance leading to life and salvation. May “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin