Pass the Test

Sermon 1769 John 5.19-24 November 7, 2021

There are people who are good at taking tests and people who are not. I consider myself a good test taker. Got good grades in school. I didn’t worry when I moved to Nevada and had to take the driver’s written exam. Pass that and experienced drivers don’t have to do the behind the wheel exam. Piece of cake.

How many feet are you supposed to leave behind a semi-truck and you? What is the age limit for a Commercial Driver’s License? How close can you park to the corner?

I didn’t know! I never wondered! I thought I had been driving long enough I didn’t need to study. I passed—by one point! That’s when I knew there was more to test taking than “being a good test taker.”

At the end of our life there’s a bigger test than what the DMV administers. It is Judgment Day. Don’t count on being a good test taker. The time to prepare for it is now.

Pass the Test

1. See God’s work through Jesus (19-21).

2. Honor Jesus as God (22-23).

3. Believe and be saved (24).

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to who he is pleased to give it (19-21).’”

This chapter of John, chapter five, starts out with Jesus healing a man who was an invalid for thirty-eight years. The trouble was, Jesus did this miracle on the Sabbath. Jesus did a lot of miracles on the Sabbath. God wanted to show people the meaning of the Sabbath was to find rest in God’s Word which freed them from the curse of sin and all the side effects of sin. But the religious leaders kept saying Jesus was irreligious, because he “worked” (did miracles) on the Sabbath. They would also be the same ones who would be griping today that ambulances with their lights flashing and sirens blaring really tie up traffic. Jesus has had enough of their nitpicking so he addresses their complaints. If they are going to pass the test on Judgment Day, they need to see God’s work through Jesus.

Jesus reveals something you and I would never have thought of. We like action heroes, guys who take matters into their own hands. That doesn’t describe Jesus! He says he only does what he sees God the Father doing. Like a little boy imitates his father, pushing his toy lawn mower behind Dad, taking out his Little Tykes toy hammer and screw driver when he is standing next to Dad at Dad’s work bench in the garage, so Jesus does what he sees the Father doing. When God the Father wants Jesus to do something, he will show Jesus. So every miracle on the Sabbath Jesus performed, he did that at the direct command of his heavenly Father.

The sinful human nature would see this as a sign of Jesus’ inferiority. The low guy on the totem pole has to do the dirty work. The big man at the top shouts out orders. The sinful human nature has always being trying to make Jesus less than God. It even takes Jesus’ name, the Son of God, and imagines that as a father is older than his son, so God the Father must be older than God the Son, as if Jesus had to come out of God the Father in some heavenly labor and delivery room. What nonsense!

Far from being a sign of inferiority, it is a sign of Jesus’ holiness and strength. It takes strength to always obey commands. Jesus is the perfectly obedient Son of God who does everything his heavenly Father tells him. God the Father tells Jesus to heal an invalid. Jesus heals an invalid. God the Father shows God the Son the plan for saving the world and God the Son says, “I’m all in.” When God shows Jesus it is not possible that the cup of suffering be taken from him, Jesus prays his triumphant Garden of Gethsemane prayer, “Your will be done.” When God the Father gives eternal life to spiritually dead sinners, Jesus creates faith in their hearts. Maybe because sinful human beings are disobedient and weak, maybe that’s why they object to a Jesus who is strengthened in his perfect obedience.

To not see God’s work through Jesus is to reject the gift of forgiveness of sins. To not see God’s work through Jesus is to reject God’s love. Nobody is going to pass the test on Judgment Day if they are convinced Jesus is a con man.

God wants us to pass the test. Honor Jesus as God.

“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him (22-23).”

Who will judge the living and the dead? Without much thought everybody would say “God.” God brought us into this world and God will bring us out. God gives us his holy will to follow in this life and God will judge us at the end of it. That makes perfect sense. Accountability, closure, no loose ends. Maybe that’s why many world religions have a fearsome eschatology, the study of the end, be it the end of your life or the end of the world. Many picture the souls of the departed on the scales of justice. Has the person done enough that they will equal divine justice or will they be lacking and head downward to eternal punishment? Will the soul be unpolluted enough by sin that it will be light enough to cross a gossamer thread foot bridge to heaven or will the weight of its sin break the bridge and send it hurtling down into the Abyss of hell? In all these non-Christian views of the end, God is firmly in control.

But the Son of God is nowhere to be seen.

That’s not the picture Jesus gives us. Jesus is all over Judgment Day. The one who will be the judge of all, including us, is Jesus, the Son of God. God the Father won’t be doing the judging. He will hand all judgment over to God the Son, to Jesus.

In part, this is perfect justice. In America we expect to be judged by our peers—a jury! The right to a trial by jury is central to our idea of justice. A jury knows what life is like, what fear can make a person do, what are the limits of what can be expected of someone and what damage to others a crime can cause. I would not have the guts to say this on my own, but the Bible says it, so I have the courage to repeat it. We need Jesus to be our judge because Jesus can be impartial. Jesus knows us. Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows what it is like to be a human being. He is still a human being in heaven. He’s never forgotten what it is like to be a human being. He still is a human being. So he can gauge the circumstances we found ourselves in. And Jesus, as God, knows God is not being unreasonable in his demands that we be holy. Jesus led the perfectly holy life. Though tempted, he never sinned once. There will be no bias in his judgment. There will be no back doors to skip out on punishment if we just grease the right palms. We have a perfect mediator between us and God, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Now, if you do not show honor to an earthly judge, say, you disrupt his courtroom, or interrupt him and tell him he has no jurisdiction over you, let’s just say things are not going to go well with you. On the bright side you may receive free room and board for the next month in a nearby facility. Honor Jesus. God is judging the world. Jesus, the Son of God is the judge of the living and the dead. Recognize him as true God, equal to the Father and the Spirit in every way. Whatever adjective you use for God, eternal, almighty, all knowing, you use those same adjectives for Jesus. If a person’s idea of God doesn’t have Jesus in it, that person is worshipping a false god, a god who doesn’t exist. To pass the test you have to believe that Jesus, our Savior, is God.

Pass the test. Believe and be saved.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (24).”

By now it is becoming apparent that to pass the test, it is not a matter of what we can do. See God’s work through Christ. It is not a matter of how we live. Honor Jesus as God. Oh, we won’t live like pigs, but there is a different reason for that. We will live upright and honest lives not in order to get into heaven, but because heaven is already ours. To pass the test, it takes faith. Believe and be saved.

Now, let’s get back to that part about Jesus being in the picture as our judge on Judgment Day. He knows our sins are forgiven. He was the one who paid for them. So there’s none of this IRS garbage, “oh, we didn’t get your tax forms with the payment” and we have to wade through five years of records and two hours on hold on the phone to get them to agree to us sending copies of what they received in the first place, but probably threw in the garbage can when the temp came—sorry, ranting. Our church tax officer, God bless his soul, has been going through a lot of that with the IRS recently. Jesus paid for our sins. He knows the payment has been made. He’s got the scars on his hands, his feet and side to prove it. Scars don’t forget. And he is the one who knows we believe. He is the one we have believed in. He’s the one we’ve been praying to at every meal. “Come Lord, Jesus, be our guest.” He’s the one, together with the Father, who sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us faith. He is the one who has spoken words of Spirit and of life. The Holy Spirit used the words of Jesus to create faith in our hearts. He knows us as a shepherd knows his sheep and we follow his voice. His voice comes to us through the Bible. He is the one who has been with us all our life. “I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” He has attended every worship service of ours. “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” He knows when we lie down and when we get up. He knows what we are going to say before a word is out of our mouth.

An earthly judge needs to see and hear the evidence in a trial. On the Last Day, Jesus is going to be the evidence. Did we believe in him? He will know.

And that leads us to the final point. There is no way we are going to be condemned. Jesus says so. Whoever believes in him has eternal life and will not be condemned. Elsewhere in the Bible it says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And in one more place, the Apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Who then will condemn us?” And then he breaks off like it is the dumbest question in the word. But he still answers the question. “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God.” Nobody in their right mind would condemn us because Jesus, the one who rules over all at the right hand of God, is the one who died and rose again for us to live with him forever in heaven. There is no way we can even be charged! Our sins, they have been forgiven, wiped clean, washed away by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Our sins don’t exist anymore. And the character reference we get from Jesus, spotless, without any stain or blemish or wrinkle, but perfectly holy and blameless in God’s sight, that’s the holy life of Jesus, his righteousness, put on us, credited by faith to our account. There are no charges of wrongdoing against us. We have a sterling reputation. Why are we even in the courtroom? Not guilty! Case dismissed. Enter into heaven!

As believers, we cannot fail this test. God has given us everything we need to pass the test. God has put our Savior in charge of the trial. God has made our Jesus the judge. Far from being something we have to sweat bullets about, it will be a glorious opportunity for God to show the surpassing glory of his grace to us. He will point to all the good our faith in him, the faith he planted in us, moved us to do. Every knee will bow to him—every knee in heaven as the angels praise his goodness, every knee on earth as the saved rejoice in his grace, amazing grace and every knee under the earth as the demons and the lost grudgingly praise God by admitting he was right and they, now getting what they deserve, had been wrong all along.

Pass the Test

1. See God’s work through Jesus (19-21).

2. Honor Jesus as God (22-23).

3. Believe and be saved (24).

Yes, there will be a test. But for those who believe, for you, for me, we can’t flunk it. Jesus will ask us if we believed in him and then, as he delivers the verdict, he will present all the evidence to prove our claim on him and heaven. You can fail an eye test, I suppose you could even fail a blood test, but there’s no way we will fail this test. Rest easy in our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior, our Friend and our Judge.

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