INI + AMEN.
Today we observe the best feast day in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. It has the joy of Christmas, the confidence of Good Friday, the hope of Easter, and the power of Pentecost all rolled into one. Today we observe and remember what actually takes place on this coming Saturday: not Halloween but the Feast of the Reformation. We don’t celebrate Luther. We rejoice that our Savior Jesus Christ, the true Lord of the Church, used Luther and many other faithful preachers and teacher to restore the message of the Gospel to His Church. A Gospel message that we hear from Jesus Himself today in John chapter 8: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Christ’s message is a great comfort and joy, but what else can we learn of this freedom? Martin Luther, our chief and faithful teacher, talks about it in his Freedom of a Christian. He says, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Now, these are just more words for what our Lord says today. From what He says we learn that
JESUS SETS US FREE TO BE SONS OF THE KINGDOM.
(I. We are set free.)
Jesus is right when He says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus, the Son, has set you free. He’s set you free from sin, of course. That’s His point not just to the Jews who believe in Him but all who believe in Him, you and me included. We can’t dodge it like they did. “We are sons of Abraham,” they said. “Oh, we are sons and daughters of a free society, living in a free country,” we could say. But this is only worldly freedom. We are set free from sin because “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin,” as Jesus says. We are set free from all our sins, but we are set free from the sin of thinking that we can make ourselves free! We are free from thinking: “Well, I’m not too bad off. I can fix what’s wrong with me. I have a few sins, bad habits really, but I can change them or at least make up for them.” Jesus’ death and resurrection cut through all that. He bears our sins. He is our Savior—our clamoring that we’re “free” notwithstanding. Through His Word He delivers the freedom won for us in His being fixed to the cross and His bounding free from the tomb.
You were a dirty slave to sin, “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” at the Holy Font. You were set free, set free to be disciples, and that means you are no longer strangers and aliens to His Word. We’ve been washed in it. It’s resounded in our ears. We dwell within that Word, in it we “live and move and have our being.” We don’t let anything—not time, not commitments—keep us from that Word. Jesus has set us free for this exact purpose, and as He says today: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That Word makes you His disciple and keeps you one of His disciples. Through His Word He connects you to Himself, to His Truth, for He Himself is that Truth! And you are then “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
Jesus Himself has set you free, but He doesn’t just set you free to be His disciple, a student of His Word. Jesus has done something far better than that! Jesus has set us all free to be sons of the kingdom.
(II. We are sons of the Kingdom.)
It’s good to be a son or daughter of the kingdom. We are not slaves in God’s household that wouldn’t be good. As Jesus says, “The slave does not remain in the house forever.” While we “would rather be doorkeeper in God’s house than dwell in the tents of the wicked,” God has far more better things in store for you. Any position in God’s house is better than the alternative, but you have a higher stature. You’ve received the right of sonship at the font, and this is the highest blessing you can receive, as Jesus says, “the son remains forever.” And in this way Jesus has “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” and, more than that, “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.”
What sort of freedom do we have a sons? We are set free from being slaves to sin, of course! That doesn’t just mean not sinning against God or trying to free ourselves in whatever small way. It also includes loving those around us. We are not slaves to our selfishness but are generous—loving not hard-hearted, forgiving not holding grudges. That is how sons of the kingdom live. Set free to shower Jesus’ own love, mercy, forgiveness, and freedom on others even as we have been loved, received mercy, been forgiven, and set free.
Jesus’ sermon to us today is all about freedom. We are free toward God. Christ’s death and resurrection have taken care of that. We are also set free from self-love to love our neighbor. Luther put it this way: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” But this isn’t anything different that what Jesus Himself says. Jesus is the Son who sets us free. He SETS US FREE TO BE SONS OF THE KINGDOM .
INI + AMEN.