Jer 20:10-13; Ps 18:2-7; Jn 10:31-42: It sounds so selfish. This psalm sounds self-centered. The opening line admits that my love for the LORD is because he is my strength, my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. Because the LORD has so loved me, I love him. Yet, isn’t this how love works. We love in response to being loved. We love our parents because they love us. We love our Father in heaven because he first loved us. There is no way of getting around it. Love flows from love. Perhaps that’s why it takes some kind of crisis before we begin to respond to the love so near and so taken for granted. Even on a natural level a family really comes together when there is an accident or illness in one of the members. The death of a parent (even more so of both parents) changes everything in the family. Siblings must choose to love each other just because they are brothers and sisters, not because dad or mom insist on it. This is the way love operates in human relationship. It gives us a hint of the way the mystery of love unfolds in our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Psalm 18 seems to arise out of great distress. The faith that is presupposed by this prayer is produced by some profound crisis. King David felt both the depths of distress and the heights of comfort. “The breakers of death surged round about me, the destroying floods overwhelmed me; the cords of the nether world enmeshed me, the snares of death overtook me.” Here is a man exposing the most fearsome moments of his life. In this moment only faith can move us to cry out to the LORD who first loved us, the LORD who cannot love us more, and will not love us less, who loves us without regret and will never leave us. Like David and all our ancestors in the faith, we pray this psalm still. The prophet Jeremiah needed to pray this way as his life was threatened from every side. The Lord Jesus also prayed this psalm when the crowd picked up rocks. We, too, have the kind of dangerous enemies that inspire such prayer.
Not too long ago we heard the same prayer from the heart of the Lord’s prophet, Jeremiah still longs to witness the vengeance of the Lord over his enemies. Back in chapter 11, which was read on Saturday, we first heard such a petition. It is startling for our Christian hearts to listen to our prophets pray this way, “let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause.” Yet, how else is Jeremiah to pray? He is surrounded by terror. They denounce him on every side; his former friends are now his most deadly enemies. All the prophet knows for sure is that the LORD is with him. The LORD is near like a mighty champion. Jeremiah knows that his persecutors will stumble; they will not be victorious over him. It is the LORD who probes the mind and heart of his prophet and of his prophet’s enemies. It is the LORD alone who wants to be converted, to be rescued, and to be saved. The LORD wants both Jeremiah and his enemies to place their trust in him so that all might be saved. Then will the lion and the lamb, the kid and the bear, the child, and the cobra, sing praise to the LORD for he does rescue the poor from the power of the wicked. The power of God’s saving love in Christ Our Lord is so total that even the righteous ones, even the very mouthpiece of God will have a life-changing conversion, and live forever with those who once tried to kill him.
This divine love in Christ motivates his discussion with those who picked up stones to kill him. First, the Lord Jesus questions them: “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me.” The Lord Jesus wants them to reconsider their violence in the light of his works, his signs, and wonders, his love and healing. However, it is not for any such deeds that they are so appalled. “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” This accusation goes far beyond the synoptic claim that he casts out demons by the power of the prince of demons. However, the Lord Jesus is not unnerved by their accusation. The Lord appeals to their common heritage, the Scripture for his next effort to explain who he is and whence he comes. Psalm 82:6-7 is the source for the Lord’s reference, “I declare: ‘Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you, yet like any mortal you shall die; like any prince, you shall fall.’” The corrupt judges of Israel have divine power over life and death, yet because they are wicked they too must die. If the inspired Scripture refers to men as Gods, why does it so shock and offend the crowd that the Lord refers to himself as the Son of God? The Lord wants his opponents to accept the truth. The Lord Jesus loves his enemies, and he keeps inviting them to grow in faith. He gives them another alternative way of dealing with him, “believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” It was for just such a statement that they had picked up rocks—“The Father and I are one.” They tried to arrest him; again he escaped because his hour had not yet come. This time the Lord Jesus didn’t hide in the temple precincts; this time he went back across the Jordan to the place where he was well accepted for doing the will of the Father. Here where John baptized the Lord remained and was refreshed among those who believed. These less sophisticated believers could rejoice that everything John had said about Jesus came to pass. Indeed, he worked great signs and wonders and the greatest sign was yet to come the sign of the cross. From being raised high upon the cross and into the glory of the resurrection and ascension, the Lord Jesus became the universal sign of the Father’s love and tenderness available in the flesh, in and among those simple and humble enough to believe. The Gospel of John assures us that there were many.