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Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:22–30

James T. Batchelor

Easter 4, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Apr 17, 2016 

Todays reading from the Gospel comes from the Good Shepherd chapter of the Bible, John 10.  The three-year lectionary always selects a reading from the Good Shepherd chapter for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

In the first year, we learn something about who Good Shepherd Jesus is.  He is the door to the sheep fold.  He is the only way into eternal safety.

In the second year, we learn something about what Good Shepherd Jesus does.  As the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for the sheep.

In todays reading, we learn about the benefits of who Good Shepherd Jesus is and what Good Shepherd Jesus does.  Jesus our Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

Our text tells us that Jesus was in the temple celebrating the Feast of Dedication.  Today, we know this festival as the Feast of Lights or Hanukkah.

Jesus had quite a few enemies among the temple authorities by this time in His ministry.  Whenever Jesus made His presence known on the temple grounds, these enemies would seek him out.  They wanted Him to say or do something that would hurt His credibility with the people.

In the encounter that we heard about in todays Gospel, the authorities asked Jesus to clearly state His claim to be the Christ.  Jesus, in turn, made it clear that He regularly did exactly that, but the authorities rejected His message.  Jesus diagnosed their problem and He used the metaphor of sheep to explain His diagnosis.

Shepherds in the wilderness often worked together to guard sheep.  During the night, they brought their flocks together and took turns guarding the sheep.  That way, they could get some much needed sleep.  In the morning, each shepherd would call to his flock and only the sheep belonging to the shepherd would follow.

During the day, the shepherd would lead the sheep to good pasture and water.  He would protect them from predators and care for their injuries.  He would talk to them and sing to them and they would learn his voice.  It became the only voice they trusted.  Another shepherd could call, but each sheep responded only to the voice of that sheeps shepherd.

Those who have the Holy Spirits gift of faith are like those sheep.  Jesus is their shepherd.  They hear His voice.

When Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were not part of His flock, He was saying that they resisted the Holy Spirit.  They did not have faith.  Without faith they could not believe.  They did not listen to Him.

Those who have the Holy Spirits gift of faith in Good Shepherd Jesus that is those who are part of Jesus flock hear Jesus voice in a different way.  What is that difference?

Perhaps you have heard someone say that all religions are more or less the same.  They all lead to the same place.  When you ask such a person to explain what they mean with those words, you will hear someone who basically sees religion as a sort of self-improvement project.  The objective of religion is for people to make themselves into better people.  Then they will point out the fact that almost every religion has a form of the Golden Rule Do onto others as you would have them do unto you. Generally speaking, most religions have laws against robbery and murder and other bad actions.  Most religions have guidelines for living.

What happens when such a person hears the voice of Jesus?  Well, today, we hear the voice of Jesus when we hear Gods Word the Bible.  A person who believes that all religion is about improvement will scour the Bible for guidelines for living.  The result is that they will discover the most severe law.  For example: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:2122) You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:2728) A person who is not part of the flock of Christ will quickly come to the conclusion that the standards of the Bible are impossible to keep.  They will come to hate the voice of Jesus because the law exposes their failings.  They will insist that the God of the Bible is cruel and unloving, because He has standards that no one can keep.

What changes when the Holy Spirit brings a person into Jesus flock?  That is what happens when the Holy Spirit creates faith in a person?  Martin Luther said that the Holy Spirit calls me by the Gospel.  The person who is part of the flock of Jesus Christ not only hears the law, but also hears the Gospel.  The person who is part of the flock of Jesus Christ understands that the Gospel is the predominate message of the voice of the Good Shepherd the Bible.

When the Christian hears the law, he also realizes that the law is impossible.  But then he hears the voice of the Good Shepherd say, I have kept the law for you.  I give my righteousness to you.  It is yours. Because Good Shepherd Jesus has given you His perfect thoughts, words, and deeds, you are judged as perfect.

When the Christian hears the law, he hears that he deserves punishment both here in time and forever in eternity.  But then he hears the voice of the Good Shepherd say, I have taken this punishment for you.  I suffered shame, spitting, beating, flogging, and ultimately death on a cross for you.  I endured the Wrath of God for you.  Just as I give my righteousness to you, I also take your sin from you. Your failing, your shortcomings, your weaknesses, your sins are all paid in full.  You are judged as sinless.

How does this affect the sheeps attitude toward the shepherds voice?  How does this affect the Christians attitude toward the Word of God?

Before the Holy Spirit produces faith, the Word of God is a terrifying thing.  It is all law.  It is all condemnation.  It only warns of punishment.

After the Holy Spirit produces faith, the Voice of the Good Shepherd is both law and Gospel.  The law still Shows our sin, but the Gospel shows our savior.  The Good shepherds voice becomes a source of confidence, comfort, joy, peace, safety His voice reveals a God who loves and serves.

The voice of the Good Shepherd is not only loving and comforting, but it is also strong.  With His voice, the Good shepherd even leads us through death into life everlasting.  For just as he died, He has also risen.  And just as He has risen, He will also raise us from the bed of death to new life a life that will have no sorrow, pain, or death a life that will never end.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Good Shepherd Jesus sends His call out to all people in all places and in all times.  The Holy Spirit works through Christs Word, through Holy Absolution, through Holy Baptism, and through His Holy Meal to work faith in people and keep that faith strong.  Just as Jesus gives the title of Good Shepherd to Himself, He claims all who believe in Him as His sheep.  They are His sheep and know Him as the true Christ.

There will always be those who reject the call of the Good Shepherd.  The Holy Spirit will offer the gifts of Jesus Christ to them and they will reject them.  They will refuse to see the love of God in Jesus on the cross.  They will refuse to see the love of God when Jesus comes to us in His body and blood.  The danger for them is greater than a mere loss of life on this earth.  The danger is the anguish of the eternal outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The future for those who have the Holy Spirits gift of faith is one of joy.  We receive Gods service.  We are part of the flock of the Good Shepherd.  We are under the protection of both the Father and the Son.  Death for us will be only a temporary earthly thing.  For, just as our Good Shepherd rose from the dead, we too will rise from the grave and enter into eternal joy where we will continue to experience Gods love into eternity.  As the psalmist said, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6) Amen.

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