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LSB Easter 4C Sermon – John 10:22-30

April 18, 2016

April 17, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

Sheep are good food. Perhaps the Campbell Soup people will want to keep their slogan for themselves, but even they would have to admit that the previous statement is true. If the wolves and jackals, hyenas and lions could speak, they would readily agree. Sheep are good food for them. Such prey is easy to seize and kill. Their stomachs are readily filled.

This vulnerable nature of sheep constitutes part of the great metaphor that the LORD uses to describe Himself and His people. The metaphor of Shepherd and Sheep—the LORD and His people—is used frequently within the Scriptures. It is particularly so when giving prophetic statements about the Messiah whom the LORD would raise up, but who is mysteriously also the LORD Himself. On this “Good Shepherd Sunday,” that great metaphor is presented again for you to hear.

Jesus talks about having sheep in today’s Gospel Reading. Jesus’ statement about His sheep follows a demand that was made of Him. While in the Temple at Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication—what we usually call Chanukah—the Jews wanted Jesus to declare publicly whether He was the Messiah: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” That demand had to do with Jesus’ identity. Is He really the Messiah? And if He is, now is when He should openly state it. What better time to do so! The people were celebrating the time when the LORD allowed His people to rededicate the Temple after it had been defiled by pagan rulers, when the LORD acted for His people against the wolves that tried to pull them away from Him.

So Jesus declares His identity, but He does it in a bit of a roundabout way. Recall what He said: “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not part of My flock.” Jesus states that He has already revealed His identity as the Messiah in both word and deed. This can be seen in the previous chapters of John’s Gospel, as you might read at home. Pay close attention to what was done in Chapters 5–9 of John’s Gospel, and you will see what Jesus is referring to. Jesus had declared who He is and what He was going to accomplish. He had performed miracles to give credence to His words. However, some in Israel heard and saw, but did not believe.

But Jesus also notes that some people do hear and believe: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Jesus’ statement speaks about those who have listened to Jesus’ revelation about His identity and have become His disciples. They hear His words and have them be their guiding force in life. They have come to trust in Jesus’ power and ability to bring them salvation, to lead them to eternal life.

When Jesus speaks this way about His people, He reveals His will for them. He gives a great promise. Jesus acts as a Good Shepherd for those who listen to His voice. He knows each of His followers, keeping track of each one who belongs to Him. He protects His people, preventing them from being harmed, so that they will have eternal life. No one and no thing will take the sheep who belong to Jesus away from Him. Jesus can do this for His people because of His identity, since He carries all the authority and power of His Father and He and His Father have the same will for the people. Jesus rises up as the Messiah to do even better than the Maccabees who rebelled against the pagan rulers and rededicated the Temple.

But that doesn’t mean nothing challenges Jesus’ people. Sheep are good food. There are many foes who would seek to devour them. That is the case for people who belong to Jesus. The greatest of the wolves is Satan, who seeks to kill and destroy. He uses his weapon of death to frighten and threaten Jesus’ sheep. He also attempts to stuff the ears of the sheep, so that they won’t listen to Jesus, trying to lead them away from the safety and protection that the Good Shepherd gives. And he is joined by others in his pack, including people of the earth who don’t believe what Jesus has said and done. All who are set against Jesus and His truth attempt in their own way to harm Jesus’ sheep. That includes spreading their false teaching or actively persecuting the Church. It involves elevating other religions or sets of belief or worldviews that stand in opposition to the LORD and His ways. These are the threats which attempt to bring harm and destruction to Jesus’ followers.

Today’s First Reading mentioned those threats. Note first what Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus when he was departing from them. He spoke of his ministry done among them, work that was centered on Jesus and His word: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” That was how the voice of the Good Shepherd was spoken for the Ephesian Christians to hear and believe.

But listen again to the charge that Paul gives to the Ephesian elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” The apostle reveals threats against Jesus’ sheep, particularly the luring away by false teaching which attempts to pull Jesus’ followers away from Him. It would even happen to him: “I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” 

So what is to be done? How is this threat to be repulsed? It is to go back to the Good Shepherd’s voice. He says that is so for himself: “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” And Paul directs the Ephesian elders to do the same: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” The apostle doesn’t speak about a power that the people have in themselves. Instead, he directs them to the LORD’s word, the word of grace that speaks about His will and what He has done for His people. It is the way that Jesus laid out: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

The result of this hearing and following of Jesus is described in today’s Epistle Reading. Recall the vision that John was given: “…a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb….” Remember the testimony that was given about their identity: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” That description spoke of the ties that the people had to Jesus. They had been connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection. But that didn’t mean they were exempt from any threats or challenges. Just the opposite! Yet, they came through that tribulation and trial. It happens according to promise of the Good Shepherd: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” The threats that they faced do not prevent Jesus from accomplishing His good and gracious will for them: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

You are Jesus’ sheep. You belong to Him. His act of redemption has purchased you. You have been obtained by Jesus with His own blood. That is the plain message of Jesus’ being the Messiah, as He fulfilled what the LORD had foretold in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Psalms. His death and resurrection are the greatest of signs that testified about His identity. You have come to know this truth. That is what the Good Shepherd’s voice has spoken to you. You hear and believe it. As Jesus’ sheep, you follow that voice which is proclaimed in the Gospel accounts of His work and is echoed in the apostolic preaching recorded in the Epistles. That is where your attention is drawn, for in them Jesus gives the testimony about His identity and work done for you.

When you hear the testimony given by Jesus, then you see the source of your salvation and safety. It is true: sheep are good food. Satan, death, and the opponents of Jesus would love nothing more than to devour you. But you have a Good Shepherd who is more powerful than they are. He is most highly aware of what threatens you. So He extends His power and protection to bring you through the great tribulation into the green pastures where nothing will pose you harm. He leads you to His heavenly Temple that has been purified and made ready for your eternal presence. He has cleansed you and made you holy, so that you may eternally be with Him. And to you He gives the solemn promise: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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From → Sunday Sermon

One Comment
  1. Elle permalink

    Well, I liked it! Amen.

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