Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Hearing Sheep - April 21, 2013 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Text: John 10:22-30
When you first read or hear our text for this morning what might come to mind is a school hallway setting in which the students are busily getting their books from their lockers and moving on to their next class. Then there is a break in this scene. Several of the school bullies have cornered an unsuspecting student and are confronting him. In the scene from our text we are not in a school hallway, but we are in the temple courts and the bullies are not after Jesus milk money, they are after His reputation.
John tells us, “So the Jews gathered around [Jesus] and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly’” (v. 24). At this point we have to stop and define the word, “Christ.” The word, “Christ,” is a Greek word which means christened one or anointed one. One who is christened or anointed is one who has had oil poured on them, and they have been anointed for a purpose. The word, “Christ,” comes from the Hebrew word, “messiah,” which also means anointed. In Old Testament times prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil which was a symbol of their being put into their specific office, as either a prophet, a priest or a king. If Jesus were simply the christened or anointed one, that is, if He were simply anointed to be a prophet, or a priest perhaps, but certainly not king, there might not have been a question concerning His true identity. The problem is that this word, “Christ,” also has deeper connotations for the Jews. The Jews were looking for a “Christ,” a “Messiah,” to come. But their idea of the “Christ” or “Messiah” who would come was more than just a prophet, more than just a priest, even more than just a king. They were looking for an anointed one, a Christ, a Messiah, a Savior, who would come to deliver them from their bondage by the Romans. And that is the rub of Jesus’ identity. “Are you the Christ?” “Are you this Savior we define?” is the question asked of Jesus.
Before we continue, I want to reiterate what we heard all through our Lenten Season this year, that is that in the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil and sinned, immediately after God dispensed His judgement and cursed the world, God promised to send a Savior, a Christ, a Messiah and this promise was made before there was a Jew or a Gentile, or any other ethnicity for that matter. The promise was for a spiritual, eternal life in heaven Savior. When God promised that the Savior, the Christ, would be born through the line of Abraham, He did not make a new promise, He simply narrowed the line of fulfillment of the one promise He made in Eden. As the Children of Israel continually sinned, fell away and were allowed to be disciplined through other nations and as God continually forgave and restored them, their history inferred God’s promise of a social, political Savior so that by the time Jesus lived too many were no longer looking for or thinking in terms of a spiritual, forgiveness of sins, eternal life in heaven Savior, Christ, Messiah, they were continually looking for a deliver them from their enemies, social, political Savior, Christ, Messiah.
Now, back to our text and the question, “Are you the Christ?” At first we might think that Jesus is avoiding their question. “Jesus answered them, ‘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’” (v. 25-26). Time and again Jesus pointed to His works, His miracles, His teaching and preaching. Jesus is asking the question, “What do you see?” “Do you see the works that I am doing?” “Are you listening to the message I am preaching?” The Gospel writer John makes much of these signs, wonders and miracles of Jesus. Who else could do the things that Jesus was doing? Certainly, no mere mortal could do these things; heal, cast out demons, forgive sins, bring back from the dead; only God could do these things. So, Jesus does not answer directly, but points to His preaching, teaching and the miracles He has performed.
Fast forward two thousand years and we have a new group of Jews gathering around Jesus and asking the question, “Are you the Christ?” “Are you the Messiah?” “Are you the Savior?” This new group of Jews is the society in which we live and often includes us. We live in a society which constantly asks the question, “Is Jesus the Christ?” “Is He the Messiah?” “Is He the Savior?” And, “What does it mean if He is the Christ or the Messiah or the Savior?” Certainly we must all confess that there are times in our own lives when we too ask these questions, if not out loud, at least with our actions. We are not immune to the temptations of doubt and misunderstanding brought by the world in which we live. We are not immune to the struggles of life which bring doubts in our minds. Sometimes we may wonder, “Is Jesus the Messiah?” We question Jesus’ Messiahship when we fail to acknowledge our sins, when we fail to recognize our need for a Savior, and we do this when we fail to make regular and diligent use of His means of Grace, being in Divine Service and Bible Class, reading our Bibles, having personal and family devotions and the like. Anytime we think we do not need Christ as our Savior, or anytime we try to lessen our total dependence on Him for forgiveness and salvation, such as when we believe that Jesus had to die only a little for us, we question His Messiahship.
Too often, today, we, like the Jews, look for Jesus as the Christ according to our own understanding or misunderstanding of who He is. Here again, when these struggles, temptations and doubts arise we are pointed back to where Jesus pointed the Jews, back to His miracles, back to His teachings. Today we are pointed to His Word and that is where we see the signs, wonders and miracles He performed. That is where we see that He is, indeed, the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior and He is the Christ as He defines Himself, the spiritual Savior of the world. That is also where we are shown how we too, along with the Pharisees fail to recognize and confess our sins, how we daily sin much and are in need of a Savior and forgiveness.
Very often Jesus used the imagery of the sheep and shepherd. The sheep and shepherd relationship was quit close, because the shepherd was with the sheep twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The shepherd knew each sheep individually and the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd. The sheep, then, are those who listen to Jesus’ voice, who know Him and who follow Him. Those who have no faith are not His sheep, they cannot see Jesus for who He is, their Savior. For those who have no faith they also have no hope, only death, even eternal spiritual death.
We are Jesus’ sheep. He is our shepherd. He knows us, intimately. He knows everything there is to know about us and we might rightly say, and He loves us anyway. And we know Him. We know His voice, because we hear His voice as He speaks to us through His Word. We are members of His flock and, as the saying goes, “membership has its privileges.” As a member of the Body of Christ we see Jesus as the Messiah, that is we see the signs, wonders and miracles which He performed and know that they are what show Him to be truly God.
As a member of the Body of Christ we believe Jesus is the Messiah. We believe that He is the one who came to take all our sins upon Himself and to suffer and die for our sins. He is the one who paid the price, the wage, the cost for our sin, the cost of eternal spiritual death.
As a member of the Body of Christ we hear the Shepherd’s voice. Every time we read and hear read His Word we hear His voice. Every time we read and hear His Word we are given the gifts which He has to give, forgiveness of sins, faith and strengthening of faith. Every time we read and hear His Word, His Word does, in and for us, what it says, that is it brings and gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
As a member of the Body of Christ we are protected. We have Jesus’ promise, “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” (v. 29). We have security in the hands of God the Father. Surrounded by His almighty hand we are protected from the wiles of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
As a member of the Body of Christ we have forgiveness of sins and all the other rights and privileges of membership. As a member of the Body of Christ we have the privilege of reading, hearing and understanding His Word. We have the privilege of being mindful of our Baptism and the fact that His name is on us, that we are His, that we have forgiveness and eternal life. As a member of the Body of Christ we have the privilege of confessing our sins and hearing His awesome words of forgiveness and knowing our sins are forgiven. As a member of the Body of Christ we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s Table to eat and drink His Holy body and blood and thus to participate in His death and resurrection, so that His perfect life becomes our perfect life, His death becomes our death, His resurrection becomes our resurrection, and His eternal life becomes our eternal life.
As a member of the Body of Christ we have eternal life. This is not something we have to wait for, this is something we have now. Eternal life is ours right at this time. Yes, we will have to wait until we pass on from this world until we enter into heaven, but it is ours now. It is somewhat like if you were to purchase a retirement home to move into after you retire. It is yours now, but you will not use it until you retire. Heaven is ours now, but we will not move in until after we pass on from this world. As members of the Body of Christ we are given all the rights and privileges from this membership.
How are we members? We are members first and foremost by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Faith given to us through the Word of God and through Holy Baptism. Faith strengthened through the Word and the Sacraments, in other words, faith strengthened through our continual reading of God’s Word, faith strengthened through our being mindful of our Baptism and faith strengthened through our making regular and diligent use of the Lord’s Supper.
By God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection from the dead, faith given through the Word and the Sacraments, we are all sheep. We are all members of the flock. We all have eternal life. Just look around and see those with whom you will be spending eternity. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.