May 12, 2019
Pastor John Hering
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
While going down the aisle at the store you read a sign that says, “The more you spend the more you’ll save!” The marketing community puts this lure in front of you because they think you’ll fall for this paradox. While it is true that you’ll save more, you’ll have to spend more to save it. Or you spend time trying to get to know someone and they drop this line on you, “Deep down, you’re really shallow!” You get this paradox, too. On the surface you appear to have great insight and understanding, but truth be told you really don’t. There is a paradox in John 10 because we come across two things that seem to be opposite, yet both are true. We are used to hearing such paradoxes about Jesus. Jesus is both…. Prince and slave. Peace-maker and sword bringer. Walking with us, and sitting at God’s right hand. One who is scorned, yet craved!
….. and in today’s Word of God Jesus is both Lamb and Shepherd.
Leading up to and including the Easter celebration we have worshiped Jesus for being our Substitutionary sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). In the days after we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus our thoughts turn to Jesus who is our Good Shepherd. We rejoice at the blessings that belong to us from
Jesus the Good Shepherd
- We are Personally Known
- Permanently Alive
- Perfectly Safe
How well are you known? You might be thinking, “How famous am I? Not very famous.” But, I’m not talking about being famous. Or if you’re thinking, “How well am I known at work or at school?” the answers will vary. Some of you are very good at organizing block parties, and some of you are very good at attending block parties. Some of you live in homes or apartments where you keep to yourselves. Others of you like to sit on the front porch and wave to everyone who walks by. Some of you do homework quietly on your own. Others like to study in groups. Or maybe it’s sports, music, choirs, clubs where lots of people know you. Or maybe you sit quietly with one or two of the same people and quietly eat your lunch every day. You get it. How well are you known? Well, let’s ask those who are close to you. How well do they know you? You might like to think they know you, but do they? Do they know your deepest fears? Your strengths and weaknesses? Do they know when you’re feeling lost, ashamed, guilty, alone? I know, there are some here who are brave enough to share their inmost feelings and fears with people, but many of us to too embarrassed or insecure to let people know us that well!
Listen to Jesus! “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them.” When you hear these words of Jesus do you frown or smile? Remember, Jesus is no ordinary shepherd. He made that clear to his enemies on that cold, winter day in Jerusalem,
“Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” I can think of no colder words from Jesus than for him to say, “you are not my sheep.” They were not this sheep because they rejected God’s Word, rejected the work Jesus did to save them, and were living under the curse of their rejection. Yet, Jesus makes himself plain to both foe and friend alike, “ I and the Father are one.” Jesus is the omniscient God.
So, when Jesus tells us, “I know” our sinful nature reacts, “Oh no! He knows!” What I’ve never told anyone, he knows. My wife doesn’t know. My kids don’t know. My best friend doesn’t know, my roommate, my parents, my pastor, my therapist doesn’t know. Nobody knows! But, Jesus knows! Jesus knows your hidden fears, doubts, and dirt. Therefore, we’re in big trouble for we can’t pretend to be innocent under the watchful eyes of God! Standing under the glaring eyes of God is worse than having the pores of your nose examined by a dermatologist under a bright light, because you whole face, body and soul are shoved into the flaming light of God’s holiness that deserve nothing but hell! Yes, you are personally known all too well!
Did you hear what I just said? I’ll say it again. You are personally known all too well! By whom? The Shepherd! Yes, he is the divine Shepherd, the holy Shepherd who knows all your sin, but Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd who has all power to have done something about all our sin, guilt and dirty secrets. Listen to and believe Jesus’ words recorded earlier in this same chapter, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus gave his life so that the Father looks at us through Jesus and no longer looks at you as worthless, crippled sheep ready for the slaughter house. When Jesus says he knows us, he is not just expressing a knowledge of our situation. He is expressing his joy for extending his arms to have them nailed to the cross to rescue us from sin, death and the devil! Yes, we are Personally Known by the Good Shepherd who rescued us! The artist of our stained glass captures this truth so well. Jesus holds you so close, calling you by name, because you are personally known to him. Jesus is also our Good Shepherd who gives us another promise,
You are Permanently Alive
Last week I was on a ranch in West Nebraska. They had chickens, hogs and cattle on the ranch that were dear to the farmers. They are so dear because they are also the source of income. Their eggs and meat produce a livelihood. I heard that the farmer will actually sleep in the barn in the middle of winter so that when a new calf is born they are probably cared for and don’t freeze to death—and he would lose another source of income. His animal’s health and nutrition are always on his mind. No matter how many green pastures he makes them lie down in, no matter how many streams of quiet water he leads them to, eventually each little piglet, each little chicken, each little calf will die. And that will be the end to the farmer’s leading and the animal’s following. But, we’ll enjoy eating them! LOL!
Here’s the paradox. Our shepherd died to conquer death. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laid down his life to keep us from being slaughtered by sin. Our Good Shepherd came back to life to guarantee that we will also remain (are you ready for another paradox?) permanently alive with him, even after we die! Jesus said it, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” You get this! Yes, we are all going to die physically, for the wages of sin is death. However, because of Jesus all who believe in him will never die eternally! These are the words Jesus spoke to Mary and Martha just before he raised Lazarus back to life to prove his power over death in John 11!
Jesus resurrection proves the skeptics wrong who say, “Nothing lasts forever.” Usually people are talking about how long you can keep bread on the shelf before it gets moldy, or milk the frig before it stinks, or your new car needs new tires, or your graduation party fun comes to an end. Even the great smells from Grandma’s house of fresh bread and home-made meat balls will come to an end when Grandma is dead. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does last forever. He is here to stay. And this Easter miracle proclaims to you that you are also Permanently Alive. You heard his promise in the Second Lesson for today. “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:16-17). Jesus is our Lamb and our Good Shepherd. He is our sacrifice for sin and our Savior who ushers us into heaven to live with him permanently.
Dear Friends, Jesus is our Good Shepherd who knows you personally, and promises life with him in heaven permanently, which means you are
I know, you probably don’t feel all that vulnerable sitting here in this safe church. You know there is plenty of gas in your car to get you home to your safe house and enjoy a safe meal. Quite a differently picture from Jesus’ day when food wasn’t mass produced and shepherds didn’t have an electric fence around their sheep to protect them so they could turn in for the night. Makes us wonder how many little lambs didn’t even have a chance because they were born sickly. Not much a shepherd could do about that. If they did manage to mature to sheep the shepherd had his rod and staff to ward off wolves. But, no doubt the sly attacks would happen before he could load his sling shot or wield his club. You get the point. The shepherd would have his hands full keeping his flock safe.
Not our Good Shepherd. He keeps us perfectly safe. Listen! “they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” This promise of perfect safety crosses over into the majestic mystery of our God. Yes, the Lord does promise to provide for us, to protect us, to let us live under this providence. But, he also allows and may even cause difficulty, loss and pain to come into our lives. But, for his dear children, he ALWAYS works out these things for our eternal good. When someone who has many earthly blessings suddenly loses them all in a storm or fire, perhaps the Lord is teaching them where to put their joy and trust. When someone loses health, perhaps the Lord is teaching us to keep our eyes on heaven. If someone even loses a loved one in death, perhaps the Lord is forcing us to look at our own life and to think about what will happen when I die? These are the times for us to remember our Good Shepherd who promises to keep us perfectly safe forever. Yes, “no one will snatch them out of my hand,” for you are perfectly safe!
Personally known. Permanently Alive. Perfectly Safe. Apart from Jesus all of these paradoxes would be lies. Nobody knows you like Jesus knows you. No one is going to live forever, unless they live with Jesus. No one is perfectly safe, unless they are resting in the arms of Jesus. God grant that all of us, and all that we know and love, would remain personally, permanently, and perfectly in the Arms of Jesus our Good Shepherd. Amen!