Easter 4C

Text: John 10:22-30

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we aren’t looking at post-resurrection Jesus accounts, but we see a pre-crucified Jesus account. In fact, this account takes place just a few months before Christ’s death and resurrection. This account centers on the question of who is Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Stop. Think about what you have just asked Jesus: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” What has Jesus done for three years? How many ways does He have to tell you that He is the Christ, the Son of God? How many ways does He have to tell you that He is creation’s salvation? How many ways does He have to say it before you hear it and believe what He has done?

Now before we go any further, we have to understand what has really taken place. The Jews have surrounded Him, attempting to intimidate Him. Yes, they have seen and heard what Christ has said, but they have challenged Him, they want Him to clearly say that He either is or isn’t the Christ. But understand this, their will is different from that of Jesus. These people have no desire to repent, to accept what Jesus has to offer them. They pretended as if they cared, as if they wanted to know about Jesus, but in the end, they didn’t care.

Even if they didn’t care or really want to know, they were going to find out. You need to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. These people got what they wished for, but I wouldn’t say it was what they really wanted.

“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.”” Jesus has already given them the answer, time and time again. And each and every time He said who He was, there were those that refused to believe. What more proof do the people need? Haven’t they heard the message which He has preached? Haven’t they seen the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming Savior? Haven’t they seen the miracles which He has performed? Surely someone present had to have eaten some of the fish and bread when Jesus fed the 5000 people. Food kept coming from what seemed like nowhere, and there was no stopping it, not until everyone had eaten their fill. Surely someone here had to have come in contact with Jesus and a miracle He had performed.

The answer which Jesus gave was not the answer they had wanted to hear. What they wanted to hear was a simple “yes” or “no.” They didn’t want any complicated answer. They didn’t want to try to read between what Jesus was saying for an answer. “Are you or aren’t you? Just say “yes” or “no.”

Jesus saw through their words and actions and He understood clearly the intent of their question. He answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.” Therein lies the tragedy of unbelief. “I told you, and you do not believe.” Jesus had already clearly spoken the good news of God’s grace. From the beginning He had revealed the goodness of the Father. His preaching and His teaching had announced simply but forcibly that the Father loves what He created. In contrast to those who said that one had to do something to win the affection of God, Jesus came proclaiming a message, the Gospel, the Word, that God loves the world in spite of its sin.

The Gospel of Jesus is challenged today, both inside and outside the church, because of wills and wishes different from God’s. These people fit the bill exactly. They didn’t care about what Jesus had to say; if they did, they would already know the answer to their question.

They did not want to believe this message, not because they did not want to be saved.  They did not want to believe it because they thought they had to do something to be saved. Unbelief does not grow out of the unwillingness to be saved. Unbelief is the notion that God is not good, that He will not keep His promise of salvation. Sometimes it is the sinners who do not believe that God can forgive. In this instance, the people who thought they were righteous did not believe that God was so good as to accept them without their merit.

The latter half of His answer was more pointed, so pointed that the Jewish leaders wanted to stone Jesus. “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.” The Jews show, by not believing in Jesus, by not recognizing who He is in spite of the miracles which show His Father’s authorization of Him, that they do not belong to His flock. When Jesus had spoken to them previously about Himself as the Good Shepherd, they had become very angry.

Just as there were people in the days of Jesus who did not believe, so there are still those today that claim to want to know who Jesus is but ignore who He says He is. Oh yes, there are many who claim to know who Jesus is, but it is a Jesus of their own making, a Jesus that approves of all that they do, whether it is sinful or not. There are those who claim to know Jesus, but this Jesus says that everyone will go to heaven because they’re a good person at heart. However, there is one problem with this Jesus: He doesn’t exist! The real Jesus is the one who tells the people that because of their disbelief, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. The difference between the real Jesus and the made-up Jesus is that the Good Shepherd Calls His sheep by name and keeps them safe in His Father’s hand. That is something that only the Jesus in the Scriptures can do.

Our Lord knows that His sheep will always be under the attack of the world and all that it offers. This world brings so many challenges against the community of Jesus’ disciples. The world is hostile to Jesus, His message and His disciples because they don’t like the message that Jesus brings. Instead of a message that says that only believers will be saved, the world wants a message that says that all people will be saved, regardless if they believe or not. The world wants to hear a message that says it doesn’t matter what you believe because all roads lead to the same god and the same eternal destination. What is tragic in all of this is living in that world without a true shepherd.

Without having a shepherd, the sheep would have no sense of direction. The voice of strangers would lead them astray. Without a shepherd, the sheep would have no safety net. The thief would steal the sheep and the wolf would easily snatch them away. Without a shepherd, the sheep would only wander the way of death. The thief would kill and destroy the sheep.

Jesus is that Good Shepherd, the one who promises to always keep us under His care. Through His Word, the Good Shepherd calls His disciples by name. He knows us, and we know His voice and follow Him. He gently leads and guides us in green pastures, to His blessings of salvation and eternal life. Our Good Shepherd does something that no other shepherd, no thief, no hired hand could ever do: He lays down His life in order to protect us to the utmost extent possible. Our Lord tells the Jews who are gathered there in the portico: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

For you, He goes to the cross of Calvary, with all of your sin and the sin of the world upon His shoulders, willingly, so that you would have eternal life. He goes where only the Good Shepherd will: to death. And He does this with you in mind because you are the reason He goes to the lengths that He does. Everything He does, from birth to death to resurrection is for you, His precious sheep.

As our Good Shepherd, the Son speaks to us the Word, love, and care of His heavenly Father for us and for our salvation. By speaking to us through His Word, the Good Shepherd knows us and we know Him, just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father. That is because we both share the same name: child of God. While Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, we are made God’s true children by virtue of our Baptism, where we are given His name, making us His beloved sheep. In Christ, we are protected and cared for by our heavenly Father, for we have Jesus, our Good Shepherd. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.