4th Sunday of Easter
Your Good Shepherd
1. Listen to Him
2. Follow Him
3. Trust Him
Text: John 10:22-30
It was December, wintertime in Jerusalem. The Jews were celebrating the Feast of Dedication. This was not a God-ordained festival, but man-made festival. During the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights, also known as Hanukkah, the Jews commemorated Judas Maccabaeus. In 165 B.C. Judas Maccabaeus led the Jews in driving the Syrians out of Jerusalem and purifying the temple. The Jews, still to this day, light one candle or a seven-candle menorah to commemorate this event.
Once, Jesus was in Jerusalem during the celebration. While the Jews were celebrating this joyous event, they couldn’t help but think about things that Jesus had been saying. Seeing Jesus in the temple during Hanukkah, they could hardly keep quiet. Verse 24: “The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”
Normally Jesus would have given a very clear and simple answer. In John 3 Jesus had a meaningful conversation with Nicodemus about who he was. In John 4 the Samaritan woman at the well said she was looking for the Christ to come and Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.” But his answer was different this time. Verse 25: “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.’”
Jesus had told them plainly and often that he was the promised Messiah. Not only did he tell them often, but he also showed them often with powerful miracles. They didn’t need any more testimony from Jesus. They would have only hated Jesus more. They didn’t know how good the Good Shepherd is because they weren’t his sheep. They simply didn’t believe in him.
But we do. We do believe in Jesus, and thus, we are his sheep. So what does that mean? How are we different? Here’s what Jesus says. “My sheep listen to my voice.” Sheep might be wandering all over the pasture, but when the shepherd speaks and gives direction, the sheep listen to their shepherd and obey.
Because we believe in Jesus, we are his sheep and he is our Good Shepherd. The question is, how much do we act like his sheep? Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice.” Do you listen to Jesus?
It’s important to know how Jesus speaks to you in the first place. Jesus does not speak to you in dreams and visions. He will not tell you in a dream what job to take and he will not whisper in your ear which car to purchase. Jesus doesn’t speak to you during meditation and he doesn’t communicate through the stars or astrological signs. Jesus doesn’t send text messages or Emails, and he won’t call you on your iPhone. There is only one way that Jesus speaks to his people—in his Word, the Bible.
So if the Good Shepherd only speaks through the Bible, and if his sheep listen to his voice, are you listening to what Jesus says in the Bible? How can you listen to Jesus’ voice if your Bible sits closed every day at home? How can you expect your children to know Jesus’ voice if you never talk about him at home? How can you listen to Jesus’ voice if you aren’t at Bible study at church or aren’t in worship on Sunday mornings? And can you truly know your Good Shepherd’s voice if you only hear him for one hour on a Sunday morning in a 168 hour week?
Hearing the Good Shepherd’s voice is one thing. Then there is actually listening to his voice, which implies doing what he says. My children hear me tell them to go to bed every night, but them listening and obeying is a different story. Sheep may hear their shepherd call them to gather in the sheep pen, but they might gorge themselves on more grass in the pasture instead. How often do we hear our Good Shepherd? Then, how often do we listen to and obey our Good Shepherd?
When my children don’t listen to me, I love them enough to still speak to them. I discipline them. I correct them. I keep speaking to them. When sheep don’t listen to the shepherd, the shepherd cares enough to still speak to them. He uses his rod and staff to correct them and bring the back to the fold. Then he still calls to them and speaks to them.
Lovingly and tenderly our Good Shepherd still calls to us and speaks to us, despite our often-closed ears and selective hearing. Though we may be straying, he calls for us to return. Though we don’t often act like his sheep or listen to his voice, he still loves us and brings us back into his fold. He still speaks to us with patient love.
This is Your Good Shepherd. In loving patience he calls to you. He speaks to you in his Word, telling you how much he loves you. He speaks to you in his Word, telling you how he wants you to live and that he wants to keep you in his sheep pen. Jesus is Your Good Shepherd. Listen to him.
What else do the Good Shepherd’s sheep do? Jesus continues in verse 27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Lovingly the Good Shepherd speaks to us. He knows us and knows that we belong to him, so he keeps speaking to us. What happens next? “They follow me,” Jesus says.
We all can picture the mother duck quacking away with the little ducklings listening and following in a row behind. We all can picture the little two-year-old wobbly-walking behind his father. Even though he might not be able to see his father, the toddler still follows the sound of his voice. We might not have much experience with sheep, but we all can picture the herd of sheep following the voice and the lead of the shepherd, whichever direction he might go.
We can picture all of these scenes. They are easy for us to imagine and understand. Yet somehow it is not so easy for us to do. The Good Shepherd says that his sheep follow him. Do you follow him?
Are you like the dog that has been to obedience school and follows every word of his owner? Or are you like the stray dog that has never once heeded to a human voice? Are you like the straight “A” student that is never in trouble, always following the teacher’s directions? Or are you like the classroom troublemaker that always has to sit out at recess? Are you like the sheep that always follow right behind the shepherd? Or are you like the sheep that somehow are always lost and separated from the pack?
We are sheep that not only need to work on listening to our Good Shepherd, but we also need to work on following our Good Shepherd. Lovingly and tenderly the Good Shepherd continues to call us when we stray. He goes after us and leads us back to the flock. He disciplines. He corrects. He forgives. Then he calls us to follow him again.
This is Your Good Shepherd. In loving patience he forgives us when we stray and fail to follow him. He invites us to listen to him and follow him to green pastures and quiet waters. He will lead us in righteous paths toward our eternal pasture of heaven. Jesus is Your Good Shepherd. Follow him.
What else do the Good Shepherd’s sheep do? Listen first to what the Good Shepherd does for his sheep. Verse 28: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can 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.”
My children trust me. When we approach a busy street, they quickly grab onto my hand. When we are standing in the ocean and the waves get really big and strong, they quickly grab onto my hand. They know that daddy will never let go and nothing will rip them away from my hand. They trust that I will always protect them and keep them safe.
Sheep trust their shepherd. They fearlessly roam the pastures and the meadows because they know that their shepherd will protect them. No danger or disaster or wild animal will harm them because their shepherd is always watching out for their good. They trust that their shepherd will always protect them and keep them safe.
Do we trust our Good Shepherd like a little child trusts his father? Do we trust our Good Shepherd like simple sheep trust their shepherd? Do you trust that the Good Shepherd will pull you through these difficult times of your life? Do you trust that the Good Shepherd will keep safe the loved one you are so worried about? Do you trust that the Good Shepherd will lead you safely to heaven?
Our Good Shepherd is certainly worthy of trust. Look at how good and gracious he is: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” We are simple, sinful sheep, sometimes dumber than real life sheep. But graciously our Good Shepherd gives us what we don’t deserve. He gives us eternal life. He promises that we will not perish because of our sins. Instead, our Good Shepherd laid down his own life and he perished so that we sheep could go on to live.
So our Good Shepherd promises that no one can take away the eternal life he gives us. “No one can snatch them out of my hand.” No cancer, no disease, no failing friend, no abusive coworker, no unloving family member, no enemy, no terrorist, no Boston bomber—no one can snatch us out of the hand of our Good Shepherd.
If that promise isn’t enough, Jesus adds to it in the next verse: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Not only does God the Son promise to keep us safe, but so does God the Father. How does Jesus have so much power? Why do we know that no one could ever rip us from Jesus’ hands? Because Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are together one true God and all of them promise to keep us safe.
This is Your Good Shepherd. In loving mercy he laid down his life so that we could be his sheep now and forever in heaven. Now in his great power as true God he promises that no one will ever snatch us out of his hand. Jesus is Your Good Shepherd. Trust him.
It was only three weeks ago on Easter morning that I mentioned many of the troubles that we have in life. I said it seems like there is a new disaster every day. We don’t know when the next hurricane or earthquake will strike. We don’t know who will get cancer next. I also said three weeks ago that we don’t know when the next terrorist attack will happen.
The next terrorist attack did happen. Two bombs placed near the finished line of the Boston Marathon this last week have changed thousands of lives forever. We can be glad that the damage was limited and relatively few died or were injured. We can be glad that they caught the two brothers who seem to have been responsible. Yet the overwhelming feeling this week seems to be: What next? What can possibly happen next? Or when will it happen next? Things are only getting more dangerous and getting worse by the minute!
This might be true. Things might be getting worse. Life might only get harder for Christians. This world, and our country in particular, might be going to Satan’s domain in a hand basket.
This might all be true. But this is also true: We have a Good Shepherd who is mightier and stronger than anyone or anything. He laid down his life for us. He loves us. He promises to protect us. He is our Good Shepherd, our Savior, our God, and that means no one can snatch us out of his hand. So Listen to him, Follow him, and Trust him.
Posted on April 23, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Bombs, Boston, Boston Marathon, Church, Easter, Good Shepherd, Good Shepherd Sunday, I Am the Good Shepherd, Jesus, John, John 10, Sermons, Sheep, Terrorists. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.