Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Lectionary Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:22-30 The Responsibility is Ours

Many, many years ago when I was a very young teenager our family moved to a city in Texas. The neighborhood we settled in has a lot of other young teens as well. This group of neighborhood teens had a special way of treating new commers. What they would do is get you into a discussion about your physical abilities. In the process of talking the subject would come up, “Who do you think you could beat in a fight?”  They would then go to the person you said you might be able to win against and tell them that you said you could beat them. This little game got me into fights on a regular basis until I figured out what was going on.

I understand how teenagers could do something like this, but sadly, some of this type of behavior follows them into adulthood. One of the places I see evidence of this is how they use social media.  I do not use major social media platforms. The reason I do not is because I see so much hostility, so much stirring the pot of controversy, and so many hurtful words that I just felt this is something that I, myself could not do without being tempted to respond. Responding would only feed the beast. Each of us must respond to how the Holy Spirit leads us in matters of life and living. The responsibility is ours.

The Festival of Dedication (we know today as Hanukkah), is the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is celebrated during the Hebrew month of Kislev (late November or early December), beginning on day 25 of Kislev and continuing for eight days and nights. It celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over Greek oppression and the rededication of the Temple.

In the passage, we are told that some religious individuals approached Jesus and tried to manipulate him into saying something that could be used against him. It was an attempt to draw Jesus into a fight. They want Jesus to make a public declaration. They want Jesus to say he is the Messiah.

What is the big deal about this? Why does it seem so important that Jesus make this declaration public? In the days of Jesus, the term Messiah was viewed as more political than spiritual. Several charismatic rebel leaders had used the title in their revolt against Roman rule. The Romans had a way of quickly eliminating such rebels. Those who were pushing Jesus to publicly declare himself to be the Messiah were hoping the same thing would happen to him.

Jesus was on to their scheme. Jesus’s answer, “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.” Jesus does not want to play their games. Jesus knows their motives and designs. Jesus sees into the depth of a human soul.

The game “who is Jesus” continues today. I have read, set through lectures, and have had conversations with individuals who still say that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah and that this was a title imposed on him by the church. Still today, they ask for evidence that plainly states Jesus was the Messiah.

He is reality. Jesus did claim, plainly, with his words but more so with his actions that Jesus was the Messiah promised by Scripture.

There is an old saying about arrogant and ignorant people, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up. These people who are being so aggressive have already made their minds up about Jesus. They are convinced he is not the type of Messiah they wanted. They were afraid of the trouble Jesus was stirring up among the masses who were beginning to believe Jesus just might be the Messiah.

This is the real issue. It is about accepting the responsibility to understand who Jesus is, what kind of Messiah he is, and what Jesus’s Messiahship means to each and every human being. Jesus was not just a Jewish Messiah; he is the Messiah for all time and space and creation and salvation. Through the words and actions of his life, Jesus proclaimed the reality of the coming Kingdom of God and that it was a Kingdom of grace, love, and reconciliation not a Messiah of nationalism.

I am very troubled about the growing attempt in recent times to try and make Jesus the Messiah of nationalism once again. America is not the Kingdom of God. Israel is not the Kingdom of God. No political entity can ever claim to be the Kingdom of God. Jesus came and preached a message of forgiveness and acceptance without any trace of racial superiority or political alignment. Just as the children’s hymn proclaims, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Jesus tells those who are questioning him that the reason they do not believe is because they do not recognize Jesus as the shepherd. The Messiah will lead those who listen to the reality voiced by Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd. The anointed of God, the savior of humankind is first and foremost a shepherd. He leads the sheep. He does not drive the flock but through his voice, the flock finds trust and assurance.

Jesus makes it clear. It is important to be part of Jesus’s flock. Jesus will lead to green pastures of peace. Jesus will lead to the still waters of grace. Jesus will protect and serve his own with his very life. Satan cannot claim someone who belongs to the flock of God.

How can we know if we belong to the flock of God? How can we know we are hearing Jesus’s voice? The voice of Jesus is not about power, position, profits, or possessions. The voice of Jesus is about being a servant. It is about helping and not hurting. It is about joy and not judgment. It is about freedom, not control. It is about unconditional love.

The sheep know the shepherd’s voice through experience, through a relationship. It is the shepherd who leads them to food and shelter. It is the shepherd who calls them.

 “The modern shepherd has a wonderful memory, which retains the name of every sheep. The flocks sometimes contain several hundred, and yet each one has a name, and the shepherd knows it, and calls every sheep by its proper name. [One observer] tells of watching shepherds with flocks upon the slopes of Mount Hermon: ‘Each shepherd trains his sheep to come at his call, to go in order, in twos or fours, in squares and circles; one from the outer circle in a flock of a thousand will come when its name is called.’ It is the voice of the shepherd that the sheep recognizes.

“A stranger once declared to a Syrian shepherd that the sheep knew the dress and not the voice of their master. The shepherd said it was the voice they knew. To prove this, he exchanged dresses with the stranger, who went among the sheep in the shepherd’s dress, calling the sheep in imitation of the shepherd’s voice, and tried to lead them. They knew not his voice, but when the shepherd called them, though he was disguised, the sheep ran at once at his call.”​[1]

If we want to know if we are in the flock of God the question, “How do we respond to the words of Jesus and how can we trust the word,” needs to be asked. How do we do this? By spending time with the words of the Good Shepherd. By becoming discerning in times of prayer. By seeking to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. God does seek us. God does try to draw us. God will protect us if we are willing to trust.

Final note, Jesus moves the position of Messiah to a new level. Jesus says he and the Father are one. Jesus just states that he is one with God. It is simple logic. If a equals b, and b equals c, then a equals c. If the Father is God, and Jesus claims to be one with the Father, then Jesus states that he is God as well. If this is the truth, then the matter of whose voice we hear is critical to our eternal state. We will not live in this world forever. We do, because of Jesus have the opportunity to live in the presence and pleasure of God forever. Perhaps making sure of whose voice we are listening to is more important than we might realize.

[1] Orientalisms in Bible Lands, by E. W. Rice, pp. 159-161.

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