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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
May 12, 2019 SERMON TEXT
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN.
The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 4th Sunday of Easter, John 10:22-30. There we read these words:
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no? one will snatch them out of My hand. 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. I and the Father are one."
We begin in Jesus' name, AMEN
Dear Christian friends: I have a friend a fellow pastor who believes that the best time to sit down and write a sermon is when you are a little ticked off at someone. Angry sermons get down to the point.
Angry sermons bring things to your mind and out of your mouth that might not usually occur to you. Angry sermons are also risky business for everyone because the preacher's mind and his emotions are both totally saturated with sin. Angry sermons run the risks of treating the flock of God too harshly, or of focusing too narrowly upon too few people, or of making a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak.
The Lord Jesus has no such sin. The sinlessness of the Lord is what makes Him the ideal candidate to be the sacrifice for your sins. The sinlessness of the Lord is what made Him innocent in His death and therefore totally justified in His resurrection. The sinlessness of Jesus is also what makes it possible to become angry without sin (Ephesians 4:26); and able to preach angry sermons that do NO damage, but bring you? only life and health, security and peace.
"The Jews gathered around Jesus" in this Gospel are somewhat comparable to a? swarm of gnats or a case of lice. They will not be satisfied and they will not go away.
"Are you the Christ?" "I told you I am He." "Are you the Christ?" "You will not believe." "Are you the Christ?" "My works testify about Me."? "But are you the Christ?" Poke. Prod. Goad. Instigate.
As happened before, in the days of the Old Testament, so it happens again in today's Gospel: "The Lord's anger was aroused that day and He swore this oath" (Numbers? 32:10) speaking with great emphasis for us and for our salvation:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
What is emphatic about our Lord's Words from today's Gospel "Voice" is emphatic. The Word "voice" is actually the first Word in our Lord's sentence, and the first word of a sentence gets the most attention. We translate it as "My sheep hear My voice," but it would be more literal to say, "MY VOICE My sheep are hearing."
Why does this matter Because "the Jews gathered around Jesus" were not hearing His voice. "I told you," said the Lord, "and you do not believe." Unlike the Jews in today's Gospel, you Christians are indeed hearing the voice of Jesus and that can be both a comfort for you and a warning to you.
Here is the comfort: The sheep of Jesus hear His voice. If you hear His voice, then you may trust and rejoice and thank God that you truly are part of our Lord's precious, beloved, and blood-bought flock.
And the warning from the book of Hebrews: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 4:7).
Jesus explicitly uses the pronoun "I" when He says, "I know My sheep," and again, "I give them eternal life." Most of the time, no one says the word "I" in Greek. The word "I" is already spelled out in the verb of the sentence.
Therefore, when someone spells out the word "I" all by itself, you know that person is speaking with great emphasis. Jesus does not want anyone to miss His point when He emphatically says in today's Gospel, "I know My sheep," and again, "I give them eternal life."
And why does this matter First, anyone can say that he or she knows Jesus. Everyone gathered here can say that they know Jesus. Everyone who wants to be on the church rolls but never darken the doorway of the church also wants to say he knows Jesus .
The Jews in today's Gospel could say that they knew Jesus, and most Moslems today could also make the same claim.
In today's Gospel, Jesus wants you to realize that it does not really matter whether you know Jesus. I could say that I know Will Smith, Lady Ga-Ga, Hulk Hogan and others. I could easily pick each of them out of a crowd. But knowing them does me no good.
In today's Gospel, Jesus emphatically warns that merely knowing Him, knowing Jesus, might not do much good, either, if that is all you have. The inheritance, the forgiveness, the eternal life and the unending salvation consist, not of whom you know, but of who knows you! "I know My sheep," roars the Lord. "I give them eternal life."
Another comfort; another warning. The comfort is this: Jesus your gentle shepherd knows you. His knowledge of you goes beyond the numbering of the hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). In Baptism He has "summoned you by name; you are His" (Isaiah 43:1). Your crucified Lord has cupped you carefully in His all-powerful hands the very right hand of the Lord of hosts "and no one shall snatch you out of His hand."
The warning is this: Do not allow yourself to travel too far away from those places where your resurrected Lord gives you His gift of eternal life. Jesus is speaking in the present tense when He says, "I give them eternal life."
This is a present and ongoing gift; a present and ongoing giving. This is the work of preaching in your midst, This is the point of your participation in the liturgy, as you stand with saints and angels in the presence of the Living God; This is the point of the Holy Communion that you would continue to receive the Lord's gift of eternal life.
Jesus uses something called a double negative when He says here, "They will not perish." Stated another way, Jesus uses two different forms of the word "not" in that sentence, and He uses them back-to-back.
"My sheep will NOT-will NOT perish." My sheep shall REALLY NOT perish. My Sheep shall TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY NOT perish. Then you can almost hear the voice of our Lord drop to a deadly calm as He stares sin, death and the devil straight into the eyes: "No one will snatch them out of My hand."
What a beautiful picture of our resurrected, victorious Lord! "No one will snatch My sheep out of My hand."
They are right here in front of Me, where I can keep My careful and protective eye upon them from here to eternity.
They rest in My hand, the same hand that was pierced for their salvation, and the blood of My suffering and death is has now surrounded them. My divine fingers gently encircle them and "they will never perish."
If that is not enough comfort for My Sheep, then add this: "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and not one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
Why does this matter You tell me. Even better, show me with the way you live why it matters.
Christ is risen.
|Christ Is Risen|
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