Let us pray: Dear Savior, countless people are searching for the truth today. The only problem is: most of the time they look inside themselves to discover truth which comforts, or they embrace the latest socially acceptable fade, all of which lead to dead ends. And if and when they do stop to listen to You, more often than not they reject repentance, faith, forgiveness and self-sacrificing love as either too hard or too out of date for them. But, today You come to comfort us with truth that never changes. Today You come to assure us that You truly are our Savior and our Good Shepherd. For that we give You our thanks and praise! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE SAVIOR WHO LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR YOU AND ME!
TEXT: John 10: 22-30
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Going to a new supermarket is not always easy. Every one is laid out just a little bit different and sometimes it is hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. I’m not afraid to ask supermarket employees where an item is when I cannot locate it. But, I must confess, it is a little embarrassing when they point out that it was right in front of my nose! The item is overlooked because of the confusion of everything around it, or because the searcher’s image of the item sought is inaccurate. Something similar to this develops in today’s Gospel as the Jews ask for information about something right in front of their eyes, that something being their Savior, the hoped for Messiah, the Christ. With that in mind, let’s turn to this little lesson and peruse its truths under this theme:
ASKING QUESTIONS ALREADY ANSWERED
“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”
The time was winter, December. The place wasn’t a supermarket, it was the temple in Jerusalem in an outer portico called Solomon’s Colonnade. It was during the Feast of Dedication, or Hannukah, as we know it today. Hannukah, a time to recall the formal cleansing of the temple about 170 years before this when Judas Maccabeus defeated the Syrians after they had defiled the temple by slaughtering a pig on the high altar there. Of course, that external cleansing was to be a precursor to the greater cleansing of human hearts from sin by the Messiah, the promised one of God. And so, the Jews present ask Christ the question: “Are you the Christ, the Messiah?”
Why ask the question? The Jews who asked Jesus about His mission were motivated by a hostile and argumentative spirit. We see this in a few verses before our text where Jesus has announced that He is the Good Shepherd, the One in charge of God’s holy flock. In John 10: 19 we’re told: “At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, ‘He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?’” Likewise, after Jesus gives them His answer in our text, we’re told in vs. 31: “the Jews picked up stones to stone him.” So, their question is not really neutral. It is preceded by argument and followed by hostility.
Today people often ask about Jesus with the exact same mindset. The message that Christ is the Messiah seems absurd to them in a world so filled with problems. They look at terrorism, they look at diseases run rampant like AIDS, or hovering out there like SARS, they look at the economic turmoil and uncertainty in this world and all these problems cause them to be hostile toward a God who would let any of this happen.
These negative influences also affect Christians. Such questions find a ready ally in our sinful hearts. We look around, we see such problems impacting us and in either a doubting or troubled way we ask, “Jesus are you really the Christ? If so, then do something, make it all better, save me!”
Certainly this question: “Are you really the Christ?” needs to be asked by every single person. But, how it is asked and in what spirit it is asked is really the point. We need to ask it in a spirit searching for genuine comfort and peace. We need to ask it in a sincere reaching out for help amid helplessness. In short, we need to ask it with a humble heart. And when we do, the Holy Spirit leads, guides, and encourages us to accept His wonderful answer!
And just why is Christ’s answer so wonderful? Because He phrases it with love, caring, and compassion toward hurting hearts. First, He speaks blunt words born of love to try to awaken the consciences of the nay-sayers: “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.” After this statement of fact, He then goes on to say this: “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 can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no once can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Good Shepherd/beloved sheep image is a comforting one. The sheep have benefited from His loving care. They know He will not hurt nor harm them. They know He has defended them and protected them time and again. When they hear His soft voice, they respond. They follow. They obey—all out of love. And again, “no one can snatch them out of His hand.” Why? Because He is the almighty Son of God. He is the Messiah, the Deliverer that God promised. Moreover, He is One with the Holy Father because there is unity in the Trinity.
All these answers to the Jew’s question had already been answered through the many miracles that Jesus had done. His sheep know that. That’s why they’re sheep and not goats! But the greatest comfort of all that He bestowes is “I give them eternal life.” So, not only are believers protected in the midst of the mundane problems of life, we’re especially protected eternally from the forces of darkness and evil. So much so, that: “No one can snatch them out of My hand!”
Through your phone calls, our discussions, and visits I’ve gotten to know that all of you face problems and heartache. I’ve gotten to know that all of you still, at times, ask “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly!”—Show us, prove it to us once more! And yet, we already know the answer, don’t we? It is right before our eyes in the person of Jesus Christ. So, listen to His voice, the voice of your Good Shepherd, and receive the wonderful comfort that He alone brings—today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen