Text: John 10:22-30
Date: Easter IV + 4/21/13
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. At least that’s the shout of the faith of those who truly hear His voice, who are known by Him, and who follow Him. The others are all those who do not follow Him, who, though they are known by Him, do not truly hear His voice. Today, I’m told, in our country that’s about 4 out of 5 people! These do not shout in praise, “Blessed is the King who comes,” but grumble in protest, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us plainly if you are the Christ.” But the demands of unbelief will never be satisfied, because their purpose is only to discredit, to despise and reject, to expose what they consider to be a fraud.
That may sound like a bit of a conundrum. But if that’s confusing how about all this talk about lambs and sheep and shepherds? John the Baptist told us Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” But now Jesus, this Lamb, tells us He is the Shepherd, the “good” one. The Lamb is the Shepherd? This is strange, indeed; strange, however, only to those who do not listen, really listen, who have their ears and hearts so full of their own ideas, their own priorities, their own agendas and will that they just can’t get it.
This is the final confrontation of this “Good Shepherd” with those who will not have Him, whom so far John has called simply, “the Jews.” The relatively minor feast of the Dedication of the restoration of the Jerusalem temple under Judas Maccabeus in 165 b.c. fell in December each year. Therefore John mentions for we who would not know, “It was winter.” The timing of this “make it or break it” confrontation however couldn’t be more appropriate, the dispute of wintry, cold, dark unbelief like the icy night that surrounded them.
They wouldn’t be convinced even if Jesus Himself or anyone else would say out loud the shout that can only be confessed or believed by faith, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the King.” When Pontius Pilate dared to say to everyone, “Here is your King,” they only shouted back, “Crucify, crucify Him.”
Jesus never forced His claim to be who He is on anyone. And He still doesn’t! [It was not force, by the way, but simply an answer to a humble and honest inquiry that Jesus said in His private conversation with the woman of Samaria at the well, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26)]. No, upper most in Jesus mind and speech and actions was never His own self-promotion but always the will and work of His Father—His Father who would be their Father and yours, but only by allowing Him to give you the faith to believe in His Son, the Lamb who is the Shepherd.
If Jesus the Lamb is also the shepherd, then those who follow Him must be part of His flock, His sheep. But it is only by this that we may be considered to be His sheep but by the seemingly thinnest thread, that is, by faith. By faith we become part of His flock in order that we can truly and constantly hear His voice and have the gift of eternal life. The seemingly thinnest thread is how many consider the sacrament of Holy Baptism. After all it is “a stretch” they say, “to believe that God in this simple way creates saving faith in the heart, especially of an infant!” The Jews that gathered around Jesus outside of the temple that evening, as if a threatening gang in a dark alley way, would not believe that He is the Christ even if He told them.
“But to all who did receive Him,” Saint John wrote at the beginning of His gospel, “who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Children, Little lambs of Jesus, Sheep of His pasture who would never know want—want of faith or life or anything else; sheep made to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters, their souls restored, led in the paths of righteousness. And why? “For his name’s sake.” But to all who did receive Him, even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they fear no evil. Why? Because He is with them; He is with you; the rod and staff of His Word constantly, every day comforting you. Not only on Sunday but every day He prepares a table, the feast of life in the face of any and all who mean only death. He anoints with the oil of gladness and the cup, not of suffering anymore but of life, overflowing, eternal life. Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows. “Surely,” confessed the Roman centurion who saw Him die, “this was the Son of God!” And surely also goodness and mercy will follow you, His sheep, all the days of your life, and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).
The Lamb who is the Shepherd says, “My Father, who has given [the sheep] to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The confidence of the apostle Paul is ours: “For I am sure that neither death nor life…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39), our Shepherd, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, our sin. Separation. That’s what sin does. The Lamb of God takes away sin and therefore reunites us with God, and this simply as a gift given through faith, the faith that hears His voice and follows Him.
His enemies—of all ages!—say, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” As close as He would answer their demand, He didn’t really, quite. When He told them, “I and the Father are one,” He meant of one purpose, of one will, of one goal, the goal of love, and thus He left the door open even to His nearest enemies; open to faith that hears His voice, faith that trusts His presence, faith that follows Him and receives eternal life.
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. For even while He was taking it away by means of His holy cross and passion He was the Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep. Even while He rested in the tomb He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth. Even after His mighty resurrection from the dead now He is both the Lamb and the Shepherd, living and leading His own in green pastures to the great wedding banquet of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end.
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready….” Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:6-10).