“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. 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.”” (John 10:27-30 ESV)
Easter. To be honest, the name doesn’t do justice to the incredible importance of this day. In fact, I prefer Resurrection Sunday! Regardless of the name used, its importance cannot be overstated. This is the day upon which all of history pivots. Last week I gave you a synopsis of the evidence for the resurrection. Evidence that leads most of us to faith in Jesus. (You can find it here.) I believe those who reject the truth of the evidence do not do so because of the weaknesses of the evidence, but because of its implications. If you acknowledge the possibility that Jesus is who he claims to be, you have no choice but to wrestle through the results and those are huge and demanding.
Our world is content to let Jesus stand as one of many religious leaders who challenge us to live better, morally righteous lives. He’s a great ethical teacher, a powerful prophet, one of the many ways God may have revealed himself to mankind, one of God’s many sons of which we are one, too.
All of these ideas are readily accepted by modern culture as long as we don’t go overboard with the results and simply hold our beliefs privately. In other words, you can believe whatever you want and practice those beliefs privately, but don’t let them bleed over into your public life. When your beliefs bleed over into everyday life and affect your actions and decisions, that becomes offensive and unkind. Besides, who really expects their religious beliefs to change their daily actions and life choices? Keep that stuff in church where it belongs.
But, is that really what Jesus taught? Was his entire mission simply to get us to be kind towards one another? Did he really come just to show us some attitudes that were already hidden deep inside us? Did he really just want us to be religiously minded at church and self focused the rest of the week? If so, then why did he need to die? What purpose does the crucifixion and resurrection serve? What is really the point of Easter? Is it the big deal Christians make it out to be?
The passage we consider today, John 10:27-30, gives us an answer to this question. In the preceding verses, Jesus has compared himself to a Shepherd and, in fact, calls himself the Great Shepherd. Why? Because he cares about us like a shepherd does his sheep. In this passage he notes that sheep know and recognize the voice of their shepherd and follow him, and the shepherd knows and recognizes each of them.
The problem here is that most of us, like sheep, also tend to wander off following our own desires. Sheep seem to be the epitome of those who ignore danger because they are focused on filling their own bellies. Not only do they tend to ignore the danger but when they become aware, they can’t do anything about it. They are either hopelessly lost and can’t find their way back, or they are about to become lunch for a hungry wolf. But Jesus assures us, my sheep know me and follow me.
Tina and I had to make a trip back to our hometown of Wagoner, Oklahoma on Thursday. It’s been a while since we’ve been there. We had to attend a funeral. As we sat in the church waiting for the service to start, we watched people come in and I kept thinking “he/she looks familiar. I wonder if that’s so-and-so?” Several folks I knew without question, and some I wasn’t as sure. Folks I had known a long time ago, and I’m certain that many of them didn’t recognize me either. It has been almost forty years since we lived there. But, that will never happen with Jesus. He knows his sheep, and they know him. Trust the shepherd, follow his leadership.
Jesus says sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. They don’t recognize or follow anyone else. Now pay attention to this, because it is IMPORTANT. Jesus doesn’t say all sheep follow him, only those who belong to him will hear him, will follow him. In fact, in Matthew 7 he says there are some who claim to have been following Jesus, but instead were listening to and following someone else. Not every path leads to God.
“”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
In other words, it appears there will be some, maybe quite a few, who think they’ve been hearing Christ’s voice, who’ve been following someone, but not him. In fact, in the verses that immediately precede those above (Matt. 7:15-20) Jesus says there will be false prophets or teachers that will infiltrate the church and attack the sheep. How can we recognize them? By their actions. Are their actions consistent with his teachings?
But shouldn’t they realize that these aren’t Jesus’ words? Wouldn’t they turn away from an imposter? But, they hear the voice of the one who speaks the language of their hearts. Consider this:
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
Whose voice are you hearing and following? Is it because they tell you what you want to hear, instead of what you need to hear?
Finally, Jesus declares that those who hear his voice and follow him have no need to fear the future, and especially death. Why? Because I give them life, eternal life. Now, there’s more to a good life than just longevity and Eternal Life is not just about length. Billy Joel recorded a song back in 1977 titled “Only the Good Die Young.” Here are some of the lyrics:
“They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun…
You know that only the good die young”
Like Joel, many have this false notion that heaven is sitting around on a cloud all day playing a harp for eternity. Hah! Find that idea anywhere in scripture, I dare ya. It’s not there. But, what is there is that the one who made us, who knows what we really need and who knows what is really missing from our lives will give us life to its FULLEST.
Are you sure? I’m certain, because Jesus says that it is entirely in God’s hands. We have nothing to fear, because God has promised and nobody is greater. He has placed us in Jesus’ hand and nobody can snatch us out. It isn’t contingent on your skill or goodness. God DOESN’T save you or anyone because you deserve it. He does it because you need it… that’s the message of Easter. Jesus didn’t die because he deserved it, he died because you and I deserve it. God refused to leave him in the grave. The RESURRECTION is the declaration that God will finish in you what he has begun. Trust the shepherd, he won’t leave you to the wolves. How can you be sure? Because to do so is to declare God a liar and unworthy of our trust and Jesus sacrifice as worthless.