April 25, 2021 – Easter 4B
the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
| Centering Prayer |
Today’s Good News marks a
Post Easter shift
From eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection
- The empty tomb
- Twice to the Upper Room
- On the road to Emmaus
- On the shore on the Sea of Galilee
- To the moment of ascension
To reflecting upon who this resurrected Christ truly is and
What it means to us today.
This is a core characteristic of John’s Gospel.
John provides multiple witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel identifies beyond a shadow of a doubt
The human and divine identity of Jesus.
John challenges early Church Christians,
And us today,
To grow our relationship with Christ,
Deepen our faith, and
Witness to what we know.
Consider the grand opening of John’s Gospel.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
– 1:1-5, 14
He speaks of God who existed before time began
And through whom all things came into being.
Jesus is the Word,
And dwelt among us.
Using sweeping “I Am” statements
That echo the great “I Am” of the Torah and prophets
We hear Jesus saying
- “I Am the vine, you are the branches.” – 15:5
- “I Am the bread of life.” – 6:35
- “I Am the light of the world.” – 8:12
- And today, “I Am the good shepherd.” – 10:11
The reason for this shift
From witness to identity is simple:
John wants identity to become the seed
Of a personal relationship between you and Jesus.
Christ wants into your life.
The context for the Gospel today
Is a larger narrative of a man born blind,
Being outcast and isolated like so many of us have been
Isolated, quarantined, and locked down this past year.
The man didn’t lose his sight.
He was born without sight.
When asked if sin was the cause of his blindness,
Makes mud with his spit,
Spreads the mud on the man’s eyes, and
Tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
A gift of sight.
From the only source of sight.
Jesus gives him sight, something only a supernatural God can do.
The newly sighted man testifies only to his personal experience.
Pharisees investigates the man and his parents.
This only amplifies the man’s testimony of divine intervention at the hand of Jesus.
Jesus found him, gave him sight, brought him into the fold.
From begging by the side of the road, he is invited into the community, where there is safety and abundance.
This example right here, friends,
Is the work of a good shepherd.
John assumes a knowledgeable Hebrew audience who is
Well educated in Jewish law and tradition.
All would know the familiar 23rd Psalm.
It begins with:
“The Lord is my shepherd.” – Ps 23:1
Who is Jesus?
He’s the good shepherd, John tells us.
At the same time
The Psalmist tells us
The Lord is my shepherd.
Therefore, Jesus is my Lord.
See how the Gospel of John lays his theological foundation?
This Psalm paints a picture of royalty,
Of a Lord
Who is powerful, steady, loving, understanding, comforting, providing.
Many in the crowd probably also knew
the conclusion of Psalm 79.
“… we your people, the flock of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” – Ps 79:13
Beyond the Psalms
One only has to turn to the prophet Ezekiel
To hear further echoes of John’s Gospel:
“I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out …
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep,
and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.”
– Ezekiel 34:11, 15
Who is Jesus?
He’s the good shepherd.
At the same time
The Lord is the shepherd of his sheep.
Therefore, Jesus is my Lord.
QED, John completes the theorem.
Thus, it is demonstrated that
Jesus is Lord.
The question of Jesus’ identity
Is rooted in the Pharisees relentless, often paranoid inquiry
And the crowds enthusiastic curiosity:
Who are you and from where have you come?
The Pharisees had a good thing going
And they didn’t want any backwater redneck to throw a monkey wrench into the cogs of organized religion.
Organized religion was printing money for them hand over fist.
It was laying their golden eggs.
Likewise, the crowds eagerly sought a new Messiah,
A political solution to the Roman occupation and oppression.
They wanted to know if Jesus was the one
Who was sent by God
To save them from their captivity.
John lays out the case for who Jesus is.
He is NOT an unreliable hired hand who runs in the face of danger.
Jesus stands up in the face of danger
And protects his sheep from all worldly perils.
Jesus calls his sheep,
Feeds and waters his sheep,
And tends to their every need.
Jesus knows each and every one of his sheep by name
And his sheep personally know him.
With no intermediary.
Jesus is willing to give his life for his sheep,
And we know he eventually does.
Jesus ultimately is the one who
Will bring all sheep together,
Sheep in other folds tended by Jesus of whom we have no knowledge.
He will bring us together to make one flock.
All well and good, if we are to believe
The Good News was only relevant to Jesus’ followers,
And perhaps the first century Church.
That is an argument I’m not willing to sell.
My faith leads me to believe that
The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is also meant for us today.
John’s message about identity is meant for
Early Church Christians,
And for each of us today,
living out our Christian journey half a world away 2,000 years later.
“I Am the Good Shepherd” begs the question
Who is Jesus to you?
Who is Jesus and why has his life, death, and resurrection intersected with yours?
You’ve heard witness of his death and resurrection the past three weeks.
Now you are hearing the case John makes for his identity as shepherd and Lord.
Is Jesus the topic to be avoided at work and in social circles?
Is Jesus the one who is to be denied if pressed by inquiring minds?
Is Jesus the necessary consequence of doing the right thing by going to church on Sundays?
Perhaps Jesus is simply a historical character who models good moral behavior.
Perhaps Jesus is just the focus of a delusional Church.
Perhaps Jesus is a necessary psychological crutch that we need to get through life.
Everybody has an opinion, and believe me, I’ve heard them all.
I cannot tell you what to believe.
I am only able to witness to you
what I believe.
You are invited to make up your own mind.
Jesus is my shepherd, and he is good.
He has provided for my family and I every day of my life.
I have never been in want of food, drink, or shelter.
I have always been loved and cared for.
Jesus sought me
Just as he sought the man born blind.
Jesus brought me into the fold at my baptism
Just as Jesus gave the blind man the divine gift of sight
Bringing him out of isolation and into community.
I have come to know that
Jesus knows me through-and-through;
The good, the bad, and, yes, the ugly.
There is no hiding from him.
Jesus is the source of my healing when I’ve been broken.
Jesus is the one who judges me and forgives me, when I have sinned, confessed, and begged for forgiveness.
I fully anticipate Jesus will be the one who saves me into eternal life.
I know that Jesus was willing to give his life for me, because he did.
I know that Jesus is at work bringing all of God’s people back into his one fold;
Into his eternal kingdom.
I know it, because I’ve lived it.
I know it, because I’m living it.
This is my witness to you.
Won’t you join me?
In your thoughts this week,
I’d like you to focus on this essential question:
Who is Jesus and why has he come into your life?
Make it be all about you.
This is one occasion where it’s good to make it “all about me.”
Who is Jesus to you?
Why is Jesus in your life?
Let me know where your thoughts and prayers lead you.
Let me know how you have been drawn closer
To our good shepherd.