Sermon title:  MY SHEEP LISTEN TO MY VOICE”

 

John 10:24-33; Luke 13:23-29    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, March 10, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Responsive Reading began with John 10:24,

where the Jews gathered around Jesus, and asked him

 

"How long will you keep us in suspense?

 

If you are the Christ,

tell us plainly."

 

But a couple of verses before that

sets the stage for where Jesus was

and what sort of crowd he was addressing.

 

If we go back to John 10:22, we read,

 

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.

 

That eight-day Jewish holiday

is also called “Hanukkah” and the Festival of Lights,

when Jews today light candles on their Hanukkah Menorah.

 

Its timing varies on our calendar,

because it follows the Jewish lunar calendar.

 

It can start as early as the end of November,

and can end as late as the beginning of January,

but the 8 days usually fall

completely within our month of December.

 

So, John 10:22 says,

 

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.

It was winter,

23 and Jesus was in the temple area

walking in Solomon's Colonnade.

 

Jerusalem’s winter tends to be warmer than ours,

so it’s typically in the upper 50’salmost 60 degrees—

in the afternoon around Hanukkah.

 

Jesus and his audience would have dressed warmly,

but would have been comfortable

as they walked outdoors in the semi-enclosed porch

called Solomon’s Colonnade.

 

Enclosed by large stone columns,

that huge open porch was part of

the Temple’s middle courtyard.

 

The Jerusalem Temple was surrounded by three courtyards:

 

Only Jewish men could enter the inner courtyard.

 

The extreme outer courtyard was called the Court of the Gentiles,

because it was the only place non-Jews were allowed

in the Temple.

 

And the middle courtyard where Jesus was on this occasion

was called the Court of the Women,

because it was open to Jewish men and women.

 

So, Jesus’ audience there in Solomon’s Colonnade

would have included women

but no Gentiles or non-Jews.

 

Verse 24 says,

 

24 The Jews gathered around him, saying,

"How long will you keep us in suspense?

If you are the Christ,

tell us plainly."

 

Whenever John says “the Jews” spoke to Jesus like that,

he usually means the religious leaders—

even though other men and women

would have been there, too, on this occasion

listening to the dialog with great interest.

 

25 Jesus answered,

"I did tell you, but you do not believe.

 

Jesus knew that the religious leaders were hostile

and were asking him if he is the Christ

just to use whatever he said against him.

 

He continued,

The miracles I do in my Father's name

speak for me,

26 but you do not believe

because you are not my sheep.

 

The miracles Jesus had been doing

proved that he was the promised Messiah,

but the religious leaders did not want to put faith in him.

 

They were not his sheep,

and they proved they were not,

by their rejection

of Jesus and his teachings.

 

If they were Jesus’ sheep,

they would have listened to him

and would have followed him.

 

Jesus told them in Verse 27,

 

27 My sheep listen to my voice;

I know them, and they follow me.

 

And then he spoke about

the blessings of being among his sheep:

 

28 I give them eternal life,

and they shall never perish;

no one can snatch them out of my hand.

 

What a blessed assurance this is!

 

Jesus gives us eternal life.

 

We don’t have to earn it.

 

In fact, we can’t earn it.

 

But Jesus gives it to us, as a free gift.

 

As a result, we have eternal life.

 

It’s not that we’re going to get it some day.

 

We already have it.

 

And no one can take it away from us.

 

Jesus says,

28 I give them eternal life,

and they shall never perish;

no one can snatch them out of my hand.

 

No one can snatch us out of Jesus’ powerful hand.

 

And, so, we shall never perish.

 

Jesus is strong enough to keep us safe and secure in his hand.

 

Matthew 28:18 tells us

that when Jesus saw his disciples again

after rising from the dead,

he told them,

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

 

Jesus has all power in heaven and in earth.

 

No one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand.

 

But he also adds in John 10, Verse 29,

 

29 My Father, who has given them to me,

is greater than all;

no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

 

30 I and the Father are one."

 

That last statement—“I and the Father are one.”—

that was too much

for the religious leaders

who were questioning Jesus.

It says,

 

31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him,

 

They wanted to kill Jesus right there on the spot,

and so they picked up stones to stone him to death.

 

32 but Jesus said to them,

 

"I have shown you

many great miracles from the Father.

For which of these do you stone me?"

 

Jesus had not committed any crimes.

 

He had not hurt anyone.

 

In fact, he healed many people,

freeing them from pain,

and restoring them to good health.

 

Jesus asked,

“For which of these do you stone me?"

 

33 "We are not stoning you for any of these,"

replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy,

because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

 

It’s interesting that even Jesus’ enemies

recognized his claim to deity.

 

Today there are heretical sects like the Unitarian-Universalists

and cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses

who deny the deity of Christ.

 

But here, even the Jews who rejected him

recognized that Jesus’ own words identified him as Divine.

 

When the Lord answered them,

he took a surprising approach.

 

Instead of giving them a lesson in theology,

that they weren’t ready for,

he said something

that would be much easier for them to accept—

and impossible for them to refute.

 

He called their attention to Psalm 82:6 in the Old Testament,

where God referred to the judges of Israel as ‘gods.’

 

In Psalm 82, God addresses the corrupt judges of that nation,

and he compares them to ‘gods’

but tells them that they themselves will be judged.

 

In Psalm 82, Verse 2, God asks these judges,

 

2 "How long will you defend the unjust

and show partiality to the wicked?

 

And then in the next two verses, he tells them to...

 

3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

4 Rescue the weak and needy;

deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

 

And in Verses 6 and 7 God tells these corrupt judges,

 

6 "I said, 'You are "gods";

you are all sons of the Most High.'

7 But you will die like mere men;

you will fall like every other ruler."

 

So, in John 10:34,

Jesus quotes from this Psalm

that the Jews were very familiar with:

 

34 Jesus answered them,

 

"Is it not written in your Law,

'I have said you are gods'?

 

35 If he called them 'gods,'

to whom the word of God came—

and the Scripture cannot be broken--

36 what about the one

whom the Father set apart as his very own

and sent into the world?

 

Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy

because I said, 'I am God's Son'?

 

So, instead of trying to teach Christian theology to his enemies,

Jesus just answered their charges

as simply as possible.

 

He merely showed them

how their own Old Testament Psalms

used the term ‘gods’ figuratively,

when speaking of human judges.

 

They couldn’t argue with that,

because there it was in black and white,

in their own synagogue scrolls.

 

But then Jesus repeats the main point he was making.

 

The point was that the miracles Jesus performed

proved him to be the promised Messiah or Christ,

the divine Son of God.

 

He said,

 

37 Do not believe me

unless I do what my Father does.

 

38 But if I do it,

even though you do not believe me,

believe the miracles,

that you may know and understand

that the Father is in me,

and I in the Father."

 

39 Again they tried to seize him,

but he escaped their grasp.

 

Because the Jewish leaders were not the Lord’s sheep,

the miracles failed to convince them.

 

Instead, Jesus’ statement that

the Father is in me,

and I in the Father."

just infuriated them further.

 

Because the religious leaders rejected him,

our Lord moved on,

focusing his time and energy

on those who were willing to listen to him

and to learn from him.

 

Verse 40 says,

 

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan

to the place

where John had been baptizing

in the early days.

 

Here he stayed

41 and many people came to him.

 

They said,

"Though John never performed a miraculous sign,

all that John said

about this man was true."

 

42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

 

These people had left the comfort of home

to trek out into the countryside across the Jordan River,

just to hear Jesus preach.

 

They knew that John the Baptist

had introduced Jesus

as the one—

the one coming after him,

the one they should follow.

 

And they knew that Jesus’ many miracles

confirmed everything John had said about him.

 

So, many of them became believers.

----------------------------------------------

 

But how many people are like that?

 

The second part of our Responsive Reading

addresses that question.

 

It’s found in Luke, Chapter 13,

and Verse 22 takes up the account

when Jesus has gone back to Galilee

but is now on his way to Jerusalem again.

 

Scholars who study the chronology of the Gospel accounts

place this right after

the passage we’ve been reading from in John.

 

Luke Chapter 13 says, beginning at Verse 22,

 

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

 

23 Someone asked him,

"Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"

 

[REPEAT]

“are only a few people going to be saved?”

 

That was a reasonable question to ask,

especially since the crowds that followed Jesus

knew that their religious leaders rejected him.

 

And it’s a reasonable question for us to ask today,

when so many are abandoning church,

abandoning faith in God,

and taking up the philosophies of this world instead.

 

24 He said to them,

"Make every effort

to enter through the narrow door,

because many,

I tell you, will try to enter

and will not be able to.

 

Why won’t they be able to enter into salvation?

 

Because it will be too late.

 

It may be that the return of Christ

will catch them by surprise

when they are still pursuing the ways of this world.

 

Or, it may be that death will come on them suddenly.

 

They may have the attitude

that they will live it up now and ignore God,

putting off any thought of God until later.

 

But “later” may be too late.

 

Death can come unexpectedly,

and then it is too late to change your life—

too late to repent and turn to Christ.

 

Jesus continued,

 

25 Once the owner of the house gets up

and closes the door,

you will stand outside knocking and pleading,

'Sir, open the door for us.'

 

"But he will answer,

'I don't know you or where you come from.'

 

Then our Lord goes on to make application

to those people

in whose towns and villages he had been preaching,

but who ignored him

and failed to repent.

 

26 "Then you will say,

'We ate and drank with you,

and you taught in our streets.'

 

27 "But he will reply,

'I don't know you or where you come from.

Away from me, all you evildoers!'

 

28 "There will be weeping there,

and gnashing of teeth,

when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

and all the prophets in the kingdom of God,

but you yourselves thrown out.

 

Jesus went on

to indicate that his Gospel message

would be carried far and wide

to the people of other lands,

and that those Gentiles would enter the kingdom,

while many Jews would be left out.

 

29 People will come

from east and west and north and south,

and will take their places at the feast

in the kingdom of God.

 

30 Indeed there are those who are last

who will be first,

and first who will be last."

 

As God’s “Chosen People,”

the Jews were first in line

to enter the kingdom of God,

but they missed the opportunity.

 

Their place at the banquet table in heaven

will be taken instead

by some of those who are the last to hear the Gospel—

maybe tribes deep in the Amazon jungles

of South America,

who are only now hearing the Gospel

in their own language

for the first time.

 

But this warning wasn’t just for the Jews.

 

Jesus made the same point

in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Chapter 7.

 

There are billions of people in the world,

and the Bible is available in billions of printed copies,

besides electronic versions available on the Internet.

 

But relatively few people enter into the kingdom of God.

 

Beginning in Matthew 7:13, Jesus said,

 

13 "Enter through the narrow gate.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road

that leads to destruction,

and many enter through it.

 

14 But small is the gate and narrow the road

that leads to life,

and only a few find it.”

 

Who are they who enter the small gate

and follow the narrow road to life?

 

They are the ones who listen to Jesus’ voice and follow him.

 

We listen to Jesus’ voice today

when we prayerfully read his words in the Bible,

and allow the Holy Spirit

to plant his words in our heart. 

 

We follow Jesus today

when we invite the Holy Spirit to re-shape our thinking,

our speech and our conduct

to make us more like our Lord,

and as we do the Christian works

he has assigned us to do.

 

Then the Lord’s words apply to us: 

 

“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.”

 (John 10:27-28)

 

We who belong to Christ

have that free gift of eternal life.

 

And no one can take it away from us. 

 

We will never perish,

but will forever enjoy

“the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29)