Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Easter 4

"Are you listening to the voice of the Shepherd?"

John 10:22-30

April 17, 2016

Here's the question. If you are deaf, how do you hear the voice of Jesus. This last week I visited a deaf couple. As we discussed this passage, I realized that my efforts to explain the concept were not as clear as I'd hoped. Being deaf does not allow you to hear in the usual sense. The deaf have to "hear" with their eyes. In the case of deafness, faith comes through hearing by way of the eyes. In spite of disability the Holy Spirit works the faith that allows us to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

In today's Gospel Jesus is dealing with people who could hear but still refused to listen to His teaching. They physically hear His words but refuse to believe them. Even when our Lord speaks plainly, they claim they need even more clarification. Jesus knows that it doesn't matter what He says, they will refuse to believe.

Let's take another look at today's Gospel.

John 10:22-30. At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, 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."

Those who reject the voice of God may claim that they are hearing God speak to them. Whose voice are they really hearing? Let me ask you, what secret place in your life are you trying to block out the voice of the Shepherd in your rebellion against God? What sin do you so hold on to that causes you to put your hands over your ears and claim, "I am right and you are wrong! I'll do whatever I want and You can't stop me!"

The Pharisees and many people you know even today refuse to listen to the voice of Jesus. The attitude of unrepentant sin shouts, "I'll do whatever I please and you can't stop me." Rebellion against God and His commandments is sin. No matter how right you think you are, rebellion against God leads only to death. Anyone who refuses to repent and raises their voice and tries to shout out the voice of the Lord saying, "I am right God and you are wrong!" is in big trouble.

The voice of the shepherd is being rejected by the world. In the name of diversity and multiculturalism, there are many, many voices calling to us. Many of these voices claim to speak for God. There are even voices claiming to be the voice of the Good Shepherd. Even Islam gives great homage to Jesus but only as a prophet. Nevertheless, Christ says His sheep who know His voice will hear and follow Him.

If people don't try to shout down the voice of Jesus, they choose to ignore Him. It comes in the form of that old question: Did God really say? The answer, of course, becomes a resounding NO! Consider the prevailing preoccupation of American life. Sex. Sexual morality is practically a thing of the past. In the last 30 years the guiding principle has been "if it feels good, do it." This attitude doesn't take into consideration consequences. It lives for the emotion of the moment. Think of how bad this attitude must have permeated life in Noah's day. God was so angry He was determined to rid the earth of this great evil.

All around us, we see people ignoring the voice of the Shepherd in the erosion of spiritual morality. We know that the morality of the world is not going to accept the higher standards of God. The problem comes when the world's standards creep into the church. Everyone, Christians included, are off doing their own thing. Sadly, many even claim that God is giving permission even when the Scriptures plainly teach otherwise.

It is interesting that the Pharisees could hear but remained deaf to the voice of Jesus. They heard without understanding. Sadly, many today are in the same situation. They refuse to listen to the Gospel. Like kids who cover their ears so they don't have to hear the voice of mom calling them, these people don't want to hear the call of God. They choose to be deaf to the word of God and the calling of the Holy Spirit.

The church grows through the work of the Holy Spirit. The catechism reminds us that He "calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." Yet, sometimes I think that the Holy Spirit works not because of us but in spite of us. The lack of faithfulness seen in too many Christians becomes a barrier the Holy Spirit needs to work through or around to accomplish what He sets out to do. Our witness cannot be "do as I say but not as I do."

Here's the challenge we face. On one hand, we cannot make a person believe. No matter how much we try, it is impossible to force true faith. Only the Holy Spirit can create faith. Nevertheless, we are witnesses of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works through us. Sometimes it is through our personal witness in what we say and do. At other times it is through our support of mission work as others give witness in our place.

On the other hand, we want to remain faithful to the Lord and His Word. It's a challenge because the world seeks to undermine the higher standards the Lord sets before us. The world wants us to think of the Christian life as a burden. The world would have us believe that being a Christian is no "fun." It seems the world has won the PR battle. The church is pictured as a close-minded, stuffy place that isn't any fun. Is it any wonder that people look at the church and many of its congregations and ask, "where's the joy?"

With the help of God, we will remain faithful to the Word. By the grace of God, those who can physically hear will also receive and believe that word. The deaf hear with their eyes. What a blessing it is that we can both hear and believe the Gospel of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will hear and believe the Gospel. Faith allows us to live joyfully in the world. The teachings of Jesus and the promises of God will mold and shape our life in the world not only for this time of pilgrimage on earth but forever with the Lord. Amen.


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