Because He Lives-Trust and Obey (April 17,2016)

Blog Topic: 

OT: Psalm 23

Gospel: John 10:22-30

 

Prayer

 

In the narrative today, Jesus speaks on the occasion of a festival that commemorated the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after the Greek invaders had been vanquished and the temple had been cleansed and the statue of Zeus removed. As a consequence those around Jesus were thinking about freedom: freedom from the invader; freedom to live without fear; freedom from foreign domination and freedom from political musclemen and their taxes. The people still hungered for freedom, because while the temple was now fully dedicated to God, the land had been lost again, this time to the Romans.

 

In listening to the exchange between Jesus and the crowd, they ask Jesus to confirm whether he is in fact the Messiah, we hear Jesus tell them:

“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[b]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

 

What he was seeking to communicate to them that the reason they did not understand what he was saying because they were in the wrong team.

 

They were not his sheep…they were not his sheep not because of their unwillingness to believe based on what he has already said and done. Despite all the miracles and teachings he offered they still needed more confirmation. One would say, well what’s wrong with wanting more proof? The answer is nothing is wrong with wanting proof, but the reality is that for many people, no amount of proof will cause them to change their minds.

 

Rather than spend time trying to convince those who were not convincible by choice, Jesus took the opportunity to teach the crowd what it means to be a disciple of His, what it means to be a follower of His. He instead turned his attention to teaching what it means to be a sheep in His fold and how to recognize his sheep. It gave the crowd and today gives us an opportunity to assess whether we are His sheep or not.

 

Psalm 23 sung by the choir, gives us an idea of what it is like to follow Jesus, the Good shepherd from the perspective of a sheep. Together these two texts tell a story of Trust, Obedience and Accompaniment

 

So let’s look a little deeper:

  1. Sheep listen to their shepherd – they listen to him. They know his voice, they know his voice different from other voices. They know his voice because they spend a lot of their time with Him, getting to know him, understanding his tones (what he likes and does not like). From this understanding they develop a relationship of TRUST. Trusting the voice to not lead them astray. If we are his sheep then our capacity to hear Jesus hinges on the quality of our relationship with Him. We get to know Him through Scripture. Hearing His voice also hinges on our ability to discern from all the other voices around us – voices in media, voices in culture, voices of friends and family – his voice guiding and directing us what to do and what to say, guiding us in our choices from moment to moment. Listening requires focus and attention, it requires a conscious effort to hear and filter out the other noises to better hear what is most important. Just as a mother if she listens carefully in a room of crying babies can know which crying baby is hers and what is wrong. So each of us must ask ourselves – which voice do I listen to? Do I know what Jesus’ enough to know his voice?  What do I need to do to hear him more clearly?
  2. Sheep follow their shepherd - In that relationship of trust, sheep follow their shepherd wherever he leads them. Sheep try to OBEY.  From Psalm 23 we hear that: He makes them lie down in green pastures;  he leads them beside still waters;[a]3he restores their soul.[b]He leads me in right paths[c] for his name’s sake. If we are His sheep then we too can tell and celebrate being provided for and taken care of by the master, not just in terms of meeting our physical needs but also in the nourishing and renewing of our souls.  

 

  1. The Shepherd knows His sheep - He knows their habits, their tendencies, their wounds and the things that they love and that are important to them. That is why he carries a rod and a staff.

 

The rod - The enlarged base of the sapling where its trunk joins the roots is shaped into a smooth, rounded head of hard wood. It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep. ...the rod, in fact, was an extension of the owner's own right arm. It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, his authority in any serious situation. And it was, furthermore, the instrument he used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away. Another interesting use of the rod in the shepherd's hand was to examine and count the sheep. In the terminology of the Old Testament this was referred to as passing "under the rod". A sheep that passed "under the rod" was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it. A shepherd would take his rod and part the sheep's wool to determine the condition of the skin, the cleanliness of the fleece and the conformation of the body. In plain language, "One just does not pull the wool over his [judge's] eyes."

 

The staff - The shepherd's staff is normally a long, slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end. More than any other item of his personal equipment, identifies the shepherd as a shepherd. No one in any other profession carries a shepherd's staff. It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep -- and only sheep. It will not do for cattle, horses or hogs.

The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern.

The shepherd himself during the long weary watches with his sheep, he leans on it for support and strength.

There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role.

  1. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become parted. He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odor of his hands upon it.
  2. the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination.
  3. The staff is also used for guiding sheep. He does not use it actually to beat the beast. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal's side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Being stubborn creatures sheep often get into the most ridiculous and preposterous dilemmas.
  4. Instrument of rescue. Only the use of the staff can free sheep from their entanglement as in the case where they are stuck fast in labyrinths of wild roses or brambles or on cliffs.

 

If you notice whether it is rod or the staff the sheep indicates that they both bring him comfort. So it should be with us, our sense of commitment to our relationship with Christ should not change when things make a turn for the worse. We should seek to get closer to God in those times

 The shepherd protects His sheep-

Whether it is through the darkest valley or in presence of his enemies (wolves and other predators or thieves).The sheep does not walk in fear, because he focuses on the voice of the Shepherd and get reassurance of his presence.

 

The sheep admits that in these times they is likely to sustain wounds, often a consequences often from not listening to stay put and running off trying to protect oneself or as a result of listening but sustaining injury from the hustle and bustle of the battle itself.

 

In any case, the Shepherd accompanies the sheep and protects their lives and when they receive injures in the struggles, he anoints them with oil and gives them extra rations that overflow, so that they can regain their strength for the rest of the journey. Because he accompanies them through the good times and bad, sheep a confident, that no matter what happens, goodness and mercy[f] will be a part of their journey for as many days as they live, and the Shepherd will lead them to safety in His house.