Jesus the Good Shepherd
Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible Reading - John 10:22-30
22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for 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 can snatch them out of my hand. 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.”
Jesus says that he is the shepherd and his sheep (which means us), know his voice.
In that case, I want someone to tell me what Jesus voice sounds like. Do any of you know?
Here’s a hint: He would have a Galilean accent. Is his voice high-pitched or deep, is it rough and loud, is it quiet and polished? Does he use pitch and inflection in his voice, or is it monotonous and boring? How would we know, most of us don’t speak Aramaic, and we couldn’t understand him anyway.
While reading the Gospel lesson for this week it hit me: You and I have never heard the voice of Jesus! He was taken up into heaven around 2000 years before we were born, and there were no tape recorders back then! We have written transcripts of what he said, but no DVD or surround sound. I have never heard Jesus voice.
What did Jesus think he was talking about saying that his sheep know his voice. Was he not talking about us too?
Am I not one of his sheep?
I have heard a quote, and I don’t remember where it is from, whether it was the first line of a poem, or a song, or written by Martin Luther, or St. Theresa of Avila, I can’t quite find who said it. But it says :”Christ has no hands but our hands, no voice but our voice”.
Many years ago I went to a conference in Adelaide called “the Child in our hands”. It was about how we minister to and care for children in the church. In fact, it was similar to one of the generations we are concentrating on in the “Grow Coaching” process. How do we pass the faith on to the young?
One of the things that we were encouraged to do was to think of the first time we ever heard the voice of Jesus. Now as I said, I have never heard the voice of Jesus physically. But the presenter was referring to something else.
He related to us that he heard the voice of Jesus as a very small child, and boy it sounded like his mum (or Mom, he was American), but it was Jesus.
And he told us a story. I am sure he will not mind me using this story again here.
The story was about a friend of his who lived in a small town in Iowa. When she was a little girl she remembers that she would often walk to her Grandmothers house to spend the day with her. Normally at night she would get a bit sleepy, as young children do, and Grandma would lay her down in the middle of her own bed, and tell her stories until she went to sleep.
Now it was only when this girl became a woman in her twenties that she realised that all those stories were about the faith.
They were about how her Grandmother had lived in the Lord, and how it had sometimes been hard, and sometimes it had been wonderfully blessed.
When that young woman’s grandmother passed away, can you guess the only thing she wanted from her Grandmother’s estate? Her bed.
It was the place where she had first heard the voice of Jesus. Boy it sounded like her Grandma, but it was Jesus asking her to follow him.
He also told us that the first time he ever told this story a woman had come to him tearfully afterwards and said that she now understood for the first time why it was so important for her to have her Grandfather’s rocking chair. Boy it had sounded like Grandad, but it was Jesus. These were the first altars they ever had. They were
where they first met the Lord Jesus.
I want you to spend a bit of time now thinking: What did the voice of Jesus first sound like to you? Was it a Pastor’s voice or a teacher’s? A Mother’s or a Father’s? A friends? Just think on that for a minute.
I was wrong. I have heard the voice of Jesus. I have heard it first in my parents and then every day of my life through the mouths of Christian brothers and sisters.
I have heard it in the mouths of people who are part of my church. I have heard it in the happy nonsensical voices of children who are too young to talk a language we understand. That, too is the voice of Jesus. I have heard it in the wisdom and love that comes to me from God through my wife Anne, and through the advice and correction of members and leaders.
When your children or grandchildren grow up, will they look back on the first time they heard Jesus’ voice as being in your home, or will it only be when they reach school? They hear it in baptism, but few remember that day.
I pray that what they remember is the voice of Jesus all their lives. Jesus saying follow me when you call them for breakfast. Jesus saying follow me when you drive them to school. Jesus saying follow me when you tell them that you love them.
These words of Jesus today, they come with a promise: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
In troubled times, that is an important promise to cling to. Nothing can snatch them out of my father’s hand. Nothing in this life or the one to come. Nothing that we have ever done or has ever been done to us. Nothing that we can catch or death itself can snatch us out of our father’s hand.
Rejoice in that knowledge, and rest in that promise. For he who promised, our Good shepherd, is faithful, and he will not let us down. He has never broken any promises to us before, and he is not about to start now.