Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 21, 2013
Robert G. Moore, Senior Pastor
Christ the King Lutheran Church
Houston, Texas

The Readings (New Revised Standard Version) and Psalm (ELW) for the Day:
Numbers 27:12-23
Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. (Ps. 23:1)
Revelation 7:9–17
John 10:22–30

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The presence of the risen Christ is God’s confirmation that Jesus is the one to follow through this life. In the Gospel of John we never know whether we are hearing the voice of the earthly Jesus or the risen Christ. For John they are always one and the same voice giving witness to eternal life which is offered in Jesus name.

Jesus identifies with the good shepherd (John 10:11). He states clearly what makes him good in contrast to the thieves, bandits or mere hired hands. Jesus is the good shepherd because he is willing to lay down his life for the sheep. He makes himself vulnerable to that which you and I gladly would avoid. Jesus is the good shepherd because he willingly faces the threats to the flock. By so doing he makes a safe zone inside the fold. It is no wonder that sheep pay attention to the voice of the shepherd? Where the shepherd is there is safety.

It is Jesus’ confidence in the face of death that gives rise to our hope for eternal life. Naturally we children of flesh think in terms of immortality, as if we really wanted life to go on endlessly like it is. Who really wants to live an endless life if one struggles permanently with disease, addiction, social injustice, and violence? It is a scary thought to live endlessly.

No, we want to live now in this world free from these things. In the Gospel of John eternal life is the promised life that comes to us through the voice of God, who is none other than Jesus Christ.

Please note that in the Gospel of John eternal life comes to those who follow Jesus, those who know his voice. The death of Jesus is not presented as payment for our sins. Jesus’ death is that moment when the promised life of God intersects with the pathetic life that we live when we follow false shepherds such as Herod the King or Pontius Pilate.

Jesus, the crucified one, is the place for the greatest sign ever that God is present and at work in this world in spite of all appearances to the contrary.

Throughout the Gospel of John earthly, vulnerable things become the locus of God’s power to transform life. At the wedding in Cana it’s not wine itself, but running out of wine presents the opportunity for Jesus to give a glimpse of God’s extraordinary power.

It is the paucity of water that causes Jesus to give an outcast woman the water of life. A lame man serves to reveal the walking God. It is the lack of bread that offers the possibility of bread for everyone. A man born blind becomes the occasion to reveal the blindness of others and newfound sight from God. Lazarus dead in the tomb is the clash between death and life. And life wins!

So it is that in John Jesus becomes the greatest sign of all because he has descended to the greatest depths of human fear, anxiety, suffering, and death. The resurrection is the announcement that he has been raised to the highest level that humanity may be given. The good shepherd leads us to still waters, makes us lie down in green pastures, restores our souls, and is with us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

The good shepherd is God’s gift. Eternal life is the gift of the good shepherd. We wish we could explain how it is that some people hear the voice and others do not. If we hear it and do it, we have nothing to boast about. We are simply counted among God’s servants, chosen to serve the Word which has come into the world.

For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (John 3:20-21)

Dear brothers and sisters, we have seen the horrible effects of a world dominated by evil both natural and moral. We do not understand the threats to our lives presented by wind, water, earth and fire. We especially do not understand the threats to our lives by lying, greed, stealing and murder. But we are no longer in need of convincing that these threats are always with us.

The proclamation of the gospel, that God has raised Jesus from the dead, is the word that brings us hope that we might live authentic lives of faith. This life will be all the more meaningful when we live not out of fear but out of confidence in the God who turns water into wine, makes the blind to see, and raises the dead to life. Amen.