First Lesson Acts 2:42-47
Second Lesson 1 Peter 2:19-25
Gospel Lesson John 10:1-10
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read. [John 10:1-10]
When we open scripture, we do so with unconscious assumptions about what we’re about to read. Without even thinking about it, we being, with these ‘presuppositions’ in mind. If your ‘presupposition’ is that everything you encounter can be explained rationally; if you’re confident that God created the universe and then sits off in the distance watching life play out without interjecting himself in his creation, then you don’t see any ‘miracles’ in what scripture tells you. You simply see naturally occurring events that ancient man couldn’t understand and so declared to be miraculous.
But that’s not a Lutheran ‘presupposition’. We Lutherans believe, and presuppose, that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. And because it’s inspired it’s without error. If a miracle is recorded in scripture, then we believe that God produced that miracle in the way scripture tells us he did.
Another Lutheran presupposition is that the entire Bible was inspired by God with one purpose in mind: to teach us our need for salvation and then to reveal who our Savior is. In other words, we see Jesus everywhere in the Bible. We see sacramental actions performed by God all over the place. And when we see God in action, it’s the Triune God in unity that we see.
The gospel lesson today is beautiful and it’s a great example of what we’re talking about. It’s one of those passages that paint a vivid picture for us and we get it. But, as beautiful a picture as this lesson paints, as we read it, as we analyze it, it can be confusing. Jesus says he’s the door; and then he says the sheep are called, by name, by the shepherd and they follow him. So if Jesus is the door, then who’s the shepherd? In verse 11 he comes right out and says he’s the Good Shepherd.
So, which is it? Is he the door, or is he the good shepherd? If he’s the door, then who’s the shepherd; and if he’s the shepherd then who’s this door through which the shepherd comes? And who’s this gatekeeper who opens the door for the sheep and their shepherd to go out of the sheep pen? And if the sheep are called by name and they recognize the shepherd’s voice, doesn’t that imply there are other sheep in the sheep pen that stay there and don’t follow the shepherd?
Let me make it even more challenging. What if Jesus is telling us he’s the door and the shepherd? And if I’m correct in saying that when we see God in action, it’s the Triune God in unity that we see, then where’s the Father and the Spirit in all of this?
Whepph! The more we look at this, the more tangled up it seems to get; but then, that’s because we need to put one more Lutheran presupposition into play. When we come across passages we can’t seem to resolve, we trust that scripture will interpret scripture. If we look at some of the other teachings of Jesus we might start to see the answer to the questions today’s passage brings to us.
In the Gospel according to John, Jesus says he is the bread of life, and yet he gives the bread of life to us. How can bread give itself? He says he’s the light of the world; and yet he says he brings this light wherever he goes.
Bread, light, door, shepherd, I vote for both door and shepherd in today’s Gospel; but there’s an even more challenging question. We’re told the sheep hear his voice and he calls them by name and they follow him; but a stranger they will never follow, in fact they flee, because they don’t know the stranger’s voice.
Somehow, the sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice. It almost seems instinctive. How do they know his voice? How do we know our Savior’s voice? His voice is heard as the Holy Spirit calls us through the Gospel.
So, it’s not instinctive! It’s not something we feel in our gut. It’s not some warm fuzzy feeling that comes over us and makes us feel good all over. What’s instinctive to us is the feel good sensation we get from sin; the feeling we get from satisfying our desires, no matter how short-lived that feeling is.
The voice of Jesus Christ is heard in holy scripture; the Word of God breathed out by his Holy Spirit and written down by faithful men who were inspired by him to do so. And to recognize the voice of our shepherd, we’ve got to be receptive to the Holy Spirit and the gift of saving faith he offers us.
The Holy Spirit must open our eyes through his indwelling in our hearts. The very creating voice of Jesus must change us, recreate us, working saving faith in us so that our salvation may be revealed to us through God’s holy Word.
In faith, we no longer hear instinctively, but through ears opened by the Spirit of our Savior, opened to hear and recognize the voice of our shepherd. Without the Spirit’s work, we can’t see beneath the surface. Without the Spirit’s work, the Bible is just a history book filled with exciting stories about people who lived a long, long, time ago.
But God’s voice isn’t just air and vocalizations; his word is alive. His word creates. It acts; and so we also hear his voice in his mighty acts. We hear it in the love of Jesus; love that he gives to us, the love we share with our neighbors; because God is love. We hear it in the mercy and grace God’s shown us; as God’s holy Word speaks to us of Jesus, the sinless One, willingly going to the cross to forfeit his life for our sins; the One who endured the pain and suffering that belonged to us, and rose again to assure us that by his mercy and grace we won’t be subjected to eternal pain and suffering, but will live with him forever.
And when we come to worship him, we hear his words again; in the words of the liturgy and the sermon. In worship he promises to give us the blessings he’s held for us since before the beginning of time; blessings we receive through his holy Word and Sacraments, his means of grace; given to us so that we can discern his voice, confidently hearing him as he calls us, even amid the din of the many voices that scream for our attention, urging us to follow them, every day.
Through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, we know our Savior’s voice … and we follow him. The gatekeeper, the Father, who has kept his chosen sheep in the sheep pen since before the beginning of time, opens for the Good Shepherd and we follow him wherever he leads; whether he leads us in the safety and sanctuary of the sheepfold we call church; or out of the sheepfold and into the world.
He leads us out to find good pasture; fields ready for harvest, fields filled with ears still deaf to their Savior’s voice; ears that yearn to hear words of salvation, but have never heard the voice of their shepherd. He leads us out to work in these fields; he doesn’t take us out of the sheepfold to let us wander aimlessly, he leads us and we follow where he takes us. In faith we know that he’ll bring us to just the right place to proclaim his word; a place where his Spirit will use the gospel to call many, teaching them to recognize their shepherd’s voice.
And so we do see our Triune God at work; the Father as gatekeeper, the Son as door and shepherd, the Holy Spirit calling us, and making our Savior’s voice known to us. We do know the source of our salvation, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. We are sheep, and like sheep we tend to wander; but we’ve been brought through the door, the only door, into the sheepfold by our shepherd, the Good Shepherd. The one who came not to condemn, but to save; the one who said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The one who said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” The one who said, “Peace be with you.” This is the voice of our shepherd; and thanks to God alone, we know it.
In Christ’s service,