John 10:1-10 (Fourth Sunday of Easter—Series A)
“A Lot of Voices–A Lot of Choices”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
May 11, 2014
In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in John 10:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
There sure are a lot of different voices in our world competing for our attention. There are hundreds of different voices seeking to influence our thoughts and our behavior. Some of those voices are beneficial to us; most are not.
When it comes to getting information to make our choices in life we have a ton of options. We have media options all over the place from CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, and all 600 of the other channels on your television to the massive amounts of websites, apps, newspapers and magazines (yes, they still print those), along with books and e-books and radio and movies. Add to this our friends and acquaintances who are under the same influences and who also then influence us with their voices. You and I are literally inundated with information through which we must sort through and consider whether it is, in the first place, true, and in the second place, is it beneficial to make it a part of our thinking and living.
All of the media and peer voices out there are seeking to influence how we act, how we think, how we talk, how we vote, what we purchase, and how we interact with other people. It’s up to us to sift through it all and throw away that which is hurtful and harmful and keep that which is helpful and useful. But that’s an overwhelmingly impossible task, isn’t it? MSNBC doesn’t want me to trust the reporting of FOX News and vice-versa. McDonald’s doesn’t want me to stop by Burger King for lunch. The Republicans don’t want me to be influenced by the Democratic Party platform and you can be sure the Democrats don’t want me to take into account anything the Republicans are putting out there. Then there is the age old question of plastic or paper which has turned into “do you want your receipt printed or emailed to you?” Cash or credit? Safe sex or abstinence until you are married? Abortion or euthanasia or protecting human life? Lying or being honest? Cheating or being trustworthy? Looking out for myself or putting another’s needs before my own?
Where does it all stop? What do I do with all these voices pulling and tugging me this way and that way? Who should I listen to?
Perhaps we can make this a little simpler. Let’s break down all the voices and influences into two categories: the voice of the Shepherd; the voice of the stranger. That’s what Jesus did in the proverb of the Good Shepherd in our text. There’s a bunch of sheep in one sheep pen. Those sheep belong to different shepherds, but in the pen they all mix and mingle. Along comes a voice, calling for his sheep. It’s the voice of sexual immorality. Those sheep who have listened to the voice of having sex outside the bonds of marriage, those who practice homosexuality, those who make regular use of Internet porn follow this voice. Want to follow it to? You are invited. Your own sinful flesh knows the pleasures of this voice. “Go ahead; everyone is doing it,” the voice calls. “It must be okay.”
There’s a bunch of sheep in one sheep pen. Those sheep belong to different shepherds, but in the pen they all mix and mingle. Along comes a voice, calling for his sheep. It is the voice of worldly pleasure and gain. It is the voice of drunkenness, the voice of sensuality. It is the voice of overindulgence in food and drink, greed for possessions; the voice of jealousy and covetousness. Want to follow this voice? You are invited. The world seems to know what you need and want and is willing to offer it to you on a silver platter. “Come and take what should be yours at any cost.”
There’s a bunch of sheep in one sheep pen. Those sheep belong to different shepherds, but in the pen they all mix and mingle. Along comes a voice, calling for his sheep. “Did God actually say that? You will not surely die. You can be like God. You can be god yourself, in total control of your life. Have what you want, do what you feel like, no boundaries, no limits.” Want to follow this devilish voice? You are invited. “Be the master of your own destiny, the ruler of your personal kingdom.”
The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice and he calls his own sheep my name and leads them out of the pen. Great is the temptation for us to listen to the voice of a shepherd promising the things our natures crave. Great is the temptation for us to go after other shepherds and to try them out to see what they can do for us. But these voices, these so-called shepherds who seek to influence us, are not true shepherds. They are thieves and robbers, strangers, who come only to steal and to kill and to destroy. They seek to lure and to drag us away from the only Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
“Truly, truly I say to you, I Am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” Ah, but Jesus, we did! We have listened to the voices of the sinful flesh, the devil, and the world. We have followed the voices of sexual temptation, greed, desire, lust, and idolatry. We have been lured and drug away by the influences of thieves and robbers posing to be shepherds. They have sought to kill and destroy us. But the Good Shepherd would not have it that way. He came that we would have life and have it abundantly, and not destruction and death at the hands of thieves and robbers.
The Good Shepherd left His heavenly throne and became flesh-and-blood human in order to rescue us sheep who love to wander after the voices and influences of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, to bring us back into His sheep pen of abundant life. But in order to do that Jesus the Good Shepherd had to give up His life for the sheep. He laid down His life into death on a cross so that you and I and all the lost sheep of the world would have forgiveness since we have listened to the various voices of evil and sin. Jesus the Good Shepherd became the perfect sacrificial lamb who shed His holy blood to make us right with God through the forgiveness of our sins, to make us the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. (Ps. 95:7)
Now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist the voices and influences of strangers that seek to pull us away from living out God’s word for our lives. “Truly, truly I say to you, I Am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” We are able, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to discern the voice of our Good Shepherd and ignore the voice of the thieves and robbers. For Jesus, in Baptism, calls us by name. Through His Word and Sacrament Christ leads us and guides us, strengthens our faith and forgives our sins so that we can live abundant lives of faithfulness to Him and the Lord’s Word in this world in which we are surrounded by so many other voices and choices. He gives us His Holy Spirit to bless us with the wisdom that comes down from above to be able to ignore the voices of strangers. We receive from our Good Shepherd “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”(Isaiah 11:2 ESV)
Living in the forgiveness and the abundant life in Jesus, with the help of the Holy Spirit, don’t listen to the voices that ask you to make choices that go against the Word of God and your faith in Christ. Don’t listen to the message of strangers telling you that you can make things better for your own life by doing, saying, and living however you want. Don’t fall for the lies of the voices and choices presented to you by the world and the devil and your flesh. For you have a Good Shepherd who is Jesus Christ. His Word is truth. Your sins are forgiven and you have life and have it in great abundance. You are saved by grace through faith in Him. Look forward to the green pastures of the new creation where you will go in and out and be satisfied because you will be with the Lord forever. Amen.