John 10:22-30 (Fourth Sunday of Easter—Series C)
“What a Relationship!”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
May 12, 2019
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson from John 10:
22Then came the Festival of Rededication in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24Then the Jews surrounded him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works which I do in my Father’s name, these testify concerning me. 26But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me, 28and I give them eternal life, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29The Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.
Relationships. The world, our society, are built on them. How many relationships are you part of in your life? Husband and wife; parent and child; sibling and sibling; friend and friend; employer and employee; pastor and people; God and His human creatures.
From the very beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, relationships formed the foundation of the interactions between God and His creation as well as between the members of His creation. The crown of creation—human beings—were given dominion over the fish, the birds, the livestock, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Gen. 1:26). God established the relationship between the man and the woman in marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Created in the image of God, the man and the woman were in a perfect relationship with Him. They shared in His righteousness and holiness. They knew God perfectly as He wished to be known.
But all this comes undone in Genesis 3. Satan, the ancient serpent, deceives Adam and Eve. They disobey God’s commandment not to eat of the fruit of the tree that is in midst of the garden. The relationship between God and people is shattered. The relationship between the man and the woman is broken. The relationship between all of creation is corrupted. Sin has entered into God’s “very good” creation. As a result, all of our relationships are now imperfect. Our relationships are found to be lacking.
Our relationships with our spouses, children, friends, and coworkers reflect this brokenness. Our sinful natures rear their ugliness in the words we speak and in the actions that follow our selfish desires, our greed, our lust for passion and pleasure in the things of this world. It seems that behind all our relationships is a need and desire to be better than the other person, more important, more satisfied in what the relationship offers. We even desire to be more important than God and His commandments! But isn’t that the nature of our fallen selves—turned inward toward the self, it’s all about me . . . me . . .me?
Step into John 10 now with me. There are two relationships described here. The first relationship is that of Jesus to God the Father. John’s Gospel seeks to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” In chapter 20, the answer is fully given, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30-31 ESV). The Word of God in Scripture reveals to us that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in every way. The Nicene Creed confesses it this way, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
This eternal Son of God humbled Himself in order to take to His divine nature a true human body and soul. Jesus Christ is true God and He is also true man, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is fully God and fully human, one Lord, one Christ. And the Jewish antagonists in John’s Gospel surround Jesus and ask Him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense?” Understand that as something along the lines of, “Jesus, the suspense is killing us! If you are the Christ, the promised Messiah-Savior, tell us plainly!” In other words, “Jesus, what is your relationship to God?” And Jesus points them to His words, to His preaching that the reign and rule of God has drawn near. But they didn’t believe His words. So, Jesus points them to His works that give confirmation to His words: “The works which I do in my Father’s name, these testify concerning me.”
Jesus is the divine Son of the Father in human flesh. The works that Jesus the Son does are the works of the Father, done in the Father’s name, with the Father’s authority, and for His glory. In fact, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus’ relationship to the Father is one of perfect unity. Jesus is true God. The Father is true God. (And although not mentioned in this text, the Holy Spirit is true God.) The Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped, as we confess in the Athanasian Creed. And Jesus’ point is not lost on the Pharisees who immediately pick up stones to stone Him to death because Jesus “has made Himself God” (John 10:33).
The second relationship in our text is that between the Lord and His human creatures. But sin destroyed that relationship! People are not in perfect unity with God because of sin. Nevertheless, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is able to restore the relationship between God and His wayward sheep.
Throughout the Scriptures, we sinners are compared to lost sheep. The words of Isaiah 53 are familiar to many of us, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (53:6a). The final verse of Psalm 119 gives us the psalmist’s confession, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” And then he prays to God, “Seek your servant” (119:176). And that is what God the Son has done. He came to seek and to save lost sheep, lost sinners, and to restore them to the fold of the heavenly Father through the gift of complete forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
How ironic that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was led like a lamb to the slaughter, for us! On the cross, the Lamb of God was pierced for our transgressions. He shed His blood to cover over our sins and failures to love God and to love one another. Jesus died to purchase the forgiveness of all the sins that we have committed in our relationships and for our sins of omitting the good things we should have done in our relationships, in both our relationship to God and to others. By His sacrificial death and His triumphant resurrection, Christ has restored our relationship to our heavenly Father. By grace through faith, He gives us eternal life.
Our relationship to God is now changed. God is no longer our enemy because our sins no longer accuse us before Him. We no longer need to hide from Him and His wrath. We are forgiven and we receive that forgiveness through the hearing of His voice, the hearing of His Gospel—in the Absolution, in the Scriptures, from the pulpit as your pastor proclaims the Good News of Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection for us, in Holy Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper! We hear Jesus’ voice, and it empowers us by the Spirit to follow Him. Follow Him where? Here in this life, and, best of all, into eternal life—a life that cannot be taken away from us. Twice we are told by Jesus that we cannot be snatched out of God’s hands—not from the Father’s and not from the Son’s because we are kept in faith by the Word and the Means of Grace through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.
This fabulous new relationship we have with the Lord is His gracious gift to us. As we follow Jesus by faith into eternal life, the Spirit empowers us in living new and different lives in our relationships with others. Not only has our relationship with our heavenly Father been restored through the forgiveness of sins and the new life of faith, we are given the ability to love others in the various relationships we have on this side of heaven. We are empowered by the Gospel, by the voice of the Good Shepherd, as we, through the Spirit, “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). This means that we are able in Christ to give to those with whom we have relationships our love, respect, and our care. The “other person” becomes more important than us as we seek to love them in Jesus’ name. As St. Paul continues in Philippians 2, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:1-5 ESV).
Relationships. The world, our society, are built on them. As Christians, we rejoice and give thanks to the one, Triune God that He has restored us to a right relationship with Him through the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. By His cross and resurrection, you have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. You are unsnatchable because you are held secure in the nail-marked hands of the Risen Lord. Go then in peace empowered by the Spirit through His Word and Sacrament to follow Christ in love, which includes the power and the desire to love those in your earthly relationships more than you love yourselves. For by this the world will know that you hear the voice of Jesus and follow Him, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). Amen.