Peace be with you!
As Christians, we live in, but are not of, the world. Friends, family members, and colleagues question why we do things differently than the world. They ask us to leave God out of it. They get uncomfortable when we pray before meals or during times of tragedy. The world asks us to leave our faith at home.
In John 10, we have the Good Shepherd discourse in which Jesus explains how he will never abandon a lost soul. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who the sheep will follow
when he calls (John 10:16). As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the gateway for the sheep to enter the pasture where he will keep them safe. Jesus also explains his relationship with God the Father. Because Jesus and God the Father know and have mutual respect for each other, the Father knows Jesus will do anything, even laying down his life, for those individuals who are lost (John 10:15). The Good Shepherd discourse shows us just how far Jesus will go to redeem us as God’s children.
The Jews continue to debate who Jesus really is as a person. Is Jesus the Messiah, or is he speaking blasphemy (John 10:24, 33)? It is an intense conversation between Jesus and the Jews in which they almost stone him (John 10:31). The Jews are having difficulty changing the way they think about their God who gave them the Ten Commandments, with the first one being to have no other gods before the Lord. To say God the Father and Jesus are one is blasphemy in the eyes of the Jews. Yet some Jews are asking if Jesus is the Messiah. These Jews would love Jesus to come right out and say he is the Messiah. When they ask him directly, Jesus says, “I have said so already, and you do not believe” (see John 10:25). The Jews are coming at Jesus on both sides of the issue, and Jesus cannot win with either one.
At the heart of this debate are the questions of Jesus’s identity and what you believe to be true. If you are like the Jews, you are torn between honoring your God and looking for the Messiah. You do not want to be guilty of blasphemy, but what if Jesus is the Messiah and was sent by God? What are the chances? Could Jesus really be God’s equal? Is Jesus really leading them to the kingdom of God? The Jews are caught in the old way of thinking in which people would offer a sacrifice in order to be made clean.
However, Jesus presents us with a new way of thinking: He is one with the Father (John 10:30), and therefore he is our way into the kingdom of God. If we believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah who redeems us through his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, then we are granted the opportunity to enter kingdom of God and to be in relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We hear Jesus calling our names, and we follow him (John 10:27), because we believe and know Jesus is the Messiah. We trust Jesus will keep us safe and protect us during difficult times. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who keeps his sheep (us) from wandering too far from the Lord. When we wander too far, Jesus comes looking—calling us back into the fold. Jesus calls us to be in community with one another in order to strengthen our own relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
As a united community, we fight against the ways of the world. As a community—his chosen children—Jesus promises to never abandon us. Even when one of us wanders off, Jesus promises to come looking for the missing. Everyone is a beloved child who matters to God; no one is left behind, unless they turn their backs to God and even then he comes looking. The good news about salvation is that it is not our doing—we did not earn it. Salvation is a gift from God the Father through Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. We are forgiven and invited back into the fold when we turn back to God. This is the good news of the resurrection—a promise for each individual and for the whole community.
Living in the world presents hazards to our faith and way of life. Today we run into people like those in the story, people who question how we can believe in Jesus and the resurrection. Others question how we can live blindly and believe in the impossible—a man rising from the dead. Some people question how we can believe in God at all. Still others would like us to leave God out of our work as if anything is possible and could exist without him.
As Christians, we fight against these fantasies and declare that existing without the aid of God is impossible. We believe and understand our very being is centered around God and his will. We believe and understand God chooses us as his children. We believe and understand God gives us salvation; Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection was and is for our redemption and the remission of our sins. We believe and understand Jesus provides us with a way to be in a relationship with God the Father, not on our own merits but by the forgiveness, grace, and love of God. We believe and understand these things to be true, because we believe and understand the truth and the way. Because we believe and understand these things, we are able to live in confidence that Jesus will always be there to protect and hold us.
A month ago I took a seminar with Nigel W. D. Mumford in which he discussed the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and how one can learn to cope and be healed. One of Mumford’s main points was to put Jesus in between yourself and the assailant—to put Jesus into that traumatic scene. Several of us experienced healings that afternoon. One lady re-imagined a night she got home well past her curfew, a night that resulted in her dad hitting her in the driveway. When she placed Jesus in the scene, he blocked her dad from hitting her and kissed her cheek. In that moment, the lady was healed from her fear and resentment toward her father. Later on, Mumford talked about speaking at the Pentagon and being asked to develop a protocol for returning veterans to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder but he had to leave Jesus out of it. Mumford said, “No, thanks,” because you cannot leave Jesus—the main ingredient—out. Jesus comes to our rescue and saves us from the time of trial. Jesus is the reason we are able to overcome our fears; nothing and no one else will do.
As Christians, we do our best to love not just our neighbor but our enemy as well. We pray for and with the homeless, the poor, the disabled, and [whoever “it” is] that needs and desires the love of God. We meet resistance from the world, because we are not of the world, and therefore we have a different message. We are in the world to spread the good news of the power of the resurrection. We work to further Jesus’s message of forgiveness, grace, and love in order to bring others into a relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for calling us by name back into the fold. Help us to be a united community in the world to work together to strengthen one another. Lead us to share the good news with the lost. Let us rejoice in the resurrection and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Amen.