Fourth Sunday of Easter

Text:

John 27-28

“Hear Know Follow”

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give
them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch

them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28 ESV)

To hear, to know, to follow! These three little verbs sum up God’s interaction35th1
with each of us in one succinct little statement. If we ask ourselves, “What is
my purpose in this life? Why did God put me here in this body, in this place?”
The answer simply comes back, “hear and follow”!
However, humanity has gone and become confused in the chaos of this
world. No longer is the simple call to hear, suffice. We have immersed
ourselves in the complexities of ourselves and what’s seen around us. And in
all the questions and searching we lose ourselves.
So what is the purpose of living? With all the science and technology, with all
the advances in medicine and health, with the ever increasing knowledge of humanity’s social interaction and the plight of peoples around the world, why is it that we are further from a satisfactory answer than ever before? Why is our society more depressed and hopeless knowing the very things that are
meant to get us into the secrets of our social fabric; the meaning of life?
Last week’s Gospel reading recounts Peter’s reinstatement where Jesus asks
him three times if he loves him to, “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my
sheep.” And here the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world,
takes away the sins of Peter, and now raised to life as the glorified Shepherd
in victory over sin death and the devil, appoints Peter as the first under-shepherd, the first pastor, to feed his lambs.
Now lambs are helpless little creatures. They sit at the bottom of a merciless
food chain, potential victims of foxes, eagles, crows, and other carnivorous
characters. They’re also victims of themselves it seems. My grandfather often
use to say after seeing a sheep flop down and sulk to death, “they die for
practise”! And anyone who’s ever tried to yard weaner lambs will see just how
frustrating it must be for God who seeks to keep us safe in his fold.
Yet the secret of our salvation is really no secret at all. It just we’re so much
like a sullen sulking sheep most of the time, we don’t realise the Shepherd of
our souls seeks us. But listening to our own hearts, we take flight from the
safety of God and his salvation and run further into trouble. Surely it is me
who’s the greatest hindrance to my Heavenly Father! Humanity certainly is
helpless!
And so we are! Lambs and sheep that run amuck! We run away, running from
the arms of safety into the sins of self. But our helplessness, your hopeless hunt
for meaning in your life, that leaves you battered and bruised, unable to think
straight anymore makes you …blessedly …helpless! But how can that be?
Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday! Jesus is that Shepherd! He has
endured Good Friday to be our Good Shepherd. Jesus became the broken
man on the cross, blessedly helpless, and now he is our help! The Blessedly
Helpless Lamb of God is now the Good Shepherd tending us his blessedly
helpless lambs.
You see this man, who proclaimed to be the Son of God, who is the Son of
God– One with the Father from eternity, bore the eternity of death and now
leads us and carries us through the valley of the shadow of death into the
eternity of life forevermore. He lifts you out of the helplessness of yourself, your
questions, your doubts, your tribulations and troubles in this life. How? The
Good Shepherd washes you in his Good Friday blood so you stand in robes of
white before the Father in the eternal house of the Lord.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with
him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a
resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with
him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so
that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death nolonger has dominion over him. For in the death he died he died to sin, once
for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3 –11 ESV)
And so we return to the text for today and the three verbs, “to hear, to know,
to follow”. Our purpose, having been made his children, his lambs, is to follow
him. We were created to glorify God, to worship him, to look to him and trust
him. Heartache comes in every person’s life, both Christian and not, when we
turn from this reality. So how do we follow the Good Shepherd when we in our
very nature constantly return to our silly sheepish ways?
To follow him requires knowing! But it’s here there’s a subtle surprise in the text.
We wrongly assume that it is us who need to know God by our own strength.
But being blessedly helpless we know that’s just not possible. Rather it is not us
who knows God but Jesus says, “I know them!” He knows you, his sheep!
“Knowing” is nothing short of being faithful, so Jesus is faithful to you. The
Good Shepherd constantly leaves the ninety-nine to look for you, the
blessedly helpless, lost one! You are his little lamb, he is the Good Friday Good
Shepherd. You can trust the Lamb of God who was faithful even unto death,
and now continues in faithfulness sending the Holy Spirit into your heart, willing
you to believe he who believes in you.
So Jesus knows you and you’re now free to follow him. He sends the Holy Spirit
to grow faith within, faith that hold fast to Jesus’ faithfulness towards you,
demonstrated on the cross. As faithful sheep of the Faithful Shepherd, the
Holy Spirit does in us who know we are blessedly helpless lambs that which we
are called to do, namely, to glorify God. And that is listening to him; hearing
his voice.
You hear the Shepherd’s voice when you hear the Word of God, the law and
the gospel. This is God’s rod and staff. God’s Word is our comfort as we pass
through the valley of the shadow of death. It teaches us about ourselves and
it guides us. It protects us from the self, and from the old evil foe. And
it returns us to the loving embrace of Jesus coming down from the cross in victory over our sin…. the Lamb in the midst of the throne is our Shepherd, and he
guides us to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Jesus says to you, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never

perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27–28 ESV)

 

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and
honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever!
Amen.” (Revelation 7:12 ESV)

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