Summary: Jesus helps his listeners to identify faithful shepherds of His Word and how they can know they are true sheep of His pasture.
Easter 4 A
A Test of Authenticity
You wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult. Loading a computer program onto your computer these days is usually as simple as placing the CD in the computer and following the simple instructions on the screen. But this is not always the case, especially when you’re reloading programs that were originally on your computer when you first purchased it.
You see, not too long ago, I had a virus that required me to wipe out everything that I had on my system and start from scratch. It would be time consuming, but easy enough. And it was easy until I actually got started. No sooner had I popped that first CD into the computer it asked me for a number from a certificate of authenticity.
You see, it wasn’t enough for the makers of Microsoft, that I had the program CD. I had to have the original packaging so as to guarantee that I wasn’t using some pirated copy of their program. I needed the numbers on a green and white piece of paper like the ones on this box or the program wouldn’t even begin to load.
Sometimes it’s important to have the real thing. We can put up with generic medications. We can tolerate no-name steaks and Hy-Vee pop, outlet stores and other alternatives. But when we’re sick, we won’t want to settle for the guy who plays a doctor on TV. When we’re in a serious legal matter we won’t just want to just talk to (your local lawyer’s name) next door neighbor. And when it comes to matters of eternity, getting right with our God, knowing the way of salvation; we’ll want to know the real thing too. We’ll want to know a real shepherd who will lead us in the way of life.
Jesus wants us to know as well. That’s what he was up to in our text. To catch up with the context of Jesus’ statements we go back several weeks. It was in the heart of Lent that we heard how Jesus and his disciples had met up with a man who was born blind. The disciples had asked Jesus why the man had suffered this affliction. “Was it because he sinned or his parents?” Jesus had said, “Neither. This has happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Then after speaking with the man and wiping a bit of mud in his eyes, Jesus told the man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. There his eyes were opened. He could see. But as we know, that was hardly the end of the story. When the man’s friends saw he had been healed and how, they took him to their religious leaders where the incident was investigated. And in the end, because of his testimony concerning Jesus, the man who had formerly been blind was thrown out of the synagogue. He was cut off from the worshipping community.
That’s the background of our lesson today. Following the man’s removal, Jesus sought him out and found him. He confirmed the man’s faith in him. He spoke of the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and others who rejected him. And in front of his disciples, this man and some Pharisees and other Jews who were following him Jesus now shares this illustrative lesson about His kingdom; about would be shepherds, true shepherds and His sheep.
No doubt, as the Pharisees first listened to Jesus’ words they found a lot they could agree with. They were familiar with this shepherding language as it had been used in the OT to speak of the religious leadership of God’s people. And this is what they thought of themselves – overseers of the flock of Israel. Yet as Jesus was about to enlighten them, they were really anything but shepherds in what they did.
Jesus had offered life with Father through repentance and faith. If one could not trust in themselves to please God (and who truthfully could?), he or she could trust Jesus who did please the Father in every way. Despairing of their lack of any personal righteousness, Jesus offered a righteousness by faith in Him and His redeeming work that was to come on the cross and his resurrection on Easter morn. The sinner, the outcast, Jew and Gentile, slave and free; all were graciously called and invited to approach the Father through a personal relationship of faith and hope in Him who carefully met their heartfelt needs, tenderly mended their wounded souls and sacrificially gave his all to make them His.
In contrast to that the Pharisees had devised their own plan. The way to the Father was by strict adherence to His commands. If one could act in true duty, one could grow closer to God. And as the leaders the Pharisees saw themselves as interpreters and judges who were to legislate a stringent set of guidelines controlling every aspect of daily life. The trouble, of course, came in the fulfilling of all those expectations. As Jesus pointed out, they spent far more time upholding the expectations and rules of men than of God. And even when they did adhere to letter of God’s will, they missed its spirit. God loves a cheerful giver, but they led people to give of themselves out of obligation and out of fear.