Summary: A sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter, Series C

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4th Sunday of Easter- April 29, 2007 “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus the Christ, who gave his life for our redemption. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your word, that we might grow in faith, trusting in your gift of grace. Clothe us with the gift of righteousness, poured out for us through the blood of Christ, and empower us to live as your redeemed saints. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

This 4th Sunday of Easter has traditionally been referred to as “Shepherd

Sunday,” derived from the fact that our lessons, particularly the Psalm and the Gospel, make use of this imagery. And throughout the history of the church, there has been a tendency to sentimentalize this image of Jesus as the good shepherd. Just think of all the stained glass widows and artwork depicting Jesus tenderly caring for his sheep.

But according to Neil Elliott, in his commentary on this morning’s lessons, our fondness of this imagery may reveal that we don’t really know much about sheep and shepherds. He states, and I quote, “Sheep are not known for marked intelligence, or good disposition, and they tend to smell. People who spend a lot of time around sheep often resent being compared to them. “Calling someone a “sheep” is rarely meant as compliment. And woe to the pastor – literally the shepherd – who tries to force the metaphor by implying that the people put into his or her care must be as docile as sheep!” End quote. [1]

Well, I certainly am not going to take that position. Quite frankly, one of the major strengths of our congregation is the fact that we have many members who have asserted themselves in leadership roles, and have contributed greatly to the ministry of Christ’s church. And I thank you for that fact!

Nevertheless, the imagery of sheep and shepherds abounds throughout both the Old and New Testament, including our Gospel lesson for this morning. And so, let us turn to this text, in order that we might discern God’s word for us today.

Jesus was walking in the temple at Jerusalem. And we can assume that by this time, his reputation as a great teacher and prophet, his ability to perform miracles and healings, had spread throughout the region. Thus, some of the Jews who had been to worship that day, gathered around Jesus and said to him, “Don’t keep us in suspense. If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus responds to their question with a three-part answer. First, he tells them, “I have told you, but you do not believe. Even the things that I have done in my Father’s name, testify to me, but you do not believe.”

This first part of Jesus’ answer points to the very heart of communication between us human beings. If Jesus would have answered their question directly, by stating, “Yes, I am the Christ,” I could imagine that some of them might have reacted and responded by saying, “Really?” or “Your kidding?”

If we do not believe and trust in the person with whom we are engaged in conversation, we are not likely to take their word as truth. And this is particularly so, in situations in which what is being asserted is new or of great significance. For example, a young child standing on the edge of a swimming pool, is more likely to believe the words, “Go ahead and jump, I’ll catch you,” if they are spoken by a parent, rather than a stranger.

The second part of Jesus answer gives us the reason that the persons who cornered Jesus that day, would not believe and trust in him. Jesus said, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and they believe and follow what I say. I give them eternal life… No one will take them from me…What my Father has given me, no one can snatch from me.

These persons would not believe Jesus, because they did not have a relationship with him. Oh, they may have heard the stories that circulated about him – what he had taught, the persons whom he had healed and miraculously fed – all of which raised curiosity about whether he might be the Christ. They may have known a lot about Jesus, but they did not know Jesus!

Before Josie and I first met, a couple of friends that we had in common shared with me a lot of things about Josie, and why they thought that she might be a good person for me to hook up with. And I feel sure that they shared a lot of things about me, with her.

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