Sermon St Mary 8 May 2022 Easter 4 Year C
Acts 9v36-43 (Psalm 23) Revelation 7v9-17 John 10v22-31
Let us pray Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
Have you ever asked the question, “Why do people not believe in the Christian message?” Or perhaps an even deeper question than that would be, “Why do people not believe in God?” Yet both of these questions are so essential if we are to accept that this present life is not just all that there is, there is something far more extensive in store for us all, and for us who do believe we know that is eternal life with our God and Father, with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with all the saints and believers who have gone before us.
Well that is rather like the situation that Jesus found himself in described in our Gospel reading. We read that it was winter, around November to December time, when the Jews, as they still do today, celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of light. It remembers the re dedication of the Temple some 100 years before after it had been desecrated by the pagan Greek king Antiochus IV.
Jesus was walking in the Temple, and the sceptical people were pestering Jesus to tell them plainly if he was the true Messiah. They may have been remembering that Antiochus had made a ‘blasphemous’ claim in the Temple during his time in Jerusalem so was this just another imposter?
As Jesus pointed out in his reply to their question, He had told them and the very works that He had been performing for the previous two years testified to that truth. But they really did not want to believe, and why? Probably for the very same reason as today, they would have to acknowledge that their ways fell short of what God required and they were not prepared to make the significant but life transforming change of submission to God.
They were not of his sheep, they had not learnt to hear God’s voice and to follow after God as their shepherd. Not only is that so true for much of today’s people in our wider society, but sadly it can be also true for us within the Church. Do we know the voice of our shepherd, of Jesus, and do we truly follow after Him as committed disciples?
But there is great joy, and that so comforting a promise ahead for those of us who do. What did Jesus say? If we hear His voice, and if we choose to follow after Him, then we shall indeed inherit eternal life, and that life is guaranteed, we shall never perish.
Jesus then really gets himself into some very hot water as he further explains to the people that not only was he their true Messiah, but that He and God the Father were one. For that presumed blasphemous identification the people took up stone to throw at Jesus.
The right and proper response would have been for the people to ponder the works that the Lord had been doing. He had been healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the deaf and dumb to hear and speak, and even raising the dead. Who but God’s anointed, the Christ, the Messiah had such authority?
Well, it was an authority that Jesus clearly passed onto his apostles in the early church, as we read that Peter raised up Tabitha in Joppa, modern day Jaffa just south of Tel Aviv, just a short time after Jesus resurrection.
So what did Jesus do as the people picked up those stones to throw at him? He left Jerusalem, not to return again until Holy week and his crucifixion, and he went back to the North, to Bethany beyond the Jordan from where he had called his first five disciples two years earlier. There, feeling safe from the Jewish authorities Jesus could continue his remaining ministry, and during those few months early of AD 30, we read that many came to believe in him.
But we cannot stop there without some quick reflection upon the wonderful words from John’s revelation. We really do not have much of a picture of what our new life with the Lord in Paradise will be like, although John, and some other scriptures do give us brief glimpses.
Despite any prejudices’ that some of us may hold, there will be a great multitude drawn from every nation, tribe, peoples and languages, standing before our Lord Jesus and worshiping Him.
All of us there will acknowledge that it is to Jesus and to God our Father that we awe our salvation. And with us will be angels and others from the host of heaven also declaring God’s praises.
There is more that we could say especially of that time relating to the coming new creation that God has in store for us when all shall be made new, but not now. May we just be encouraged once again in our most ‘holy faith’, and in the great and eternal promises that God has made to us who do believe.
Let us pray: The shorter Collect for this fourth Sunday of Easter. Risen Christ, faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep: teach us to hear your voice and follow your commands, that all your people may be gathered into one flock, to the glory of God the Father. Amen