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4th Sunday after Easter

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Dear friends in Christ: Having a 2-year old daughter I’ve learned to appreciate a certain word that her mother and I use a lot: “Megan, don’t touch that!  Megan, don’t walk into the road!  Don’t climb that tree!  Don’t put that in your mouth!  Don’t put that in Jenna’s mouth!”  Don’t, Don’t, Don’t. Warnings, warnings, warnings. Why such warnings?  Some of the things she’s doing are dangerous and we want to keep her safe.  We don’t want her to get hurt; we don’t want her to be harmed; so we give her warnings.  Warnings are meant to keep people safe; their meant for good.  In our text for today Jesus gives a striking warning.

It’s about four months before Jesus would be put on trial and crucified.  It’s December and there’s a celebration going on in Jerusalem.  They’re celebrating the Jewish festival called the Feast of Dedication also called Hanukkah.  They’re celebrating a time when a great Jewish political leader led a successful revolt against a foreign empire. This revolt led to a rededication of the temple and a period of independence for the Jewish nation.  (Read text).

“Come on, Jesus; if you’re really the Christ, the great promised leader, just say so!”  Jesus answered, “I DID tell you, but YOU do not believe.”  Jesus confronted them: “Why do you keep closing your ears to what is said? Why didn’t you listen?” “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (Jn 5:39-40), “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…” (Jn 6:35) “Before Abraham was born, I AM” (Jn. 8:58), “I am the Light of the world…” (Jn. 8:12), “I am the good shepherd…” (Jn. 10:11).  “And why do you keep shutting your eyes to what I do?  Didn’t you see how I changed water to wine, healed the paralyzed man, walked on water, gave sight to the man born blind?”  Jesus left all kinds of evidence of who He is; the fault lies not with Jesus, but with their unbelieving hearts.  “I DID tell you, but YOU do not believe!

Jesus’ warning was blunt, direct, and to the point.  Why?  Because of what’s at stake here.  Those who refuse to listen to Jesus are listening to the lies of the devil.  Those who do not believe are lost in darkness.  Those who keep turning their back on Jesus are headed for condemnation, judgment, and destruction.  Those rejecting Jesus will go to… eternal death.  So, in love Jesus warns them, “Look, you’re on the wrong path…you aren’t my sheep because you refuse to believe in me. Look at what you’re missing: Those who are my sheep, they listen to my voice and I give them eternal LIFE and they’ll never, ever perish!”

Jesus’ warning didn’t stop with His first hearers; it still rings in our ears today, doesn’t it?  I need to hear this warning; you need to hear this warning too.  How so? When I give God’s Word about as much attention as yesterday’s newspaper, I’m blocking out my Shepherd’s voice.  When I treat my spouse with neglect or disrespect, I’m shutting out my Shepherd’s call.  When MY hopes and MY dreams are all that matter to ME, I’m ignoring my Shepherd.  When I turn my back on Jesus’ words, I need to hear Jesus’ stern warning, “I DID tell you! But you’re refusing to listen to me!”

Indeed we constantly stray from our Shepherd’s fold.  But thank the Lord that our Shepherd is faithful; He’s never left us like we so often have left Him.  Thank the Lord that He still calls after us.  He continues to reach out after us through His Word and not only with warnings, but with the precious Words of life.  He tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life…he who believes in me will live” (Jn.11:25), “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6), “I am the vine; you are the branches” (Jn. 15:5).  Jesus continues to call out after us, continues to care for us, and continues to seek us out.  And why?  Because as God’s dear children, God wants to give you the ultimate safety; life eternal!

What a glorious blessing this is!  Yes, you can turn your back on Him, you can shut His Word out of your life, you can jump out of His protecting hand, BUT He’s never going to do that to you!  The Good Shepherd is faithful.  He, on His part, is going to do everything in His absolute power to keep you safe.  Just like I warn Megan when she’s in danger, because I want her to be safe, so God warns you and me, God wants you to be safe.  He wants you to have the final, ultimate protection of heaven.  He will never forsake you.  He will never leave you.

Jesus says to you, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.”  You’re a member of God’s flock and look at what’s yours!  You hear your Savior’s voice, you hear your Shepherd’s loving call; it’s in His Word.  Your Good Shepherd knows you; He knows what’s best for you.  He constantly leads you, even through the rough and dark places of life.  He gives you the greatest confidence ever; He’s given you the assurance of eternal life right now.

And lest we ever doubt it or wonder about His faithfulness Jesus says, “No one can snatch them out of my hand.”  Nothing at all can rip you away from your Shepherd’s loving care.  How do we know this?  Look at whose hands you’re in!  These aren’t the hands of just anyone; these are the hands of the One whose might and strength created all things.  These are the life-giving and gracious hands of the Ruler of all! These are the hands of the One who by His unlimited power rose from the dead, defeated sin for all, conquered the devil, and won the victory over all His enemies for you!  Yes, these hands will keep you safe!

Yea, Megan might not always appreciate our constant warnings.  You might not always appreciate God’s constant warnings to you.  But in the end, He wants what’s best for you.  He wants to give you the ultimate safety- eternal life!  And so, be assured, you rest securely in the hands of your Good Shepherd! Amen.