Monday, April 26, 2010

Fourth Sunday in Easter

The fourth Sunday in Easter
John 10: 22-30
Bror Erickson

[22] At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, [23] and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. [24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." [25] Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. [30] I and the Father are one." John 10:22-30 (ESV)

“I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” How long will you keep us in suspense. This is the thing. Christ can tell and tell and tell, but saying you are the Christ is a far cry from being the Christ. One has to look at the works Christ does to determine. The Jews here are a hostile crowd. They don’t want to believe. They are the Richard Dawkinses and the Christopher Hitchenses of Jesus day, in complete denial, not wanting to truly examine the evidence. They are really trying to trap Jesus, get him to say that he is the Christ, so they can deny it, and turn him over to authorities etc. If they truly examined the evidence they would be persuaded that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the one who is come to save Israel, and their hostility would leave them, but they are unwilling to do so. But they have made up their minds already that he is not the Christ now they just need to have him say he is the christ so the persecution can begin in earnest. But Christ sends them back to his works they show that he is the Christ.
They still do today. If the gospel’s can show themselves to be reliable historical documents, which is their claim, a claim that stands up to all tests used by historians to determine the veracity, or validity, of historical documents, that is to see if they are true or not. It is just these crazy miracles that get in the way. Water into wine, healing lepers with a touch etc. I mean they seem incredible, unbelievable. That is they are about as believable as a Benny Hin show. You know the guy with the crazy hair claiming to heal people all over the world. And you watch him on T.V. and you see it. But when My friend tells me he pulled security for one of those gigs, and saw people practicing the “fall” backwards as Benny touched them on the head, and the trash can upon trash can used to deposit envelopes deprived of cash but not prayer requests, who do I believe? And not without good reason. So one wonders if they can also discount Christ’s miracles and belief in them to gullible first century crowds that lacked sophistication. I mean there are people that fall for that stuff, we see it at Benny Hin shows.
But then you have this curious story about the resurrection, and it all hinges there. If Christ rose from the dead, I am inclined to believe him concerning that walk across the lake and a few other things, like his claim to be the Christ and his claim to be God, but if not, then…I and you are most to be pitied for believing it. That is what Paul says in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. If he isn’t raised from the dead, we are most to be pittied for believing it.
You don’t hear that today. Not to often. Today you hear all sorts of reasons to believe in this religion or that religion, and almost none of them rest upon a claim to be true or not. When I first moved here people would explain being Mormon to me as “It works for me.” Really? What does that mean? It gives a set of friends who won’t respect you enough to be your friend even if you aren’t Mormon? How does being denied a cup of coffee in the morning with a friend work for you? How does sending ten percent of your income to an organization you don’t really believe in work for you?
People are asked to just try it, it being any religion and see if it is true. Usually this means see if it doesn’t make you feel better some how. And there is an existential take on all this that if you just believe it hard enough it will make it true. What?!!! No if something is true it is true regardless of whether you believe it, regardless of whether or not it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Either Christ rose from the dead, or he didn’t. If he did then it is true regardless of whether you believe it. If he did not, this is also true regardless of whether you believe it or not.
But faith is a tricky thing. We are incapable of it on our own. Faith, is never our work. Believing in Christ is something only the Holy Spirit can work in us, we come to Christ only if the Father draws us to him.
“But you do not believe because you are not of my flock, My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me… My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand.” Election, there is no way around it in the New Testament. Not without ignoring huge swaths of scripture. But we must be careful here. It is not as if God wants any to perish. It is not as if he does not want some to believe. To believe in election in such a way as to say that God has elected some to hell would be contrary to scripture. He desires all to be saved. He does not delight in the death of the wicked.
But we are powerless to come to him on our own. He has to draw us to Christ. And if we are Christ’s than we also belong to the Father. Than Jesus gives us eternal life, and we never perish. But the Father draws us to Jesus, The Holy Spirit gives us faith, only when we hear the voice of our shepherd. Jesus says he knows hs sheep, and his sheep follow him. And there is a lot to be said about this. He knows us long before we know him. He knows us, and his knowing us a word that has connotations of love, and care, is far more important than us knowing Christ. He knows his sheep, he calls and they follow. They follow him. We follow Jesus. He leads us where we could not otherwise go, because he blazed the trail for us. He blazed it through death, through the grave to resurrection and eternal life. So yes we follow him. We follow him to death, and to the grave, but allready having been buried with him into his death in baptism, we are resurrected to the newness of life, life we live even now in the forgiveness of sins, because Jesus did what we could not, and when he died he broke the chains of death, and the gates of hell, and rose again from the dead that we might believe, and believing have eternal life.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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