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Door Sunday May 15, 2011

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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John 10:1-10

 Easter 4

May 15, 2011

Focus: God loved His people so much that He provided them with His Son to guard them, lead them, and save them.

Function: That the hearers better follow His voice (live life in a more God-pleasing way).

Structure: This is the promise of the gospel…here is how we may live out that promise.

 

Door Sunday

            Before I began preparing the sermon for this week, I had already heard a number of times that this Sunday was going to be Good Shepherd Sunday.  It falls on the fourth Sunday after Easter on the church calendar.  But as I looked through our Bible texts for this morning/evening, I realized this isn’t Good Shepherd Sunday.  That’s not in our readings.  It does come up in the readings this time next year.  But this morning/evening, Jesus calls Himself a Door.  So this is Door Sunday.  That name probably won’t catch on; it’s just not as pleasing to our ears.

But if it’s not really Good Shepherd Sunday, then what do we hear Jesus talking about?  It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to put Jesus’ speech into its context in John’s gospel.  It immediately follows the story of the man born blind.  You remember the man the disciples asked about: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  That same blind man Jesus healed by spitting in the mud and rubbing it on his eyes.  That same man who was then dragged before the Pharisees and testified to Jesus’ glory.  Jesus goes back for the man and tells him who He really is: the Son of Man; and the blind man believes.  The Pharisees overhear Jesus and ask Him if they too are blind.

This is our context.  Jesus addresses our gospel reading this morning/evening at the Pharisees, the ones who think they keep law so well.  But that’s not the response Jesus gives them.  Quite opposite really.  Jesus, instead, gives them a lesson about shepherding sheep.

Just as we can read the first part and understand it fairly well, so could the Pharisees.  The robber jumps the fence to get to the sheep.  The shepherd enters through the gate.  And the idea that sheep only follow their shepherd’s voice also made perfect sense to them.  That’s the way sheep were raised in Middle Eastern and European cultures.

I ran upon a story of aNew Yorkpriest who had had this experience.  He made a trip toIrelandto visit with some of his extended family.  After finishing up some chores in the field, his cousins decided to play a little joke on him.  They told him that dinner was almost ready and asked him to put the sheep in their pen while they finished preparing.  After nearly an hour of chasing after sheep, trying to poke, push, prod, and even pull them with no success, he went to ask his cousins for help.  They sent out their five year old daughter.  She called out to the sheep, and they followed her.  In mere minutes, they were all in the pen.  The priest had experienced our parable firsthand.

But the Pharisees are baffled.  Not because they don’t under sheep and shepherding, but because they have no idea what this has to do with them.  So Jesus had to explain His metaphor: “Truly, truly I say to you, that I, Myself, am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  I, Myself, am the door: if anyone might come through me, he will be saved, and he will come in and he will go out and he will find pasture.  The thief does not come except in order that he might steal, slaughter, and destroy.  I came in order that they might have life and they have it to the fullest.”

Thus, here we are.  It’s Door Sunday.  Jesus is the Door.  He helps the Pharisees connect the dots.  They knew the Old Testament Scriptures and how God had called His peopleIsraelsheep before, just think of Psalm 23.  So Jesus is making a bold statement before them now.  He is connecting Himself to God’s greater story of the care of His children.

Much has been made of Jesus saying “I AM.”  The words He uses here (egw eimi in Greek) are linked to Yahweh giving His name to Moses in Exodus chapter three: “I AM who I AM.”     Our theologians debate whether that connection is real or not.  Perhaps it isn’t here, because the Pharisees surely would have picked it up, and been quite upset.

But the Pharisees don’t get the message even after Jesus clarifies.  They end up arguing about whether or not He has a demon in Him and if so, how He could possibly have restored sight to the blind man.  They miss it altogether.  Jesus was calling them thieves and robbers.  They were not tending the sheep by coming through the gate, the door, through Christ.  Instead, they were the ones trying to jump the fence, seeking to steal, slaughter, and destroy God’s children as they had just tried to do with that formerly blind man.

Jesus is the Door.  But what does that mean?  Why does He call Himself a Door?  The door to the sheep served multiple purposes.  First, it kept the sheep in.  When the door is shut, the sheep are not able to wander off.  Second, it keeps bad things out.  It deters robbers and wolves who would seek to harm the sheep.  And third, because Jesus mentions a gatekeeper, only the true shepherd would be able to enter through it.

These are all functions of Christ for the church, for God’s people.  He is the reason we are gathered here this morning/evening and together with the Spirit works to keep us strong in the faith.  He safeguards us from harm.  We may not be able to physically see Satan and his demons at work; but, there is a war going on, and without Christ, we’d be easy targets.  And any true shepherd uses his voice to lead God’s people according to Jesus and His message.

As the church today, we still rely on Jesus to be the door and to only let true and faithful shepherds through to lead us by their voice.  These shepherds come in many voices:  Pastor Mitteis; leaders of the church; various church boards and councils; our Synods and Districts; and many more.  God works through men to shepherd His flock.  But He also works through other voices: Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Bible.  God certainly still provides us with good and faithful shepherds.

Let’s think on that for just a moment.  God still provides.  Never forget that.  Because society wants you to.  Satan and the world around us want us to follow their voices instead of God’s.  Pop quiz on the Bible: which of the following aren’t in the Bible?  “We are as prone to sin as sparks flying upward;” “money is the root of all evil;” “confession is good for the soul;” “honesty is the best policy;” “cleanliness is godliness;” or “God helps those who help themselves?”  In reality, none of those things are in Bible.  Their truthfulness varies.  But they’re all words and opinions of man.  Things imposed on the Bible.  But as Christians, do we spend enough time listening to the voice of God to be able to defend our faith?

Society’s approval of homosexuality is a good example of this.  Despite the fact that the Bible directly marks homosexuality as a sin, some of our brothers and sisters in the faith have begun to accept homosexuals and their lifestyle.  Congregations across the country now teach that homosexuality is God-pleasing, not a sin.  And our government is trying to make it so that a pastor cannot call homosexuality sin from the pulpit.  But they are thieves jumping the fence.  They are destroying the faith of people.

Consider society’s view of pornography.  Secular psychologists and counselors refuse to admit that porn is a problem or an addiction.  They’ll even go as far as to prescribe it to some couples for working through various marital problems.  Adultery is not God’s voice, but a robber’s.

And look at the world of entertainment.  Can you still find family-oriented programming?  ABC Family’s new motto these last few years has been “a new kind of family.”  They air shows called Pretty Little Liars and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, shows that promote all kinds of immorality.  And they’re not alone.  Desperate Housewives, Lie to Me, Family Guy, Wife Swap.  The list is endless.  But these are the voices of society.  They are the voices that are trying to reach us and our children.  Look almost anywhere and you will find these voices and temptations trying to lead you astray.

But as Jesus told the Pharisees, the sheep of His flock do not follow those voices.  God’s children only follow the voices of true and faithful shepherds.  They do the things that Christians are supposed to do.  They go to church; they attend Bible class; they make time daily to read the Bible.  And as we saw from our reading in Acts: they are devoted to the true teaching, to prayer, to taking care of those in need, to attending temple worship together, to praising God.  The Christian church is a community together in Christ.  We are told to take care of one another and to share the faith with those outside of our Christian community, outside of our sheep pen.

It is a terribly sad thing when the voices of this world overtake the voices of our shepherds, either by corrupting one of our shepherds or by leading one of us away from the faith.  But it does happen.  It is precisely for this reason that Jesus continues with next year’s parable, moving from Door Sunday to Good Shepherd Sunday.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.  Jesus died to save us from death.  His sacrifice keeps the wolves and robbers at bay.  Even though the voices of the world may overcome the voices of our shepherds, they do not overcome Jesus’ voice.  And as He would later say to the unbelieving Jews,

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.  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.  I and the Father are one.

 

So we know that Jesus is both the Door and the Shepherd.  God protects us and keeps us from harm.  So we are safe to be sheep and follow our Shepherd.

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