Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia. Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 10th chapter (John 10:22-30).
Beloved in the Lord,
It is the feast of the dedication. Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem to celebrate Hanukah. It is winter and it is cold. It is cold in Jerusalem. It is cold in the palace. It is cold in the temple. The people don’t beleive. Herod is indifferent and the Priests are indignant. The crowds gather around Jesus to question Him and it is cold in their hearts.
The Jews have been slow to approach the light of Christ and be warmed with the gospel. “Jesus came unto His own but His own did not receive Him.” They did not approach Him in faith. They are cold because, during this festival of lights, they are without the light of the world. They are cold because they are apart from Christ and deny Him as the Good Shepherd. In their coldness they do not believe and in their coldness they have wandered off seeking after warmth in the fields of this world, running here and grazing there, seeking, searching, shivering inside and out. They are cold and cannot warm themselves. They are cold and cannot quicken themselves.
Their world then is not much different from our world now. The love of many has grown cold, cold towards God and cold towards our neighbor. In the perversion of our nature the hearts of some think it good and a service to god when they persecute and kill others in their god’s name. In the perversion of our nature the hearts of some think it good to kill babies both inside and outside the womb. In the perversion our nature the hearts of some think it is good that a man lay with another man as he ought to lay with a woman, or that a woman exchange natural relations with those that are contrary to nature. In the perversion of our nature all we like sheep have gone astray, each one has gone to his own way and our iniquities are too heavy for us to bear. Our world, our country, our culture are suffering because we are apart from the Light and far from Christ. It is winter, winter in the depths of humanity’s heart.
But Christ has come to our winter. The Lord has entered our misery. He is among us. He is with us. He is Immanuel and He will not forsake us. Thus the Jews crowd round about Him to test Him, to search Him, to seek Him and to relieve their doubts. “How long do you keep us in doubt? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” The wages of sin is death and where sin and death have dominion doubt floods the heart. The Jews doubt not because of Jesus has withheld Himself, but because they have allowed sin and death to have dominion. They doubt because they do not believe.
We also press upon Jesus to ease our doubts. He who would be our God and Lord, would also have us bend the knee in faith and trust Him even though we do not see Him. It is what we do see in our world and in our heart that causes faith to stumble and doubt to increase. What we do see is sin. It is ever before us, in the news, on the screen. It confronts us on Facebook. It finds us on twitter. It runs across our TV’s and flashes on our phones. It is in the voice of the newscaster, the President, the doctor, and our loved ones. Sin pervades every aspect of life and corrupts us to the very depths. It is in them and it is in us. With all that we see and all that we hear around us we begin to doubt. “Is God good? Is God loving? Why did this happen? Isn’t God in control? What is happening to our world, our country, to me? Why is it so cold in here?”
Where there is sin and death there is doubt. Where there is doubt there is unbelief and we who are called to walk by faith and not by sight struggle to believe as doubt seeks dominion over us. In our struggle we try to work, we want to do, we turn to ourselves and the doubts increase. In our deeds we find our merits and our merits are not enough. All we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve wandered, we’ve fallen, we’ve gotten lost and we’ve gotten hurt, and now we’re confused and full of doubt.
The answer beloved is not in ourselves. It’s never in us to find or up to us to muster. The answer is in Christ. Christ is outside of us and He does the works. The Christ outside of us doing the works is more certain than what we find inside of us. The Christ outside of us and doing the works is the Christ who bears witness to Himself through the works He does for us. “The Works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.” There can be no plainer Word from God than
- the Word made flesh,
- dwelling among us and going about doing good,
- healing the sick,
- taking unto Himself the little children,
- raising the dead,
- touching the lepers,
- feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty,
- casting out the demons,
- walking on water
- and taking upon Himself the sins of the World.
There can be no greater Word from God than
- Jesus as the Lamb of God – a Lamb that is silent and led to slaughter,
- a Word that is but a whisper to the world, but a shout at the devil,
- a Lamb that is crucified, dead and buried,
- but whose death is the destruction of death, the emptying of the grave, and crushing of the serpent forever and ever.
There can be no greater Word beloved, than the Word of Christ and Him crucified, the word of Christ and Him risen from the dead! There can be no greater Word than the Word that draws all men to Himself as He offers Himself on the tree! There can be no greater Word than the Word there (on the cross) and then for us here (on the altar) and now! It is through these Works that our God speaks volumes to those whose ears are open. These bear witness of Jesus and turn us away from ourselves, away from the world around us and toward the One who has conquered sin, done away with death, and damned the devil to hell.
Those who would not doubt but believe and be saved are called to follow Jesus. “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” To follow Jesus is to be hearing His voice. To be hearing His voice is to be round about Him listening to Him. It is to be in Divine Service, to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, to draw near and sit at His feet as His Word is read, preached, sung, taught, chanted, splashed, offered and distributed. The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Here on the Sabbath we find our God working His works, giving His Son, speaking His Word and sharing Himself for our salvation. Here in His house the Good Shepherd chastens us with His Law – warning us of the danger of our sin, especially sin left unrepented, left hidden away in the heart where only God and sinner know about. And He binds up our wounds with His Gospel. He forgives. He strengthens. He takes His good Word and pours it on us and over us to wash us up and cleanse us. He speaks gently, kindly and favorably into our ears in order to woo us, court us, lead us along to path of life and lead us away to from the domino of sin and death.
Beloved in the Lord, the soul hearing Jesus’ word and the heart fixed on Jesus’ works will press round about Him for more as faith craves Jesus. When we approach the Lord in this way, seeking from Him His good gifts the heart burns within us. The coldness melts away and love for God and love for our neighbor begins to show itself in the life we live. Loving our God we worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Loving our neighbor we suffer with them. We bring God’s mercy to them. We manifest the love of God to them showing kindness and divine compassion. We forgive them and we share God’s word with them. Redeemed sheep help the shepherd find more lost sheep.
The more we hear our Shepherd’s voice the closer we are drawn to Him. As we are drawn to Jesus we are led out of our own personal winter and into the spring of His resurrection. The dread of snow and ice fades as the warmth of the son and the fragrance of the Spirit fill the air. We follow where Christ leads. Where Christ is He is there speaking His Word. Where His Christians are hearing His Word there is Christ forgiving sins, warming hearts and changing our world, our country and our culture one heart at a time. We who are His sheep are kept safe and secure because we rest in Jesus our good Shepherd. And no one can snatch us from His hands. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!