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What Do You Know?

May 12, 2019
By Rev. David French

Today's Gospel reading comes from what’s known as the Good Shepherd chapter. The lectionary system that we use always selects a reading from this chapter for the Fourth Sunday of Easter. In series A we learn that Jesus is the door to the sheep fold, or He’s the only way into eternal safety. In series B we learn that the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. In today’s reading from series C, we learn that Jesus our Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep follow Him.

But what does it mean to know and be known? There is a big difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone. We know about the president of the United States. As far as I know, no one here actually knows the president. It’s like that with famous people. We may know about them, but we don’t really know them.

On the other hand, generally speaking, we all know our parents. But again, in general, they know us far better. They’ve known us our whole life and none of us has known our parents their whole life. We know each other’s personality traits and things like that, and the longer we’re together the more we learn; but what we know first and best about our parents is their voice. It’s this kind of knowing that Jesus is talking about when He says, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me.”

Jesus went on to tell of the great benefit of listening to His voice saying, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” That is, His sheep receive eternal blessings that only He can give.

And remember how well and how long Jesus has known you. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Did you hear that? Before God created the world, He didn’t just know about you, but He knew and chose you to be His own.

Just think about that, before God said, “Let there be light,” He was thinking about you. He already knew that you would rebel against Him. He already knew that He would give you a set of perfect instructions for living in His blessing, and you would ignore them. He already knew that you would make up your own set of instructions and follow them instead. He already knew about the suffering and pain you would inflict upon yourself and the other sheep with whom you dwell. He already knew that this would eventually result in your eternal death.

And His response was to become your Good Shepherd. His plan was to save you by sacrificing Himself to Himself. As He spoke each day of creation, God knew that He would one day take on human flesh and be born of the Virgin Mary. He knew that He would live a life of poverty and humility fulfilling His law for us. He knew that He would keep the law perfectly and then offer Himself to suffer the punishment of law breakers. He knew that He would die, and in a way that far exceeds our understanding pay for the sin of the world. Our triune God not only knew this, but from eternity was His plan was to redeem you. He knew that this is what it would take for Him to truly be your Good Shepherd.

Many people have asked since that time, “If God knew all this before He even began creation, why did He do it?” Paul gave this answer to the Romans and to us: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” My friends, before creation God not only knew you, He loved you. He knew that you would rebel, and still, He loved you. He knew that you would be helpless and hopeless, and He loved you. Before creation, He already knew you better than you now know yourself, and still He offered Himself to death as payment for your sin so that He could be your Good Shepherd.

And God wants you to know Him as your Good Shepherd. Not like He knows us, as Paul writes: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” That is the reason that He spoke through the prophets and apostles. He wants you to know who He is and how it is that you become one of His sheep and He remains your Good Shepherd. He wants you to know of His love for you. He wants you to know the security of His salvation. He wants you to know that there is no burden that He will not carry for you.

In fact, He wants you to know that He will not just carry your burdens, but He will carry you. He wants you to know Him forever. And so, He gives you Himself through the Scriptures so that you may, by grace through faith, know Him not as your judge, but as your Savior.

Sadly, today’s reading also tells us that there were some who didn’t want to know their Good Shepherd. Remember, the Good Shepherd chapter is the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. For the last nine chapters, John has been telling how Jesus showed that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now, here in the tenth chapter, the Jews gathered around him and say to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” But the problem isn’t that Jesus has been hiding His identity. The problem is their stubborn refusal to believe … their stubborn refusal to listen, and so, get to know Jesus.

Now, some might ask if in spite of all the evidence Jesus showed: the healing of the blind, the deaf, lepers, the lame, the feedings, the raising the dead; if those who actually saw all these things did not believe, what can we possible do to convince people today? To begin, our task is not to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to share the gospel in word and deed. That is, the teaching or words of Jesus – who He is and what He did. Our deeds of kindness and such, that are actually fruits of the Spirit, are to be shared with others, and we trust God to do the rest. But, understand that there will always be those who refuse to listen … who refuse to know Jesus as their Good Shepherd.

But, for those who hear His voice, for those who listen to His words, God the Father glorified our Good Shepherd by raising Him from the dead. That’s how we know that Jesus truly is our Good Shepherd. That’s how we know that Jesus is not just our Good Shepherd while we live here in this fallen world, but He’s our Good Shepherd for all eternity.

The Scriptures are clear. As you breath your last you, will hear Jesus call you by name; and like a shepherd, He will gather you in His arms and carry you to your heavenly home, where with Him, you and all who trust in Him for the forgiveness of our sins will live life as God intended it to be forever.

In His Name, Amen.