We must keep our eyes on Jesus because he shows us who God is and who God has called us all to be – the very character of God’s heavenly grace and salvation in this part of God’s kingdom.
If you have been following this blog, you know that my name is Rev. Ian. But did you know my name means “God’s greatest gift” or a “Gift from God”? Some might say I am the gift that keeps on giving.
Ian is a Gaelic name. The English translation is John, which the ancient Celts pronounced as, “Sean.” A Name so difficult to say that our old nanny, Josephina…would call me “Senior” because she refused to call me Juan.
John is not only one of the most common names in the world, it’s also one of the oldest. Jesus had a brother named John, as well as a cousin and a disciple. In the Bible we find a gospel and three epistles sharing the same name, Johannine, as they say in Greek.
In today’s reading some picky people want to know not just Jesus’ name but what his name means. It’s found in the Gospel ofJohn 10:22-30
It’s easy for me to say my father and I are one not just because share the same name, but we share the same DNA, the same silly humor, and of course the same faith. In the same respect, my mother and I are one and my kids and I are one.
It’s not that shocking to say it publicly in front of the entire world. But when Jesus makes this claim about he and God, in front of this particular audience, it was enough to get him killed.
Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
Years ago, I gave a sermon on Jesus calling himself the Good Shepherd, which is at the beginning of John 10. After service someone who owned sheep told me the only way he could get his flock into their pen for the night was to sing to them.
His sheep knew his voice and trusted he had their best interest at heart. They did not fear him because they had a relationship with him. But only if he sang to them would they follow. Similarly, I think Jesus is telling us that it’s in both the hearing and doing that unites the sheep with the shepherd.
Like my friends sheep, Jesus’ followers know and trust him, not because they have gone through any rational, or intellectual discernment, but because they’ve watched and witnessed the care he gives.
But the ones who challenge him – whose vision of the Messiah is based on trivial power and not sacrificial love – are unable to see the truth right in front of their eyes. They are too busy maintaining the status quo of the Temple instead of being what the Temple represents. The presence of God in the world. They are blind to who Jesus is because they are unable to see that Jesus is a perfect embodiment of God’s character. He and God are one because they share the same vision of life.
What does that say to you and me? How do people see you, or how mighty they come to know who you are?Jesus shows his true identity in the way he loves people, and cares to their needs. In the same way, God is calling us to follow Jesus…like a sheep follows the shepherd. Just as God works through Jesus, God also works through us, to bring healing and peace into a broken and hurting world.
Let us remember that the early church didn’t grow because of traditions, dogmas or creeds. It grew because the people were seeing and experiencing the living Lord in one another and receiving a new life that Paul described as “foolishness to the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27).
Those who have been healed and fed and cared for by Jesus have seen and know God on a much more intimate level. They have experienced God’s love through Christ and have been transformed in the process. Therefore it’s not shocking for them when Jesus declares, “the Father and I are one” because they’ve seen how Jesus shares aligns his life with the righteousness of God.
Gail O’Day said, “It is impossible to distinguish Jesus’ work from God’s, because Jesus shares fully in God’s work.” We must keep our eyes on Jesus because he shows us who God is and who God has called us all to be – the very character of God’s heavenly grace and salvation in this part of God’s kingdom.
To paraphrase Dallas Willard, the point of following Jesus isn’t just to secure a place in the kingdom of God after you die. It’s about how we live in God’s kingdom before we die.
Our Good Shepherd is calling us “follow him.” Which means we are called to follow the way he loves, forgives, heals, and blesses. When we live our life by walking in his footsteps, we stay on the path that leads us and others to God’s loving hands.
Jesus did this by going to the poor and visiting the prisoners. He did it by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. He welcomed the stranger and delivered the oppressed. He touched the untouchable and forgave the unforgiveable. He served the least when no one else would and sacrificed himself for the salvation of all. This is what it means to follow him – to see what he does and do it so others can see God’s glory and do the same. For it’s in both the seeing and doing that unites the sheep with the shepherd. And us to God.
Christianity was not supposed to be a religion. It’s just a way of life. The way of the Christ. It’s the way we are called to live God’s righteousness in the world. So people can see God in their midst and find their piece and healing.
In his first letter to the churches John wrote, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us… God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 Jn 4:12, 16). Just as Jesus reminded those guys at the Temple, when you are in God nothing can snatch you away, not even death.
Jesus and God are one because they share one goal and one mission, one redemption and one salvation. This ought to be our goal as well. But let us not be like those who tried to trick Jesus or believe that we are the keepers of God’s righteousness. We are simply doers of it. Our job isn't to save people, but to lead them back to God.
But if I’ve learned anything it’s that people aren’t going to follow me if my actions don’t speak louder than my words. We have to show the world God’s love of them by being the love of God for them.