Believe and Obey

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Who Jesus Is

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An Image of Jesus

The text for this week is John 10:11-18.  As the Easter season rolls along, we are presented with texts that further clarify who Jesus really is.  As is typical of Scripture, Jesus uses pastoral and agricultural imagery to make His point.  This is because these are analogies that those who heard Him would understand.  Like any good communicator, Jesus connects with His audience in ways that are meaningful.  Fortunately for us we can still understand what He is saying, even though we live in an industrial-based civilization.

What Jesus is saying here is nothing short of extraordinary.  These are claims that form the core of His ministry.  First, He states that He is the good shepherd.  He then explains what this means.  A good shepherd will lay down his life for the flock.  This contrasts with a hired hand who will run away at the first sign of trouble.  The message here is clear.  Jesus will never forsake us or abandon us.  His presence is constant.  Like sheep, we may wander, but Jesus will pursue. 

Jesus further states that, if necessary, He will lay down His life for the sheep.  This text comes before the crucifixion so that the disciples might not fully understand.  Unlike the disciples we know how the story ends, so we know that Jesus did in fact lay down His life for us.  In this part of the text Jesus also says something else that is crucial.  In verse 14 Jesus states that “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— “.  This clearly communicates to us that we hear God’s good and gracious word, and we trust in that word.  This is the faith that God has given us.  The faith that saves.

The next claim that has clear implications for us, even today, comes in Verse 16 “ I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  This is the clarion call to the whole world.  Jesus has come not just for the lost sheep of the house of Israel but for the Gentiles as well.  The promise is that even these non-Jews will hear and respond to the voice of Jesus.  This is the image that Jesus wishes to convey to the whole world; that of a loving and sacrificial shepherd who will give even His life for His sheep.

A Most Stunning Claim

The truly stunning claim that Jesus makes in this passage comes in Verses 17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”  This is an explicit claim of Godhood that Jesus is making.  Not controversial to us who come to the text in faith, but a stunning and ultimately dangerous claim to make in first century Palestine.

This is a bold witness indeed for Jesus to make and a clear indication of who He is for the disciples who first heard this as well as for us today.  This is Jesus’s claim of righteous authority given Him from the Father and is the word that we, like the sheep, hear and understand and follow.  This word, and the guarantee of the good shepherd that makes it, is the assurance we need to know that God is with us always and that we can trust in, and follow His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  That is, this text gives us full assurance that we need only to believe to obey.

Praise Be to God

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