We are well and truly in election mode with a Federal Election later this month. And as always in the lead up to any election out comes the cheque book and the book of promises. I think by now we are all well aware that what is promised pre-election is not always what is delivered post-election. And there will be reasons given varying from we didn’t realise how much it was really going to cost or situations have changed.We don’t always believe their promises.
Jesus also delivered a promise prior to his death saying that he would rise from the dead on the 3rd day. And like political promises, his disciples didn’t believe it. They went to the tomb on that 3rd day not to look for his risen body but a dead body – as the angels said confused by this – why do you look for the living amongst the dead. They went to the tomb and when they saw it empty didn’t even consider that maybe Jesus has risen from the dead.
But, unlike political promises, Jesus kept his promise. And what this means for us is that if Jesus kept his promise to rise from the dead then all the promises connected to that promise can also be trusted. And the huge promise made in today’s Gospel reading is – 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.” Those beautiful promises – I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will snatch you out of my hand.
Sadly, today, our skepticism makes us question everything and distrust even the most trusted sources.
When the phone rings and the person on the other ends tells you they are from the bank and want your password because they believe you have fraudulent activity in your bank account most people just hang up. Or you get a text message to say you have a delivery waiting – just click here – most people just delete it. Or that email says you have won the lottery – a lottery you didn’t enter – just send us $39.99 processing fee and we’ll send you the millions of dollars you’ve won.
If it sounds too good to be true – then it is most likely NOT true. Haven’t we grown up in these modern times to consider everything as a scam? But let us remember one of the great “I AM” statements that came from Jesus’ mouth – I am the way, the truth and the life. And in John’s Gospel he says – “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Whatever Jesus has said – whatever Jesus has promised is truth – has always been the truth and will forever be the truth. So whether it’s John 3:16 – whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. Or in Mark 16 – whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Or in Paul’s writings – whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. These are absolute and eternal truths that we should never doubt or be skeptical about.
Even as the world around us seems to be in an absolute mess. Even though the world continually tells us that the Christian faith is just a fairy tale and irrelevant. Even though there seems to be more and more attacks and criticism of the church Jesus remains as the one in whom our faith and trust remains.
So Jesus urges us to stand firm against all the attacks – He says – “… you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. Many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Does that scenario sound familiar?
Today Jesus shows his concern for the skepticism of his people. The people come up to Jesus and confront him:” How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe”.
Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. And what makes Jesus good is the fact that he is there for us always. Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will not be afraid because you are with me. Earlier in this chapter, John 10, Jesus compares himself to the one who is NOT the Good Shepherd whom he calls the thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy; But about himself, as the Good Shepherd he says I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Being able to discern the truth these days is so difficult. We have disinformation. We have fake news. We have fact checkers and debunking. We have left wing bias – right wing bias – each accusing the other of not being honest. It’s really hard to know what to believe. But when it comes to knowing and trusting we can put all our faith in Jesus as our Good Shepherd. And the difference is, as Jesus says – I know my sheep. And we are safe in him no matter what is going on around us. No one can snatch us out of his hand.
Nowhere else can we feel as secure than in God’s loving and caring hands. But in order to hear Jesus’ voice we need to listen where he is speaking to us. Jesus speaks to us in our prayers. Remember, prayer is not only us speaking to God but God speaking to us. We need to hear and listen as God said in Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration. This is my Son whom I love – LISTEN TO HIM. We need to listen to him speaking to us through his word – in our Bibles and in our Worship.
Unfortunately there is a lot of competition to God’s word – our televisions, our music, our media. And unlike our Good Shepherd, they don’t know us in the same way the Good Shepherd knows us. They don’t have OUR interests at heart but their own. But sadly this is what most people listen to. It doesn’t take a lot of time to spend with God. Even 5 or 10 minutes in the morning and evening in prayer. A few minutes each day in his Word. And hour a week, an hour a fortnight, even an hour a month in worship – will make a difference.
But sadly so many Christians barely have an hour once or twice a year to spend in worship. Fortunately, as our Good Shepherd, Jesus had more than a few hours for us but his entire life. And Jesus continues to give us his life continues to hold us as his goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives until we are safe dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. And until we are there we are safe in his hands and no one can snatch us out of them. That’s a promise Jesus keeps.