Sermon: People of God, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! While we profess this great truth in this Resurrection Season, others call it foolishness. The Gospel of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ is a divisive declaration. Calvin once wrote that while the teachings of Christ gained many disciples, He also gained many adversaries. It was true in the first century and it is true today. “(Jesus) was always asserting the truth and defending it, even when doing so placed his life in danger. Here he spoke the truth, unwelcome as it was, and the Jews picked up stones to stone him because his denial of their cherished but absolutely false religious opinions.”
John 10 is a familiar passage. It echoes our Psalm 23 reading. In our passage, truth is that the Great Shepherd promises only to protect those in His own care, under His protective Hands.
Jesus is the great shepherd who comes as light to bring salvation to His people. The great shepherd will do whatever it takes to protect His sheep. Remember in the garden that Adam shepherded the animals and gave them names. Jesus as the second Adam becomes the One who calls the sheep by name. Jesus is also the greater Moses. Moses was a shepherd for 40 years in the wilderness defending his sheep from the enemies. Jesus defends His sheep from the enemies’ attack. In fact, shepherding is a first step to becoming a king. We see Saul and David as shepherds before they assume the greatest of all roles as kings shepherding a nation. The role of the shepherd is to lead His sheep into victory; into green pastures as the Psalmist declares.
But this is not an easy task for our Shepherd/King. He will face many trials and theological disputes, such as the one in our passage.
The setting of this theological confrontation is found in verses 22-23. This was during the Feast of Dedication or Re-dedication; also called the Feast of Lights or traditionally Hanukkah. In preparation for this sermon I read several chapters in the apocryphal book I Maccabbees. In I Maccabbees you find the context to this Feast of Dedication. This Feast began 200 years before Jesus entered the scene; commonly known as the Inter-Testamental Period. The book details how the Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes defiled the temple. R.J. Rushdoony summarizes the religious nature of this desecration of the temple:
“(Antiochus) believed that He was God on earth. It was common to believe that the incarnation was in the state and in the person of the ruler. The ruler was either God or about to become God. In Rome, he was declared to be a god at his death by the senate. He assumed that the minute he was made emperor he was in process of becoming a god. When (Antiochus) conquered Judea and Jerusalem, he insisted in putting a statute of himself in the holy of holies…which led to a riot and revolution…”
This is when Judas Maccabeus rises as a sort of messianic figure and restores and purifies the temple, thus liberating the Jews from tyranny. The Jews have been celebrating this victory since 165 BC. This sense of victory which they gained in overthrowing Epiphanes led them to believe that they could overthrow the Roman tyranny in the late AD 60’s. But as we know, the Roman power of Jesus’ day was a far greater power than the Rome of the days of the Maccabees.
It was in this context that Jesus came to the temple. The text tells us that it was in the winter; that is, the rainy and stormy season. He was walking inside the temple in Solomon’s porch/colonnade, which provided shelter, a roof from the bad weather. As Jesus finds refuge from the bad weather, he is verbally assaulted. The text says that the Jews gathered around him; literally, “surrounded or encircled him.” They trapped him. This is their attempt to bully our Lord. And their question is, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” But Jesus has already told them. “The religious leaders wanted language that could be used against him. They knew that He saw them clearly, not as sheep or shepherd, but as wolves and exploiters of God’s flock. They refused to believe…there is no integrity.” They want to execute Him. Calvin writes that “(they) wished to draw this word from him amidst the crowd, that he might be killed by a mob, or that the Romans might lay hands on him.”
But Jesus’ response is a piercing revelation of their blindness. The works that Jesus does in His Father’s Name bear witness of Him. If you want me to declare publicly and boldly that I am the Anointed One, then you must hear my voice. The reality, of course, is that however many times Jesus may say He is the way, the Bread come down from heaven; however many people He may feed miraculously, whether He walks on water, whether He declares His words to be truth and life eternal, these inquisitors will not understand the truth. They will not be able to declare with Thomas: “My Lord and My God.” Why, because they are blinded! They are not part of the great flock that God is establishing on earth, in this New Creation, through His Son. And how does one become a part of this flock? Is it because someone is more willing than another? Is it through some accumulation of facts? No. You become a part of the flock when the Father—in His good pleasure—gives you unto the Son and draws you into the fold.
It is grounded in God’s immutable and sovereign love for his chosen people. It is secured by …the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is put into the active and conscious possession of people by the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Left to himself or herself, no one would ever embrace this salvation, no one would ever believe in Jesus Christ… As Jesus said in his “Bread of Life” sermon, “no one can come to me unless the Father who is in heaven draws him.” We might have expected that the Lord would have said, “you are not my sheep because you do not believe.” But he did not say that. He said, “you don’t believe because you are not my sheep.” In other words, even our believing in Christ, even our faith by which we obtain our salvation, came to us because God had made us his sheep and Christ had died for us as his sheep.
Know surely that you did not come to Christ because God looked down the corridors of time and saw your free choice, rather, God in His rich mercy poured His grace upon you, so your eyes would be open to see Him and your will would be changed to love Him. This is sheer and pure grace.
You will know very quickly why they picked stones to kill our Lord when you understand the implications of verses 27-30. Jesus says in verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” If Jesus is calling His followers His sheep, He is presupposing that He is their Shepherd. This is a remarkable declaration. “In antiquity it was common for rulers to call themselves the shepherd of their people. The shepherd was an image of God. This is why so many of the ancient kings had a shepherd staff.” Jesus’ declaration was a political one. He is saying, “I am the true King.” I am the true Shepherd. Jesus is fulfilling the promise of Psalm 23 to be the True Shepherd of His people and to protect them from all enemies, which include the false shepherds. The sheep of Christ hear and follow Him, but the religious leaders do neither.
Not only are we chosen to be His sheep, but we are chosen to follow Him. This is the call of obedience; a call to doctrinal purity; a call to not be led astray by false teaching, but it is also a call to purity of life. Jesus’ sheep are attuned to His desire, because they seek His words. They do not pretend to be with Him, but they are of Him.
This life as sheep is a secure life; it is an eternal life, but it also a life of perseverance in grace and by grace. Grace is never absent from obedience and faithfulness. If God is gracious to bring us to His Son, He is gracious to keep us in His Son.
But this unending communion with the Father where the Shepherd guides the sheep and where the sheep follow the Shepherd is not in our hands. Jesus says that this is in His hands; and in verse 19, He says that this status and this eternal relationship of Shepherd and Sheep is in the Father’s hand also. Our Soteriology flows from our Christology. That is, our understanding of salvation flows from our understanding of Christ. And who is this Christ? He is God, but He is not the Father. The Father is God, but He is not the Son. The Spirit is God, but He is not the Father or the Son; Three Persons and One God. Do you want me to declare my authority publicly, boldly, and confidently? I and the Father are One. Notice that He does not say: “I and the Father am One”, but “I and the Father are One.” I am the One who speaks the words of God, the words of truth, and I am the True Shepherd of Israel.
How Shall We Then Live?
The first application to consider in this passage is that “the Church is torn by divisions arising among those who profess the same (faith).” Any amount of reading on theological blogs will prove instantly that many take great pleasure in division. They believe that their particular branch of Christianity within a tradition, which is usually a tradition within a tradition within a tradition, is the only true branch of the Church. This is disastrous pride. While we are aware of theological divide in our own day, aware that we have strong convictions, we need to be also aware that our distinctions should not keep us away from a dinner table of another brother or sister who holds different convictions. We truly need to mourn when some make their theological distinctions a badge of true faith. God forbid we ever fall into that category.
Secondly, as I have already alluded, Jesus says that His sheep hear his voice and He knows them, and they follow Him. This is not just some abstract idea of “eternal security” that we hear so often these days. This is a security grounded in obedience and discipleship. We do not believe in an antinomian gospel. As James says, “Faith without works is dead.”
Third, theologically, we have here a clear statement on the deity of Christ. This is a passage that needs to be used often when defending the Trinity. This is what drove the religious leaders mad; that Jesus claimed to be the Anointed One of God; the Messiah.
Finally, the True Shepherd chooses under-shepherds to represent Him on earth. He chooses pastors to proclaim truth to His sheep. This is how Jesus keeps wolves away from His flock: by choosing under-shepherds who will guard and protect their sheep from false doctrine and sinful living. Pray for your pastors that we may never tire of defending truth, that we may never tire of building Christ’s church, that we may never tire of proclaiming Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! In the Name of the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Amen.
 John Calvin, Commentary on John 10:19. See http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom34.xvi.v.html
 Robert Rayburn, Sermon on John 10.
 This section comes from my sermon on John 10:1-18 preached at Providence Church in May, 2009.
 I Maccabbees is an apocryphal book detailing the purification of the temple by Judas Maccabbees when he destroyed Antiochus Epiphanes’ rule.
 R.J. Rushdoony, Lectures on John.
 John Calvin, Commentary on John 20.
 See John 6:37-44
 Robert Rayburn, sermon on John 10.
 R.J. Rushdoony, Lectures in John.
 Calvin makes a similar observation in relationship to the context of his own day concerning the Papists and Protestants.