Salem Lutheran Church

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We Are Known and Empowered

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…” (John 10:14). This is a beautiful verse of scripture and one that I hope we all find comforting and empowering. But, before we can get to its meaning for us today, we ought to take a look at the context in which it was said and to whom Jesus was speaking when he said this.

Shortly before Jesus began this teaching about being the “good shepherd,” he had been in the Temple teaching and being very critical of the leadership. As he spoke, he was challenged by the Temple leaders, and in response to his challenge, the leaders questioned his personal knowledge of their ancestor Abraham, to which he responded, "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Those words, “I am,” angered the Temple leaders. If you remember, we talked about those two words last week. In Greek they are ego emi. Last week, when the disciples heard them, they offered comfort, but in our text here, those words upset the leadership so much that they attempted to have him stoned. Jesus was able to leave, and when he did, he went out and healed a man who had been born blind. But it was the Sabbath when this happened, and the religious leadership was once again angered at Jesus, this time not because of his words, but because of his actions. So, as he explained why his actions were God-centered, some Pharisees listening continued to question and challenge him.

As Jesus addressed their issues he used language that began to make a distinction between his leadership and that of the religious leaders of the day. When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” he was saying to the religious leaders, you are not the good shepherds that you think you are. You are nothing but hired hands that are in this for self-glory and self-gain. If you want to be a leader of God’s people, you need to always have their best interest at heart, not yours. To be a real leader of God’s people, you need to know your people, and they need to know you. In other words, you need to be in a real relationship with them where you know everything about them. This is the kind of relationship where one knows something about the other person just by the sound of their voice or by the lifting of an eyebrow. Jesus is talking about having an intimate relationship, and when he says, “Very truly I tell you…” the “you” is plural, which means he is addressing the whole group, just as he is addressing all of us today. To be in a healthy and productive faith community we need to know each other, and we ought to know each other so well that we care so much about each other that we would do anything for each other, just like our Lord and Savior would do for us.

But to do this, to be this type of faith community, we need to know Christ. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (10:14). But how do we get to know Jesus? Well, one way we know Jesus is through the Holy Scriptures. As one scholar notes, “The Old Testament contains prophecies of his coming. The New Testament contains stories of his birth, life, death, and resurrection. The New Testament also contains Jesus’ sermons, parables, and instructions about being a disciple. We see in Jesus the example of what it means to live faithfully and honor God. We come to know Jesus when we spend time reading and studying the Bible.”

We also come to know Jesus when we share our lives with other believers and when we partake in communal worship. Jesus comes to us in worship, in our daily lives, and in our time of prayer. These are all ways we can come to know Jesus, and when we take the time to get to know Jesus, then we will know his voice.

You know, I am often asked, “Pastor, how do I know what God expects of me, or what to do?”. Well, to do this, we need to know God’s voice, and to know God’s voice we need to spend time in God’s word, among God’s people and in prayer.

In Jesus’ day the people were well-acquainted with the lives of shepherds and the habits of sheep. Shepherds spent their days out in the fields with their flocks. In the evenings, they often returned to their villages and led their flocks into a common sheep pen for the night. The flocks intermingled in the pen, and for the most part, sheep look alike. Yet, in the morning, each shepherd had only to call his flock. The sheep knew the sound of their shepherd’s voice. The flocks separated, and each flock followed its own shepherd. When we come to know Jesus, we can hear his voice above all the other noise in the world. We listen for Jesus’ voice and we follow.

Our “good shepherd” knows us and was willing to die for us. The challenge for us today is this, are willing to get to know our “good shepherd” in such a way that we can follow him, unconditionally? Can we come to know Jesus so well that we can hear his voice in this noisy world and know his voice so well that we can proclaim the words of the Psalmist with joy and confidence?

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff —
they comfort me.

And when we can proclaim these words with joy and confidence, then the other news Jesus shared today ought to bring us even more joy. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” (10:16).

In this broken world, there are many who are searching for their savior. There are many who know that the hatred, violence, and brokenness are not right, and yet, they don’t know where to turn. They are waiting to hear the voice of the One who they can follow, and you and I are called to continue the work of feeding Jesus’ lambs, tending Jesus’ sheep, and bringing others into the fold. We are called to know Jesus’ voice so well that our voice sounds like his voice. We are to continue the work of helping others come to know Jesus and accept the good news that Jesus knows them.

Whether we are inviting people to come to a bible study, worship, a fellowship event, a youth activity, or just to a social event in our faith community, we are offering them the opportunity to know Jesus. When we offer food through Pantry Pack, or a meal on a Wednesday evening, or clothing and gifts through MLM or other organizations, or just when we offer hospitality in the name of Jesus, we are showing by example who Jesus is.

Brothers and sisters, in a world that tells us we can do it on our own and that we need to look out for number one, our Lord says, you are not alone, you are mine, and you are part of my flock. I will never let you go. May we come to know his voice so well that we can boldly proclaim to the world, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and may we proclaim to the world that our Lord offers this to the world, as well. Amen.


Tags: Sermons