“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28
The words of our text were spoken by Jesus during a conversation He had with the Jews in Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Dedication. Walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon, Jesus was stopped and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” These Jews were agitated and upset about this man Jesus and the stir He was causing throughout the land. They were among the group who, unfortunately, had resisted the call of God that came first through John the Baptist and then through Jesus. Now they were asking Jesus questions, yet not really with the intention of hearing Him or receiving His Word in faith.
Because of this, Jesus’ reply to them was sharp: “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (vv. 25-26). Yes, Jesus was the Christ, and His works proved it. But these Jews, having separated themselves from God through their rejection of His Son, did not believe. What a sad thing is unbelief, and how unfortunate that these people turned from their innermost hearts away from their Savior and Redeemer! When our own hearts grow cold and hard through the trials and temptations of this world, the Holy Spirit through the Word calls us back to the God who loves us—back to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for our sins.
How happy and fortunate are all those who hear the voice of their Good Shepherd and believe—even us! In the confidence of God’s love and the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus’ sake we may sing with a glad heart:
I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me,
Loves me ev’ry day the same,
Even calls me by my name.
As Jesus said in our text, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
This Easter season we continue cheerfully to hear the voice of Jesus and to follow in faith our risen Savior in the way that leads to eternal life.
Lord Jesus, shepherd me through this life until I reach my heavenly home. Amen.
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” John 21:4
After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to His disciples at various times over a period of forty days. One of those times was by the Sea of Galilee. Peter and several of the disciples had spent the night fishing but had caught nothing. As day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. The Lord asked whether they had any fish. They said No. Jesus told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. Sure enough, they did—more fish almost than their net could bear. At that point the disciples came to the realization that it was Jesus on the shore. They brought their boat and net full of fish ashore (Simon Peter swam his way in!) and soon they were sitting around a charcoal fire, having breakfast served by Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior.
What a joy during the season of Easter to read the exciting accounts of how the Lord showed Himself to His disciples! Our own faith in Jesus grows stronger each time we hear these stories. This story in particular teaches us not only that Jesus is risen, it also serves to remind us that Jesus knows our needs while we live in this world, and that He supplies those needs, even though we are neither deserving of this loving care nor worthy of it. By His grace alone, Jesus who supplied fish to the disciples and fed them with breakfast that morning also supplies us with food and drink and life’s necessities day by day.
More than that, Jesus supplies us with spiritual nourishment through His means of grace, the Word and sacraments. When we hear Christ’s Word, such as during our weekly worship services, the Holy Spirit turns us in repentance from our sins to the God who loves us. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to keep us strong and steadfast in our faith in Christ. He soothes guilty consciences through the forgiveness of sins, He comforts the lonely by the reminder of His constant presence and unchanging love, and He encourages faint hearts with the promise of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
As each new day breaks in your life, there is Jesus, on the shore. He who died for you now lives to supply all your needs in this life until we feast with Him in glory.
Every day, Jesus, You show me in marvelous ways; Your love and Your care. I thank you for bodily and temporal gifts and especially also for the spiritual and eternal gifts that come through the Word and sacraments, all on account of Your death for me on the cross, and Your resurrection. Amen.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
The evening of that first Easter Day the disciples of Jesus were all together in one place. That is, all except for one disciple, Thomas, who was somewhere else, we are not sure where. That evening Jesus came and showed Himself alive to the disciples. They were glad and overjoyed when they saw their dear Lord risen and living. The next chance they had, Jesus’ disciples shared the good news with their friend Thomas: “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas did not believe them. Their word was not enough for him. Thomas stated loud and clear that unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus’ wounds with his own hands, he would never believe.
Jesus did not want Thomas to remain in unbelief, and so a week later the Lord came and showed Himself alive to His disciples once again. This time Thomas was with them, so Jesus spoke directly to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” The next moment Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas believed, but it took seeing Jesus to make it happen. In our text Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Here Jesus is talking about people who have never had the chance, like Thomas and the first disciples, to see the risen Lord with their own eyes or touch him with their hands. This describes the vast majority of Christians down through the ages! It describes you and me. We have never seen Jesus, yet thanks be to God, we believe that He is risen.
The Holy Spirit works through the Word to rid us of our natural tendency toward unbelief. He clears away our doubt and works faith in our hearts to believe that Jesus has truly redeemed us and that He lives. Through the Gospel testimony of those first eyewitnesses, as recorded in the New Testament, we have come to believe that Jesus is our Savior from sin, death, and hell, and that He gives us eternal life.
Jesus calls us blessed who believe in Him—happy and glad. Truly, Jesus’ resurrection brings joy to our hearts and also gives us a wonderful message to tell the world.
Risen and living Lord Jesus, I praise You, that You were willing to die to redeem a sinful person like me. Strengthen my faith in You and use me to tell others the good news that You live. Amen.
April always starts with a bit of a joke or a tongue in cheek story. Many of us get suckered in by someone who has that serious look and tone and tells us the most incredible story. And just when we have swallowed it hook, line and sinker, our friend says “April Fools’!”
I have an April story for you. It is about a young man who grew up in a small village, far away from the major population centers. The man worked in the building trades and not a whole lot is known about his early life. He had a Mother and Father and reportedly some brothers and sisters. The family was pretty religious and lived as typical people in their village. That was the way it was for the first 30 years of the young man’s life. But then it all changed.
The young man left the village and headed south where he encountered an itinerant preacher. After listening to the preacher, the young man decided to be baptized, just as the preacher had suggested. Well all kinds of amazing things happened when the young man was baptized. He started to talk with other people and it happened that he had an amazing amount of knowledge. And as he shared that knowledge with other people they were amazed at what he knew and how he explained things. He taught with such insight and power that people were fascinated by his teaching.
And then even more amazing things happened. It seemed that the young man had unique abilities and powers that allowed him to heal people who were sick, to feed huge numbers of people with just a few table scraps, and even to arouse people who had died. More and more people started to listen to the young man. But at the same time there were people who were in charge and ran things and they did not like what the young man was saying and teaching the people.
These powerful people were able to convince the government to arrest, try, and convict the young man of crimes against the government. And in spite of a lack of evidence and any harm, the young man was sentenced to death.
At this point in the story, you would expect to hear the words, “April Fools’.” But this is not a joke, and all of you, I am sure, recognize this as the story of Jesus. In many ways the Gospel of Jesus is an improbable story and sounds made up.
Yet, it is the greatest story on earth. God sends his Son, to earth, to live as a human, yet to do so without sin. And then this man Jesus, who taught with great authority and did many miracles, surrenders his life as payment for our sins. Jesus goes on to rise from the dead and give to all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior the promise of eternal life.
This improbable story is the Good News that we will celebrate as we conclude Lent and look forward to Holy Week and Easter this week in April.
Gracious God and Lord, the story of Your love, grace and mercy for us, Your children, is sometimes hard to believe. Yet, it is true, that You came and died for us to grant us the forgiveness of our sins. Not because of who we are or anything we have done, but rather because of who You are and all that You have done for us. Let us not be fooled by the people of the world who say that God does not matter, for truly we are solely dependent on Your grace and love for our eternal life. Thank You, Jesus. Amen