22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”
Today’s reading isn’t the easiest to get your head round to understand. The Jews standing round Jesus want a direct answer “are you the messiah” Jesus doesn’t say ‘yes ….. and he doesn’t say No!’
What he says is ‘I’ve already told you’” and you still seem to be having a problem with that. Last Wednesday morning I went to a meeting with a group called Linked4Growth, it’s open to businesses to get together and give support and exchange ideas, so why do I go, because I’m nosey, and people there are stunned to find a vicar interested in what they’re doing.
One conversation last week was a lady asked why was I a vicar, Jean was there, she’ll tell you, this lady was really interested and incredulous when I said “I met Jesus and spoke to him in person, so I know he’s real” …… she kept asking questions and was very stunned. But the point is, I told her and still she couldn’t get her head round what I’d actually told her.
So using that as an example, that’s what the Jews standing round Jesus were asking Him “are you the messiah” Jesus says “I’ve told you already and still you don’t believe me”
The reason they don’t believe is because they don’t belong to the flock. In some denominations we cannot belong unless we believe. In the Church of England, you belong unless you opt out. It’s one of the reasons we baptize children for families that live in church parishes, you belong, and you obviously think there’s “something in this baptism lark” otherwise why put yourself through it.
I never used to go to church, even when our kids were born, I got them baptised because my wife said we should and because it was about ‘there might be something in it’
Let me tell you, there is, but then I would say that wouldn’t i!
Jesus had made a statement. He had just told them He is the Messiah, the son of God. He is the shepherd of the flock, and the flock is those who hear his voice and follow him. The flock are people who believe in him and follow him.
It is about the relationship he has with each of us. He knows each one of us. He knows all of us, which is a bit scary sometimes, but best of all is that he loves each one of us even when we’re not particularly loveable, believe me I know, I’ve been there.
This is not about reward and punishment. Some of us may think that we are going to heaven or to hell. Some of us believe that what we do determines whether we go to heaven or to hell. Some of us believe that if we go to church and do good stuff we are in the fold. Not strictly true, not a decision we humans can make, Only God does that. This text tells us about the relationship. The relationship is about love…God’s love for us and our love for him.
You see, going to heaven isn’t that hard, in fact I often think God made it so simple that we can’t believe it could be so simple. Listen, it’s this simple; You, me–we are saved by love, the love of God.
Now in response to that love that knows no limits, we do say ‘sorry’ and mean it, we do try to be better than we were, we are baptised. We come to church, we make a commitment to Christ and to his church–all in response to the love we have received.
Our relationship is with God and with his Son. When I had the drug addicts and gang coming into my church in East London, I never had to tell them anything other than the truth because they were pretty good at lying and could recognise one a mile off, so when I told them the truth, “God loves you”, they knew it. I’ve said it before; they were a tough bunch but they never argued with me about Gods love for them, and six of them got jobs in Westfield shopping centre, because they learnt to change and respond to that silly phrase “God loves you”.
That is what this text is about. Do you love God more than life? Are you willing to follow Christ no matter where that takes you? Are you ready to feed his sheep and tend his lambs? Are you ready to think of yourself last instead of first? When is the last time you did something for someone else just because it was the right thing to do, for heaven’s sake?
Are you ready to give all you have to the Christ who gave his life for you?
I know that God loves me, that God provides for me, that God protects me; even from myself. For years I tried to ignore him, but he got me in the end, coz he thought I was worth it. He thinks each of us is worth something and valuable to him. so for some of us who have been coming to church for years and we know who God is, for others it might be something we’re trying to find out, for others we might be doing what I did and trying to ignore Him.
Can I suggest that for those of us who know God we recommit ourselves and for those who don’t know what to believe, well come and see me afterwards, you never know, might be worth finding out
He knows you. You are part of his flock already, you just need perhaps to take that ‘leap of faith’