May 12, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
RUMC, Pastor SeokCheol Shin
The Good Shepherd and His Sheep
The Good Shepherd
Happy Mother’s Day!!! We set aside this day as a special day to appreciate all of our mothers. But I really believe that mothers must be praised on a daily basis and every day should be Mother’s Day, just like our everyday is God’s day. How come? Mothers never stop feeding and caring for their children! Even on Mother’s Day, I am sure that they are still worried that their children are eating well.
There are lots of images about God in the Bible; my favorite is the image of God as a shepherd. Who doesn’t love Psalm 23, describing God as the Good Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters…” Just like our mothers, God is constantly feeding, nurturing and giving us his best, whatever our circumstances may be.
Jesus Christ also has lots of images for himself, and one of them is the Good Shepherd. Just as Psalm 23 describes God, we want Jesus to be our Shepherd to watch over us, protect us, heal us when we are sick, and, of course, walk with us when we happen to walk through the darkest valley. We all want this, and Jesus says to us, “You can have it from me, for I am the Good Shepherd. I love my sheep with a love that is stronger than death.”
Listening to the Shepherd
It is easy to believe that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (or God is like our mother who always loves us), but the question still remains for us: “Are we the sheep of Jesus Christ?” Yes, we know Jesus is the Shepherd, but how do we guarantee that we are his sheep?
In the Gospel lesson, the Jews in the temple are becoming very frustrated with Jesus. His teachings and miracles have provided signs to prove that he is God’s Messiah, but they could not understand or did not want to. They ask him that “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (v. 24). Jesus answers, “I have told you… and you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (v. 25-26). And then, he gives them a clear clue about who belongs to him as his sheep: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (v. 27). What Jesus is trying to say through this metaphor is that there is a God, and his people are able to hear God’s voice. This is very important. It means that we are born with that ability to sense and listen to the divine voice of God. There are many other voices out there, which sound good and truthful, and we may listen to those. God’s voice is also always there and his voice is recognizable to his people.
I think this is a test, some kind of a spiritual hearing test. Where and how do we hear the voice of our Shepherd, so we can follow his way? I’ve got a book here that brings us God’s voice; it is called the Holy Bible. We can talk with God whenever we pray to the Lord. We also know that God sometimes speaks to us through people or our circumstances.
God gives us a plenty of resources to hear his voice. But honestly speaking, listening to God isn’t easy at all. Let us question ourselves: how much do we like to listen to God’ voice? Are we willing to meditate on God’s word day by day, as we like our daily meals? And then again, how much are we willing to gather together and strive hard to find God’s will, knowing that where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, he is there with us?
Listening to God generally takes place in a prayerful and humble heart. God speaks to those who take time to listen and God listens to those who take time to pray. When God answers us, we can be fed and nurtured, we can be healed and restored, and we can be brought to life and safety.
Following the Shepherd
Yes, I do pray to God and listen to his voice, so I am his sheep. Well, according to what the Shepherd says today, we need one more thing to prove that we belong to him. After saying “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus continues to say that “they follow me” (v. 27). Of course, we like to follow our Shepherd because he promises to lead us to green pastures and still waters. Following the Shepherd is all good; there is no reason not to follow him.
But do we also remember that Jesus commands his disciples to “follow me” in another place in the Gospels. Unlike the image in Psalm 23, this invitation seems quite unpleasant to us, “if any want to follow me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). Jesus our Good Shepherd leads his sheep not only to green pastures but sometimes to the bitters of life. You may want to argue that “What’s the point that the Shepherd leads his sheep to the bitters of life? There is no good in it. It only hurts the vulnerable sheep.”
Well, my friends, the Lord doesn’t need to lead us to the bitters of life or a path of trials. Think about this: our world is not God’s kingdom. As long as we live here on earth, from time to time we experience all kinds of tribulations. Our Shepherd doesn’t need to lead us there because we are already there in troubles. The good news is that our Shepherd is always present to rescue the lost sheep, rescue them out of troubles they have gotten themselves into. So when Jesus says “follow me,” it is his invitation for his disciples to join in his salvation ministry for others in need.
If we say that we love God but refuse to help people or support the communities in tribulations, we are not disciples of Jesus but like the hired hands who see the wolf (challenge) coming and run away from the sheep because their loss is not important to us (saying “I don’t want to get involved”). True love requires risk. It demands putting our hearts, tears, hands, and presence in difficult times and situations. This is not what people want at all, but true sheep of Christ will take that responsibility and follow the example of their Good Shepherd.
Are we sure that we are Jesus’ sheep? If so, we must not remain as the little sheep. We must grow spiritually to be good shepherds ourselves who are able to follow our Good Shepherd and join in his salvation ministry.
Belonging to the Good Shepherd
Brothers and sisters, in the eyes of God each one of us belongs to his flock. Parents call their children to themselves so that they might heal them, nourish them, and show them love. Likewise, God our heavenly Mother or Father is calling us to bless our lives.
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (v. 27). Let us listen and follow him, and we shall not be in want. Let us listen and follow him, and we may lie down in green pastures. Finally let us listen and follow him, and we may serve many others, so that we may become like little shepherds who belong to the Good Shepherd our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.