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Easter 4B Sermon
John 10:11-18, Acts 4:5-12

April 25, 2021

Sermon Archives


Acts 4:5-12

5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.”
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

John 10:11-18

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

The next day the rulers and scribes assembled in Jerusalem … That is how our first reading began this morning. Wouldn’t you like to know, as Paul Harvey used to put it, “the REST of the story?” Like, what happened on the day before these rulers and scribes assembled to put Peter and John on trial? It’s easy to answer because it is found in the verses leading up to our reading this morning. Peter and John approached a man who was born lame at the Beautiful gate as they neared the temple. He begged for alms, and they told him, “silver and gold have we none, but what we have, we give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Not only did the man walk, but he jumped up and praised God with every muscle in his body! After Peter preached in a part of the temple called, “Solomon’s Portico,” the big wigs hear the news and are very annoyed. They believed that they had gotten rid of Jesus, so why are these men healing and preaching in his name? The Romans had entrusted a lot of authority to them, mostly to keep the peace. So, they have Peter and John arrested and that is where the story picks up.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus compares himself as The Good Shepherd to the hired hands. When these see the wolf coming, they leave the sheep and run away because the sheep do not belong to them. They don’t really care for the sheep. To understand this passage completely I believe we also have to discover, “The REST of the story.” For you see, in the previous chapter, John recounts the long and often humorous story of Jesus healing a man who was born blind. Maybe you recall how the temple leaders questioned all sorts of people, including the man Jesus healed and his parents, to find a reason to go after Jesus and to kick the man born blind out of the temple community. Finally, they do - they drive him out. And next we are told that Jesus heard about it and found him. He went and found him like the good shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to find the one that is lost. And now we put together just who Jesus is likening to hired hands - it is the Pharisees and Saducees and scribes and high priest and other religious leaders - those same ones who will have Peter and John arrested after Jesus is raised and ascended. These have no concern for people like the man born blind and the man born lame, other than whatever their condition, they should follow the Torah and obey God’s laws.

A man born blind is healed by Jesus; a man born lame is healed in the name of this same Jesus of Nazareth. The hired hands, who do not care for the sheep as deeply and completely as The Good Shepherd flex their religious and legal muscles to try to prevent presence of Jesus to be experienced by those who are hurting. Now, you KNOW the REST of the story… but wait … there’s more!

Both of these accounts are bound together in the event of Jesus’ resurrection, which happened in between them. If you go back to Easter Sunday, you will remember that the three women went to the tomb without any idea of who might move the huge, heavy stone away from the opening of the tomb so that they could anoint Jesus’ lifeless body that they expected to find inside. When they got there, the stone was already rolled away, and Jesus was nowhere to be found. But there was a man in dazzling white who reminded them that Jesus had told them that he would be raised after three days, and that he had gone before them to Galilee. This is the event that binds the two healing stories I shared, which two of our readings complete this morning. Not only that, but it is the event that binds all of our stories, the stories of all people who believe in Jesus as God’s beloved son, so that we may not perish, but have everlasting life. And not only that, but the resurrection of Jesus is so vital to all of God’s children that it gets more than one day to remember and celebrate. Easter is a seven-week season - a week of weeks - in which we are smack dab in the middle right now. We light that paschal candle next to the baptismal font for all baptisms, funerals and during the whole season of Easter.

And not only that, but each and every Sunday when we gather as God’s people is an opportunity to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus so that all that we say and do might be shaped by the presence of our resurrected Lord Jesus. I alluded earlier to that best known Bible verse, John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. In our second reading this morning we heard FIRST John 3:16, We know love by this, that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. This is truly the story of a Christian life that is shaped by the presence of the risen Lord. John 3:16 tells of God’s unbounded love for us; 1 John 3:16 tells of our love for one another because of God’s unbounded love for us.

Just as that stone would not keep the risen Jesus imprisoned in that tomb, so those religious leaders could not hold back that presence as witnessed to by those first disciples. The Good Shepherd may seem like a passive, docile image, but in truth, it is an image of one who would go to any lengths to find, return and love all who stray or are in need of healing - not only those already in the flock, but everyone who is not yet part of his flock. Jesus desires all to experience his healing and redemption so personally that their lives are shaped by the hope of his resurrection. He promises to heal us of whatever burdens us or gets in the way of experiencing God’s boundless love so that we can reflect that love, even to the point of laying down our lives for one another. It is a call to unity. It is a call to action - not just words or speech, but in truth and action. May we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and know his protective presence with us. And may we be shaped by the most important event of all, the resurrection of Jesus - which empowers us to love others with the same selfless love that God first shows us. May we live out the rest of the story as we reflect God’s merciful love. Amen.