John 10:1-10 – Good Shepherd & 4th Sunday of Easter
Today’s text (and up through verse 10:21) is a continuation of the story of the healing of the man born blind. We are supposed to hear conflict in Jesus’ words as he is still speaking about the religious leaders’ lack of understanding while they are still within earshot. We are supposed to understand that a man who was blind responded to the voice of the one who knew him even though he could not see him. And when Jesus returns to him after the whole chapter 9, the man knows it is him as Jesus speaks to him again. Now here in John 10, we are broadening this story and metaphor while also including the Shepherd theme that began way back in John 6 with the green pasture of the Bread of Life discourse.
You could preach entirely on the theme of the Good Shepherd without ever talking about the individual items of these verses today. The Good Shepherd who cares for their flock, who guards and protects, who is safe. Connect it with Psalm 23 and you have sermon fodder for years.
But for me, there are two potions of this text that are really ringing out for me: “The sheep follow him because they know his voice” and “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Are there voices in your life that bring warmth to your heart?
For me, my family’s voices do that instantly. Any time I hear my parents’ voices or my siblings, it puts me in touch with my history and my childhood. It’s a connection to the love that I’ve felt with them.
More sentimentally and less theologically important, I grew up listening to Phillies’ games. And so, any time I hear recordings of the voice of Harry Kallas calling games back in the day it brings up sentimental memories. Even now if I hear Tom McCarthy or John Kruk, a smile comes to my face.
This week, a legendary voice passed away. Harry Belafonte was a voice that captured your soul. His music, his voice, and his presence, represented hope, resistance, and joy to multiple generations. His music often comes to mind for me in my day-to-day life and I find myself singing to it as I work or relax. When I think of the voice of Jesus, I think Harry Belafonte is a pretty good option. His voice represents so much for so many people.
Last week as I wrote my sermon, I stumbled on the thought that in the road to Emmaus, Jesus’ appearance is never described. Jesus’ appearance is never described in any of the Gospels. Now that may be because it felt idolatrous or maybe they didn’t want to get it wrong. But what it means theologically (and what may have been intentional) is that Jesus can look like anyone and can be anyone. If we think too literally about “seeing Jesus” in the world, then we look for a ghost—the divine presence of God represented in an appearance like Paul had in Acts. Or we think about a vision in the clouds and a bright light. But that’s not so helpful for us. It means we miss the crucial opportunities of seeing Christ in our midst each and every day. When we think of Matthew 25, “When was it that we saw you a stranger…” then it becomes all the clearer why the physical presence of Jesus is not so important. We can see Jesus in any person and, as we hear in Matthew 25, we WILL see Jesus in any person: The hungry, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned.
Well, this week we hear about a voice. The voice of the shepherd who calls to the sheep and they follow because they know their voice. If we literally think about the voice of God, we may find ourselves waiting forever and never hearing anything. The voice of God does not have to come from the clouds like the Baptism or Transfiguration. The voice of God does not have to whisper in our head with a clear directive.
Sometimes the voice of God could be our loved one telling us that we are “loved and cared for.” Sometimes the voice of the Risen Christ can be heard in our friends or colleagues helping us to find life in abundance. Sometimes the voice of the Spirit can be heard in the voice of a prophetic musician who calls the world to “see one another clearly.” Sometimes the voice of God can be heard in a complete stranger. This is not to say that one person in our life is the voice of God but that the voice of God can speak to us through any one person.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The voice of God calls to us to have life and to ensure that all have life in abundance. When we hear those speaking with authority calling for change in the world, that may be the voice of God. When we hear those calling for equality and justice, that may be the voice of God. When we hear those who are calling us Beloved and ensuring that we hear our Belovedness, that certainly is the voice of God. When we hear calls to life and living for each other, that is the voice of God.
We don’t need to overthink it. Sometimes it really can be that meaningful voice that gives us life.
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