Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

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Note: All Scripture quotations in the written sermon are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ESV Text Edition: 2016.  Copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


The sermon text for the fourth Sunday of Easter is the gospel reading from John 10:1-10:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So far the text.

Introduction: Today we live in what is being called the age of post-rationalism.   We are passing from the age of rationalism, where people believe things on the basis of facts while rejecting anything supernatural, to a post-rationalist world where people are more and more happy to ignore the facts and place their trust in a worldview and religion based on how that religion makes them feel.  The consequence of this seems to be that we are slowly moving from atheism being Christianity’s main worldly opponent in the West to hedonism and paganism gaining popularity.  Hedonism is a way of living for whatever makes you feel good and is not necessarily religious in content, while paganism involves worshipping the Earth, nature, spirits in nature and could even include the ancient false gods of Egypt, Greece and Rome.  We live in a strange, new world. 

  1. Salvation and Life Come Through Faith in the Resurrected One

But we also live in the Year of Our Lord 2020, in the season of Easter!  We live almost 2000 years after Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary rose from the dead and appeared to the two Marys and His apostles.

Because we are beginning to live in post-rational days it’s important to remember: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not your opinion or your feeling.  It happened.  It isn’t a sentiment.  It is news and it is wonderful Good News.  

What is that Good News?  The Triune God our Creator is our King.  But each of us has rebelled against Him.  In some countries around the world the penalty for treason against the state is death.  God is our king and each time we sin we usurp His rule and reign and make either ourselves or someone else, or some other false idea of god king.  We betray God each time we sin.  And the penalty for the treason of sin for each sinner is God’s judgement of death.  God pronounced this just sentence over sin to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  

But the Good News of Easter is God the Father has sent His Son Jesus in the flesh, in history, to become man, to perfectly obey His Father’s Law and die a righteous death on a cross outside Jerusalem in your and my place.  Jesus died for our high treason.  The obedient One died for the disobedient ones!  The Good News of Easter is God the Father raised His Son from the dead, showing to the whole world He accepted His Son’s death for our treasonous sin thereby pardoning and exonerating us from our sin.  As if the Good News couldn’t get better: our sentence of mortality and physical death due to our sin has been lifted as well through Christ’s bodily resurrection.

The Good News of Easter isn’t just for the world in general, it’s for you!  Calling you one of His sheep Jesus says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (Jn 10:3b-4). The Lord has done His saving work for you, He has called you His own in baptism, and wherever you go in this changing world, He goes out before you leading and guiding you in life.

The Good News of Easter on which we base our faith is not merely in our head and in our heart: it’s not just a feeling, no, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday outside Jerusalem in the reign of Tiberius, in the year of our Lord 33, is a fact.  

2) Those who teach of salvation in any other way than faith in Christ are robbers/thieves

It follows that anyone who teaches salvation and peace with God in any way other than through faith in Jesus Christ is not only false but a rebel and traitor against the One true God: “Jesus said: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.’” (Jn 10:1,10a)

In His dialogue with the Jews of Jerusalem in our sermon text Jesus is making an exclusive claim to be the Son of God and the only Saviour of the world.  The Jews believed the Old Testament was the revelation from the One true God to men yet many of them did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and Saviour, God in the flesh, promised by God in the Old Testament to save the nation of Israel from their sin.  They held fast to their opinion that Jesus was not the Messiah despite all His teaching from the Father and His miracles.

When we are faced as Christians with opposition from other religions or teachings that claim a way to salvation, and often ignore sin, it is good to remember our Lord faced similar opposition to His exclusive claim that He was and remains the only Saviour of the world.  Christianity is unique among all religions because it is based on the historical truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.  Do not listen to the voice of the Eastern religious teachers, the yogis, the Bhuddists, the druids or the shamans, rather flee from their teaching and worldviews and help others to do the same because their teaching does not guide their hearers on the path to life but on the path away from God to eternal death.  These voices are the voices of thieves and robbers, who would seek to rob you and others of the salvation God has given you by grace through faith in Christ.

Of this salvation, Jesus says, and again note the exclusivity, “[I am] the shepherd of the sheep,” (Jn 10:2a), “I am the door.” (Jn 10:9a).  You have salvation now through your trust in Jesus as Your Lord and Saviour.  Jesus alone is the door, your Shepherd, who provides you access to the kingdom of God and all God’s blessings of peace and forgiveness in this life and the next. 

3) Right Now We Have A Big Opportunity

We have a big and rare opportunity in these coronavirus days when so many people are worried about their mortality to share the Good News of Jesus and Easter.  Yes, these days are not good in the sense that we can’t gather for the Divine Service and many are out of work and others feel cooped in or bored.  But to look at the situation positively, these days are ripe with opportunity to share the Good News of Christ.  For the rest of our lives we will seldom get an opportunity as good as this to share the Good News with really worried people, because most of the time people are too preoccupied with life that is going on as it always has to listen to the Gospel.

Remember the three “nots” for when to invite someone to church?  If you hear your friend or neighbour share one of these nots with you invite them to church (once it is open): (1) I’m not doing well.  (2) I did not expect that/did not see that coming.  (3) I’m not from here (meaning they just moved into town).  Right now just about everyone is being affected by numbers one and two, they are not feeling that great and nobody expected or foresaw the coronavirus coming and having such a big impact on society.  So just about everyone has been shaken out of their old routines and so are in a disposition which will make them consider your invitation to church much more seriously than they normally would.

To those who are very worried, even panicked, about catching the coronavirus and dying share with them the Lord’s words, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:9-10).  Tell them, Jesus is their way out of the crippling fear of getting sick and dying because He is the Lord of life.  Tell them the historical Jesus, who lived and died in Israel in the first century, and who rose from the dead to be witnessed by many, this Jesus is God and your Saviour who showed His love for you by dying for your sins on a cross and then three days later rising from the dead.  Tell them Jesus’s death and resurrection was not some isolated event but God’s work for them, to take away their sin and promise them a bodily resurrection from the dead.

They may have objections, and do your best to answer them, nevertheless, this is a time when more than any other in a long time when your non-Christian friends and neighbours will be much more open to listening to the Good News.  The threat of death has a way of doing that.  When the church opens again invite them to worship with you.  As they hear your proclamation of Jesus and see the way you live, respectful of the coronavirus but not afraid of it because of the hope of the resurrection that is yours in Christ, you will be a powerful witness to the life that is found only in Jesus. 

Conclusion: Easter happened.  It was real.  Jesus rose from the dead.  He is Lord and He is God.  He is the only way to salvation: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 2:5).  That salvation is yours.  Rejoice in it anew this Easter season.  Take comfort in it.  And make sure to share with your neighbours and friends: salvation and life come through faith in Jesus, the resurrected One.  Your neighbour needs your testimony about Jesus now more than ever: for a worldview or a religion based on feelings will not save them from eternal death because it is a human creation, not connected to the true and living God.  But in Christ there is life, peace, truth, a Saviour’s voice to follow and salvation.   In Christ’s Holy Name.  Amen.