At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:22-23).
Tonight the jews are stalking Jesus like hyenas, looking for the right opportunity to pounce on him and destroy him. They are showing their fangs and saying “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” But these unbelievers have already made up their mind about Jesus. They reject him and they are blind.
But Jesus answers them anyways “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Upon hearing this immediately the jews pick up stones to kill him. They reject the Son of God – they reject their own Messiah whom all the Holy Scriptures and prophets speak of. They don’t believe in the incarnation. They don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ. They prefer life without him.
There are many today, most in fact, who prefer life without Christ – without the preaching of the Gospel – without the holy supper. They go about their lives like the jews in tonight’s reading always fabricating a reason to disregard Christ as he comes to us in His Holy Word and Sacrament. But of course there is no life, apart from him, for he is the author of life and life itself.
Many are comfortable saying that Jesus is alright, but very few confess with their mouth that Jesus is the Lord God.
When it comes to what we believe about Jesus there are two options. Either we believe Him that he is the eternal Son of God – to be worshiped and adored for all eternity – or we dismiss him as a raving lunatic. Jesus did after all say that He is God.
In tonight’s reading Jesus is drawing a line in the sand to make things clear. Either you belong to the flock of Christ, purchased and won with his blood, with Jesus as your Good Shepherd or you belong to the devil. Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus’ sheep hear his voice; they delight in the forgiveness of sins, they bask in the love of God at his altar where he brings good gifts from heaven. Jesus sheep recognize Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their God, in whose name they were baptized.
There are no such thing as half Christians – there is no fence sitting in the holy Christian church – your either all in or all out. You either belong to Christ and his holy angels or belong to the devil and his unholy angels. Either we die to our sin and receive forgiveness or we die in our sin and perish eternally.
If your wondering where you belong you belong to Christ. You belong to Him. You belong to Jesus. And you always have. It’s true that you’ve wandered. It’s true that you have strayed and sinned. It’s true that your priorities are out of whack and your life is a mess. But nevertheless you are baptized. He has given you His Holy Spirit – he has created faith in you however weak it may be – and he continues to sustain you. You have been given ears to hear his voice and legs to follow him. He calls you by name. You are his.
Tonight hear and see him do something truly wonderful. Palm Sunday is upon us. This Sunday he will ride into Jerusalem - to the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers. The crowds will cry out Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.
Behold the lamb of God! He let’s himself be stalked and preyed upon by the worst predators at Pilate’s mansion. He is led like a lamb to the slaughter – to die for sins he didn’t commit. He will be torn apart by wicked men. As the bloodthirsty crowds cry out “Let his blood be upon us and our children.”
He is put in chains and Barabbas goes free. He is punished and you are rewarded. He is cursed and you are blessed. He forgives his own executioners and tonight he forgives you. He is the sinner and you are the saint. He dies and you live. Behold the love of God.
Christ will not stay dead and neither will you. He is raised up in glory all so that these words can be spoken to you. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
So tonight you have proof of God’s love. You can sink your teeth once again into His promises. His body given for you. Blood shed for you for the remission of all your sins. God does not lie. Your sins are forgiven. In the name of Jesus. Amen.