Psalm 23; Revelation 7.9-17; John 10.22-30
+ As hard as it is to believe, Easter was almost one month ago. BUT, we are not out of the Easter season yet. We are now smack dab in the middle of the 50 days of Easter. And, every year, smack dab in the middle of Easter, is this wonderful Sunday which we popularly call “Good Shepherd Sunday.” It is on this Sunday that we are reminded that Jesus is truly the Shepherd who has come to us to lead us and guide us.
We are reminded on this Fourth Sunday of Easter in our Psalm—that soothingly familiar Psalm 23 that we have recited together at more funerals than we can even count. We are reminded of it in our collect, in which we pray that “when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads.” We are reminded of it our beautiful reading from Revelation (one of my favorites), in which we hear that “the lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” And, of course, we are reminded by Jesus himself in our Gospel reading for today when he talks about the sheep knowing his voice.
I think there’s a reason this Sunday in the midst of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. The sad thing is that the luster and mystery of Easter is, by this time, beginning to fade a bit. Easter is now, for most of us, a past event. The beauty and glory and the joy of that event is behind us and we are looking forward now.
But it is good for us to take time, now one month after Easter, to remind ourselves that we are still in the Easter season. In fact, our entire lives are, in a sense, living within the Easter Season. And throughout out Christian lives, we are confronted again and again with this issue of mystery.
We, like the Jews in today’s Gospel, want absolutes. We want clear answers to our questions of faith. We want to know if Jesus is truly the Messiah. We want to know if Jesus is who he says he is. We want to know if the Gospel is true. We want to know if this incredible event of Easter really happened.
And in our demand for absolutes, we tend to gloss over the kind of absolute answers Jesus gives. I don’t think he can lay it more plainly than he does at the very end of today’s Gospel: “the Father and I are one.”
“The Father and I are one.”
Does it need to be any clearer? Do we need more of an explanation than this? The fact is—yes, we do. We are of the kind of people who do need to ponder this and wrestle with it and struggle with it and, at times, doubt it. We are not the kind of people who swallow statements like this easily.
And that’s why absolutes don’t always work for us. If Jesus did in fact truly say what the Jews wanted him to say, they—and we—still wouldn’t believe. We need to let Jesus be who he is to those of his and time and to us.
That statement, “The Father and I are one” really does, when we let it, pack a punch for us. It strikes us at our core and digs deep. And over time, it blossoms into a statement of absolute truth.
This Easter season is a time in which we ponder the Easter event. We look at it like this statement Jesus makes in today’s Gospel. In a sense, Jesus' Oneness with the Father is the verbal expression of what the Easter event is. In Jesus’ Resurrection we are shown the truth of that statement. In that event—in that “work” of Jesus—we see without a doubt that Jesus and the Father are truly one. When gaze long and hard into that glorious light of the resurrection, when we can look at it any longer because it so dazzling, so mind-boggling, so good that it almost doesn’t seem to be true, what we come away with is the affirmation that, yes, Jesus and the Father are one and here, in the Resurrection, is the proof.
For us, we live constantly in the tension between our faith and the absoluteness of Jesus’ statement. Some days, for some of us, it is so clear. It makes such sense. But for the majority of us, it is a struggle. It is a struggle to believe. And since all of us have such little time to ponder and debate these subjects, we oftentimes just go our way with a morsel of faith or doubt.
But, despite out busy lives, what I have found so remarkable about our faith is that, in those other moments of life, when everything has fallen apart and we find our selves struggling to keep our heads above water—when we deal with the onslaught of emotional or physical problems that come our ways—it is in those moments that, sometimes, our faith in things like the Resurrection and in the belief that Jesus and the Father are One are not debatable arguments or vague theological debates. In those hard and difficult moments of life, this belief oftentimes sustains us and holds us up. In those hard moments of life, our faith keeps us afloat and gives us strength to get through what we need to get through.
As we continue our journey through this glorious season of Easter, as we make our way still basking in the glory of the Resurrection, as we find the reality of this incredible event fading a bit and doubts coming forward, let us cling to the fact that we are the sheep of the Lamb who is the Good Shepherd, who has come to us to care for us. In those moments of doubt, we can hear his voice. And in those moments of doubt, we can cling to the fact that he does truly know us. And as we follow him, we know that he truly does lead us to springs of living water where we will find eternal life and we will never perish.