JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! …
Did you hear me? I SAID, JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! I’m double-checking, because we are in the midst of an epidemic that affects billions. It is called Audientes Selectiva . It is especially virulent among children, teens, and married men. As my wife well knows, I suffer from this horribly debilitating condition myself. This disease causes intermittent hearing loss related to certain audio frequencies, when those frequencies transmit messages we do not want to hear. This terrible affliction – more commonly known as selective hearing – means for those of us afflicted, blissful ignorance, and for our families unending frustration.
In our Gospel text for this morning we see this same selective hearing at work. Throughout the previous nine chapters we read over and again – in many varied ways – Jesus telling and showing the people just who He is. But the Jews who gathered around Him that winters day in the colonnade of Solomon seemed incapable of hearing this message. They asked Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Just what did they think He had been saying and doing all this that time? John the Baptist said of Him, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Andrew told His brother Simon of Jesus, “We have found the Messiah.” Jesus said of Himself, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” When the woman at the well said, “I know that Messiah is coming,” Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.” He said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” He said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” He said, “I am the good shepherd.” He said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” He said, “I and the Father are one.” And the people still couldn’t hear His words. He did not hide who He was, He again and again proclaimed who He was, and through His works; His healing of the sick, His giving sight to the blind, His feeding of the multitude, His casting out demons, His mastery of the wind and the rain, His raising the dead; He showed them in no uncertain terms who He was. And yet they could not see. Instead, they ignored Him, ridiculed Him, they arrested Him and tortured Him and killed Him. This is the worst case of selective hearing ever recorded.
But this is not the same thing as our willful and frustrating feigned ignorance when asked to do our chores. This is not convenient hearing loss. This is the real thing. We are sick unto death with the disease of sin, and that sin deafens our ears from hearing the Gospel and blinds our eyes from seeing His witness. Jesus said, “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.” In order to hear the Good News, in order to see His witness, we must first be treated from the terminal disease of sin. It is only when we are treated by the Father with the faith of the Son – when He makes us part of Christ’s flock – that we can finally hear His word and see His witness for what it is.
When you think about sharing the Good News with your neighbor, what holds you back? Why do you hesitate? You might couch it in all kinds of self-deprecating and plausible excuses: that’s not my calling; I’m not equipped for that ministry; it wouldn’t be appropriate given my position; I impact people’s lives in other ways. Do these sound familiar? We might actually even convince ourselves that these excuses are true, but I bet when you strip all that away, you will be left with one inescapable truth. You won’t do it, because you don’t think they’ll believe you and you will feel like a fool. You don’t share the Gospel because you don’t think that they will hear you; you don’t bear witness to Jesus Christ in the Father’s name, because you think they will reject you. But this is no excuse. Jesus Himself proclaimed who He was and why He came; Jesus Himself did works in the Father’s name that bore clear witness about Himself, and still they could not hear. If they could not hear Him, what makes you think they will hear you? How foolish is it to think that we might more effectively persuade people to believe when the Lord Himself could not convince them. But don’t let that stop you.
You are not called to argue, persuade, and convince those who cannot hear, but to call out the voice of the Good Shepherd to His sheep intermingled among the rest; to call them out to follow Him. You have been given eternal life, raised from the dead with Him as the Body of Christ and live here and now as a member of that Body. You have been charged and privileged to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ so that the sheep might hear His voice; you have been called and privileged to do the works of Jesus Christ in your community and to the ends of the earth in the Father’s name as the witness of who Jesus is, the Good Shepherd standing and calling His flock to follow. Are you a fool for proclaiming the Gospel; for witnessing in the Father’s name? In the ears and eyes of the world, perhaps. But proclaim all the same and don’t allow the scorn of the world to stop you, for you are the Body of Christ and His sheep need to hear His voice so they might follow Him. Don’t worry that you won’t measure up; don’t worry that you might fail; that you might let them slip through your finger. Jesus promised us that those given to Him by the Father will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of His hand. Just bear witness through your words and your works that Jesus Christ is God the Son incarnate; that He suffered and died for the sins of the world and through His resurrection from the dead has conquered death itself; and that by the grace of the Father, through Faith in Jesus Christ, He gives forgiveness from sin and eternal life.
Jesus Christ is Risen! … Amen.