My sheep hear My voice. I also know them, and they follow Me. I also give them eternal life, and they will never, ever perish, and no one will snatch them from My hand.
᛭ INI ᛭
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
What Christians believe isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty simple. It’s easy to confess. Not so easy to believe sometimes. When Jesus was talking to a father whose son needed help, the father wasn’t so sure about what Jesus could actually do. Based on the fact that Jesus’ disciples couldn’t help, the father’s hope in Jesus was getting a bit shaky. He said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:22–24)
What Christians believe isn’t complicated. That’s actually a great source of comfort for us when life is complicated and difficult. There’s the difficult time you’re having today, of course. Death is actually unthinkable, unspeakable. (We really don’t like to think about it, talk about it all that much.) It’s hard enough when the people we love die. It’s harder still when a child precedes his parents. When a brother precedes his brothers, his sister by—what we can hope—many years. That’s today.
But we all know Roger and the difficulties he had. You know better than most, of course. All his various health problems over the years. From what I understand, almost 40 years ago he moved into twin valley, about 15 years of dialysis, and now just around 2–3 years at Cambridge in Marysville. It’s been a long road. There is some comfort in the fact that Roger’s now with Christ, no longer in “the great tribulation” of life as Revelation 7 put it, no longer in “this valley of sorrow” as the Catechism teaches us from Psalm 23. But that’s a bit of a bitter pill to swallow, isn’t it? Leaves us with lots of questions.
What’s Jesus have to say to all this? To sickness? To weakness? To death itself? What does Jesus have to say to us who are about to wander out there to the graveside. Is there any place to final and hopeless as a cemetery? (In our human estimation, there isn’t.)
Thankfully, what Christians believe isn’t complicated. It’s exactly what Jesus says in John 10: My sheep hear My voice. I also know them, and they follow Me. I also give them eternal life, and they will never, ever perish, and no one will snatch them from My hand. In John 10, Jesus is speaking a word of comfort to His sheep who will face trouble and death. That nothing, not sin, not Satan, not hell, not even death itself will snatch Jesus’ sheep away from Him. He has them in His Almighty keeping.
When Jesus speaks this promise in John 10, He’s saying that the big promise of John 3:16 is not just for everyone, but it specifically applies to each of His sheep. “God loved the world in this way: He gave up His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came from the Father, gave up His life for the sake of His sheep. He lays down His life. He dies. He comes back to life. He did this for the whole world, and His sheep receive the benefits.
His sheep are those who believe in Him. They hear His Word, they hear His promises, and they, by the very power contained in those promises, believe what Jesus is telling them. So that, as Roger’s confirmation verse has it, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) Those who believe in Jesus, those who hear and trust His promises, are saved because they receive what Jesus has done for them.
“The works that I do bear witness about Me,” Jesus says. What’s Jesus done? That’s easy! He died at Calvary, and then three days later He wasn’t dead anymore! “He was given up for our transgressions and raised for our justification,” our innocent verdict before God. Jesus destroys death for the sake of His sheep. Risen from the dead, He now uses His almighty power to save His sheep. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me,” Jesus says, “therefore go, and make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching them.”
So it is that Jesus baptized Roger, absolved Roger, gave Roger His body and His blood all so that Roger “will never perish.” “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will resurrect him on the Last Day.” (Jn 6) Through every trial, trouble, and even last Friday, Jesus had Roger. Jesus has him now! Has you now! All those who believe in Him are His sheep, “and no one can snatch them out of My hand.”
What Christians believe isn’t complicated. Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sins, and three days later He came back to life, “never to die again, death no longer has dominion over Him.” In Holy Baptism He claims His sheep, marking them with His Name, placing them into His death and resurrection. In His Supper He gives them the medicine that gives eternal life: His body and blood for the forgiveness of their sins.
So when we’re brought to a day like today, or when Roger struggled like he did, with Jesus’ cross, empty tomb, and baptismal font in view, we realize it’s not complicated. Jesus is there the whole time with His sheep. They are His, and He is theirs. “I also give them eternal life, and they will never, ever perish.” He means that He will undo this death, this casket, that grave. He will do that for all His sheep so that the promise of Job 19 will be reality for them: “In my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another.”
It’s all actually pretty simple. It’s easy to confess. Not so easy to believe sometimes. Like today. But Jesus doesn’t turn away His sheep. He’s there for them, for you. He hears your prayer. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” He answers that prayer with His empty tomb, His Baptism, and His Supper, and you are saved.