Sermon – December 1, 2019
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. This means his love is best seen in his laying down his life for us. Last week, we spoke of the loving side of Jesus as the shepherd, today we look at his strength. A shepherd must be willing to fight for his sheep, to lay down his life and risk his limbs to fight away the predators that assail them on every side. In this world, we will have many seeking to harm and destroy us – if not our bodies then, more importantly, our souls. Yet, we fear not, for we have a good and mighty shepherd, one who is more than ready to fight our enemies and make us dwell in security! Today, let us meditate on the strength of Jesus:
1. His strength is delivering
The Feast of Dedication is the remembrance of the victory of Jacob Maccabeus over the Syrian commander Antiochus Epiphanes, and the retaking of the temple. It was a victory over a foe, and while worth remembering, it stands as a reminder that the Jews’ foes still exist. They are ever present, and no king or general had destroyed all of them yet. Peace was always fleeting. Yet, this is precisely why Jesus had come – to destroy all of their, and our, enemies. Not just the physical ones, but more importantly, our sin and even Satan have been dealt with decisively in Jesus’ death and resurrection. No where else can we find this kind of deliverance, but in Jesus alone.
2. His strength is discerning
When the Jews approach him, and ask him to clearly state whether he is the Messiah, Jesus deftly defers to his work. To say yes would simply reinforce the misunderstandings of the work of the Messiah that many of the Jews had, leading both his enemies and his disciples into trouble. But, at the same time, Jesus cannot simply say no and deny himself. Therefore, he points to his Father’s testimony about him and his works. Jesus doesn’t simply show his strength like a man who is constantly flexing his muscles; rather, he understands when and how to use his strength, not for his own advantage, but for the advantage of his sheep. His is discerning with the use of his strength.
3. His strength is dependable
Some might think that his strength might be better shown by saving all of mankind. His love, some argue, is so strong that it always wins. While this is not a faithful biblical position, others avoid the problem by appealing to choice. This position is fraught with logical problems in dealing with God’s love, but more importantly, it often gets the logic of this passage backwards. It is not “you don’t believe, so you don’t belong;” but rather “you don’t belong, so you don’t believe.” The upshot of this is the dependable nature of Jesus’ love for those the Father has given him. He loves them, dies for them, they hear his voice, follow him, and he leads them to good pastures. It is certain, friends! The strength that keeps you in Jesus is utterly dependable.
4. His strength is divine
The reason that it is dependable is that it is divine. While Jesus saying that the Father and he are one is likely not meant to imply anything about Jesus’ nature, it certainly has meaning for the purpose and action of Jesus and the Father. We are in Jesus power (hand) and the Father’s power (hand). There are not two hands, but one; there are not two powers, but one. This is because the will of Jesus is the will of the Father. Jesus can make such promises, and unlike others, keep them precisely because his power is the Fathers. His strength is divine.