Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 2, 2004
The Gospel: John 10:22-30
Sermon: "Jesus is the Son of God"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one."
Jesus is the Son of God
Fourth Sunday of Easter - May 2, 2004
During World War II, the Nazi regime was determined to know the ethnicity of every single person. The purpose was to create a pure Aryan race, and at the same time, remove the Jewish people in their entirety from the face of the earth. To that end they chose young men and women of Aryan heritage to try and create a race of blond haired, blue eyed people. They also examined the birth documents of every person to determine their heritage. People of Jewish descent could be arrested if they were determined to have one sixteenth of their blood Jewish by their calculations and standards. So, in the Nazi regime, they determined who one was according to their lineage. One's lineage, or rather their understanding of one's lineage, determined life or death.
How do people know who we are? Furthermore, how do people know what we believe? Our identity is not too hard. We have multiple ways by which we are known. To the department of motor vehicles we are known by our driver's license. The Federal Government knows us by our social security number. Banks know us by the number on our bank accounts. If we go on-line we can find out information about our heritage. There are several companies that offer services to help us with our family tree. They have used birth records to help us find out who we are. Of course, these services are offered for a fee. In short, there are multiple ways by which we are known.
However, knowing what we believe is something else. It is not possible to determine what someone believes by a social security number or a driver's license. It is not possible to determine what someone believes by examining their birth records of their family. It is only possible to determine what someone believes by what they do and say. I dare say that what someone does or says also gives us a better idea of who they are. If someone says they are from the South we listen for an accent. We look to see if they eat grits. If someone says they are a Christian what do we look to see? We look to see if they attend a church. To be honest we look to see how often. We also notice how they treat people. We notice how they speak to others. We notice if they do charitable works. In short, we look to see if they do the things Christ said to do. We gauge their words of belonging to the Christian faith by their actions. We are all familiar with the adage, "Actions speak louder than words." Are we also familiar with this saying, "We need to live our lives as Christians as we proclaim by word our Christianity?” The reason is because our lives, our actions, may be the only Bible our neighbor may ever read." People see what we believe in what we do and how we treat others.
A great example concerning one's identity with word and belief is in today's Gospel. We see Jesus in Jerusalem. He is being asked by someone in authority to proclaim once and for all if he is the Messiah. Yet, Jesus has already answered the question. He has done so by his deeds and his words. In Samaria, he has had an encounter with a woman at a well. As a result the whole town believes he is the Messiah. He has healed an official's son in Cana where he turned water into wine. He has healed a blind man on the Sabbath day. He has fed five thousand with a few loaves of bread and some fish. His actions, his deeds, proclaim who he is, the Son of God. He has also taught and spoken plainly about who he is. He has told the disciples and the crowds that he is the bread of life. He has told them he is the good shepherd. He has proclaimed that he is the way, the truth and the life. How much clearer could he be about his identity? Yet, here we are in Jerusalem and Jesus is being asked to plainly state who he is. Jesus stands in the holy city of God, God's own Son, and they do not recognize him. It seems a bit ironic doesn't it? Jesus is recognized in Samaria. He is recognized by Roman officials in Cana, but not by his own people in authority in the holy city.
Yet, even now Jesus responds with the answer to their question. He claims the works he does testify to his identity. Those who see the works and understand know him and belong to him. They belong to him because the father has given them to him. Then, he makes the final claim that the Father and I are one. There can be no mistaking what he has proclaimed and yet they still do not understand. They have heard the reports. Some have seen the works and they still do not believe.
We are also faced with this question. What do we believe about Jesus? We have read the stories, many of us since childhood. We have experienced God's love in many ways. Family or friends have shown us great love and we know it was a result of their belief in Jesus Christ. Some of us might have had a personal experience in our lives that has confirmed for us that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet, what do we believe today? Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
Many people do not. They believe he is a great prophet or a great teacher. Some people he was a simply a holy man. Jesus did not proclaim to be any of these things. Jesus plainly stated by word and example who he is. The choice is ours.
I would like to close today with the words of C. S. Lewis from his book, "Mere Christianity". His words are very appropriate for today. He says:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him; 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."