Fourth Sunday of Easter

He Calls His Own by Name

As a child, my mother taught me the Lord’s Prayer. The second thing she taught me from the Bible was the 23rd Psalm. The words were so comforting to me:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.   (Psalm  23:1-3)

Later, I discovered that I was an unruly sheep. I needed his direction. I need to follow in his footsteps as he walked out of the path for me.

In today’s Gospel reading, we have the metaphor of Jesus leading us. He calls each one of us by name:

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.   (John 10:1-6)

The good news is that Jesus calls us his own. He calls each one of us by name. He has a plan and purpose for each one of us. If we answer his call, if we listen to his voice, if we follow in his footsteps, he will lead us to an abundant life:

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   (John 10:7-10)

This abundant life is spiritual, but following Jesus is not without its costs. The Apostle Peter wrote:

It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”   (1 Peter 2:19-22)

Peter tells us that we have been called to suffering because Christ suffered for us and has given us an example. The good news is that we do not suffer alone. Our shepherd is with us:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.   (Psalm  23:4-6)

Yes, there will be those who trouble us. Evil always lies in wait. But Jesus is with us to protect us. If we never experience persecution then we have probably never truly answered Jesus’ call.

To his sheep, Jesus makes this promise:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   (Matthew 11:28-30)

There is a yoke to bear for disciples of Christ. As his sheep, we need that yoke. But we do not bear it alone. Jesus comes alongside us to share that yoke. While he leads us and guides us, he is also with us each step of the way to help shoulder any burden that we may experience.

Are we his sheep today? Are we listening to his voice? Are we following his plan? If so then:

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen,

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Filed under Revised Common Lectionary

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