What Did Jesus Really Say?

Pastor Sherry’s message for May 8, 2022

Scriptures: Acts 9:32-43; Ps 23; Rev. 7:9-17; Jn 10:22-30

Solomon once wrote (Ecclesiastes 1:9), What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” The longer I live, the more true his words seem. Now he was not talking about technological or scientific advances. Certainly Solomon never anticipated cell phones, computers, electric cars, or social media, etc. He was talking about the regularity, the predictability of human behavior. People are people, no matter their culture, nationality, gender, the time period during which they live, or any other identifier (the basis of the field of Psychology). While our personalities may differ, one from another, our needs, motives, and actions are pretty similar, and–if one knows enough about a person—our behaviors can often be correctly predicted.

Take the Jewish religious leaders that Jesus encounters in today’s Gospel (John 10:22-30), for example. Jesus is teaching on Solomon’s Porch, in winter, during the Feast of Dedication. This annual celebration commemorated the time, in 167 BC, when Judas Maccabaeus led a successful Jewish revolt to free the Temple from the horrendous and heretical practices of the Syrian King, Antiochus Ephiphanes. By this time in His ministry, (precrucifixion) Jesus has given up on convincing the religious hierarchy that He is the Messiah. He’s not in the Temple itself, but on a porch dedicated to Gentile use. He is teaching His disciples, the ones who believe He is who He says He is. But the religious establishment pursues Him, butts in, and accuses Him of keeping His identity a secret. What?

Haven’t they been listening and watching? No, they fear His popularity with the people, so they have become “spin-doctors” who hope to twist His words to discredit Him—There is nothing new under the sun!

We have seen evidence of this tactic this very week in the leaked Supreme Court opinion draft. The justices write that constitutionally the Supreme Court does not have the power to legislate regarding abortion (pro or con). This power properly belongs to state governments, decided upon via elections. And yet pro-abortionists claim the proposed verdict (overturning the 50 year old Roe v. Wade precedent) condemns abortion and is anti-women. That just isn’t so, but that is how it is being presented in demonstrations and in the media.

In verse 24, the religious elite demand to know, How long will You keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. How ridiculous! They have not been listening. They make it sound like He is a covert operator. They imply He is up to no good. He answers them (vv.25)🡪I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak for Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. 1.) His miracles—healing, casting out demons, multiplying food, raising 3 people from the dead, calming storms, etc.—all authenticate His Messiahship. 2.) His lineage (tribe of Judah, descendant of King David) and birthplace (Bethlehem) match up with Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah. He was introduced by the prophet, John the Baptist—again in fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy. He lacked a formal education—as with Rabbi Hillel or Gamaliel–but taught with authority, wisdom, and accuracy. No one ever witnessed Him sinning. Everything He did and said testified to His being the Messiah, but they refused to believe in Him.

In verse 26, He confronts them–>but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. Additionally, He tells them He knows they are not His sheep because (v.27) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me…(v.30) I and the Father are One. In other words, “you may be religious authorities, but you have held too tight to the box in which you have put your limited notions of God, and thus you have not recognized your God walking among you. They have totally missed that He is the Good Shepherd and their Shepherd King. Thanks be to God that the members of this congregation all know Jesus and thanks be to God that you have not let your prejudices or preconceptions blind you to His identity as our One, True Messiah!

Our Scriptures today all reference Jesus as our Messianic Shepherd King, and they all assume that we His sheep hear His voice.

A. In our Acts 9:32-43 passage, Peter is doing what Jesus told him to do —Feed my sheep. Peter is following Jesus’ model, doing for Jesus’ people what Jesus Himself did. First, Peter heals a paralyzed man named Aeneas. Remember, Jesus had said to the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8), Get up! Pick up your mat and walk! Similarly, Peter says (v.34), Jesus Christ heals you [he cannot heal in his own power, but only in the name of Jesus]. Get up and take care of your mat. And again, like Jesus did with the Widow of Nain’s son, or the 12YO daughter of Jairus, or His friend, Lazarus, Peter raises the widow Tabitha/Dorcas from the dead.

Peter has clearly been transformed into who Jesus meant for him to be: He has remembered and is now compliant with Jesus’ command to him, Feed My sheep. He is doing the work of healing, preaching, and teaching the “lost” of Israel. He is revealing to them that Jesus is their Messiah. He is demonstrating to them the new, improved version of Peter—the one who listens to and obeys Jesus.

B. Psalm 23 is so familiar to all of us. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want/be in want (v.1). King David is praising God for the wonderful ways in which He has cared for him and for us (which assumes he and we hear His voice). He provides for us (vv.2-3), using the analogy of caring for sheep—He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness. He discerns our needs, and He gently guides us in the direction He knows will see that they are met. He protects us with His trusty shepherd’s Crook. He feeds us (manna in the past, Communion in the present, and the Wedding Super of the Lamb to come), and blesses us. He even helps us feel at home in His House.

King Jesus still shepherds us today, if we can tune out the world long enough to hear His still, small voice. Still and small does not mean His voice is not powerful–Marlin Brando, for instance, spoke softly in “the Godfather,” and few people ignored his authority. It just means that we have to be attuned to discern it. We don’t let our preconceptions drown out His words.

C. In Revelation 7:9-17 (v.17)🡪For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The heavenly perspective again pictures Jesus as earth’s Shepherd King. Jesus will govern over us, while the Father Himself will comfort us. The passage presents us with a lovely word-picture of worship in Heaven:

Believers in Christ are so numerous there that no one can count them all.

They come from all times, all places, and all races; they include Old Testament believers; all born-again Christians; and Jewish believers who will be martyred during the Great Tribulation. All are united in worshipping at the throne of God. All are led by our Shepherd King, Christ Jesus.

D. Our Gospel passage is John 10:22-30. Back in verse 14, Jesus revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd. In other words, to the Hebrew ear, He was saying that He is God because God the Father had previously revealed Himself to them as their Shepherd. He is saying He is the one God referred to in Ezekiel 34:22-24 (after castigating the bad kings and idolatrous religious leaders of Israel) —Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says… I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them a shepherd, my servant David [meaning Jesus, out of the lineage of David, because Ezekiel prophesied after King David’s death], and He [Jesus] will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David [meaning Jesus] will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken. So when Jesus says that He is the One who will protect His sheep—not the snobby, hypocritical religious elite–and, when He says He is the One who will comfort them and provide for them, He is saying to them, openly, I am God. Those who believe in Me follow Me (do My will); those who don’t—like the religious elite–just don’t get it.

The message for us is that we know we belong to Jesus—are His sheep–by being attuned to His voice, hearing Him and obeying Him.

With regard to Human behavior, There is nothing new under the sun. However, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)! Let’s pray:

Lord, help us to discern Your voice when You speak to us. Most of us here have, in one way or another, heard and recognized Your voice– some more often than others; and some may hear more distinctly than others. But please help us all to clearly hear what You actually say to us. Expand the boxes we have put you in to include the truth of Who You are. Help us to let go of our preconceptions and mistaken ideas about You. Lord, thank you that You are trustworthy. Thank you that we can feel secure in the promise that we cannot be snatched out of Your hands, and in the hope that we will one day be among that huge throng of heavenly worshippers. Finally, help us Lord to do the work You have set before us. Help us each to recognize lost or misguided neighbors (sheep) who come into our lives. Help us to speak lovingly to them about You. Like Peter (and You, Lord Jesus), help us to shepherd them. And help us to follow You, Lord Jesus, all the days of our lives. Amen!

May it be so!

©2022 Rev. Pastor Sherry Adams

Advertisement

Semantic Spin Revisited

Pastor Sherry’s message for June 6, 2021

Scriptures 1 Sam 8:1-20; Ps 138; 2 Cor 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

Three years ago, when these Scripture passages appeared in the Lectionary, I preached about “Semantic Spin,” and the distinction the media and politicians were making at that time between a “spy” and an “informant.” I referred to that as a real life example of defining something one way to deflect criticism, when in truth it is actually the opposite.  Despite the 9th Commandment, which prohibits lying–or bearing false witness against another—isn’t it all too frequent that we find our politicians, media, business leaders, educators, and neighbors, spinning lies to in an attempt to manipulate our cooperation/compliance/agreement?  Some notable examples recently include: 

​​1. Critical Race Theory—now embedded in our school curricula, government, military, and corporations—and touted as truth, it defines human history as a struggle between oppressors, usually white, against everyone else.  This is Marxism with a new spin.  Rather than breeding a spirit of unity in our country, it actually promotes racial division and hatred.

​​2. We were told the Group “Black Lives Matter” exists to encourage and strengthen black families; but it is actually a front for funding and fomenting civil unrest and hatred toward America.

​​3. We were told Covid-19 did not originate in a Chinese Virology Lab, so as not to offend the Chinese Communist government. But now a significant amount of evidence supports the conclusion that it was manufactured by the Chinese and escaped containment.

​​4. The power elites advocate that, contrary to science and to God’s order, there is no such thing as two genders.  Kindergarteners in some school districts are being taught this as truth.   They are also recommending that kids as young as 8YO should be allowed to opt for sex ​change surgeries and authorized to use powerful sex change hormones.

​​5. President Biden’s proposed Budget for 2022 resumes federal funding for abortions because they are considered by some as a women’s health issue.  What about the health of the unborn baby?

6. 1 year ago, segregation was immoral, but now we are going to segregate those who have declined taking the Covid vaccine from these who have taken it. If we begin this sort of discrimination, what might be next? Will we segregate those with Hepatitis-C, with TB, or with HIV-Aids?

Radical influences in our culture would like us to set human will above human nature or even common sense, let alone good theology.

My favorite news commentator often ends his show by stating that his program is “the sworn enemy of lying, pomposity, smugness, and group think.”  These four are all good things to oppose and are currently rampant in our culture.

​Our Scriptures today provide two further examples of Semantic Spin, and how God responds to it:

1 Sam 8:1-20àThe Israelites are unhappy. The Prophet Samuel has reached retirement age, so the question has arisen as to who should replace him. Like Eli’s sons before him, Samuels’ two sons did not walk in the ways of the Lord. They were either not believers at all, or they knew better–but lacked integrity–and sold their influence to the highest bidder. The people did not want these two young men to lead them. Up until this point, there had been no king in Israel. God had appointed a prophet (or a judge) who was to hear from God what He wanted, then convey God’s will to the people. So rather than ask the prophet to inquire of God who God wanted to lead them, they ask for a king. Notice, Samuel could have inquired of the Lord but he didn’t. And now the people have an excuse they spin to justify getting a king: A reliable prophet has not been assigned us.

So, we’d like to be like all the other countries of the known world, and have a king.  What they really mean—but don’t say—is that we want to do things our way rather than be led by the Lord.

​In verse 9, God tells Samuel not to take it personally—God knows they are actually rejecting Him, not Samuel—but to warn them what having a king might mean for them.  God has a special house, the Tabernacle, but they will have to build another special house for the king, a palace.  This will cost them money, which means they will be taxed.  A king will want to have his own army, which will result in higher taxes.  And their sons will be conscripted into the army, while their daughters will serve as palace maids, artisans, and possibly wives and concubines.  Samuel warns them in verses13+àHe [a king] will take the best of your fields and vineyards and give them to his attendants….He will take the best of your menservants, maidservants, cattle and donkeys….He will take a 10thof your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

​Nevertheless, despite all these arguments against it, the people still demand a human king.  What were they thinking? God is not fooled!  They can spin it however they want, but they are rejecting God’s leadership.

We gotta have a king…is a semantic spin on disobedience.  It’s a “no confidence vote” for God—we don’t trust The One who is the same today, yesterday, and forever—so we want to place our trust in a human, fallible, possibly self-focused leader.  REALLY?  YIKES!  They will get a king but at considerable cost.  Accepting semantic spin is ultimately expensive.

​In our Gospel lesson, Mark 3:20-35, Jesus is teaching in Capernaum, 30 miles from Nazareth.  He’s been so swamped by ministry at this point that He has ducked into a home to get a meal (probably Peter and Andrew’s house). But the teachers of the Law have followed Him, to accuse Him:  This time they claim He is doing His miraculous work by the power of Satan.  Good gracious!  Think of this:  They are saying the 2ndPerson of the Trinity, who stands before them, is doing work inspired by the Father (Person 1), through the power of the Holy Spirit (Person 3)—and they are claiming He is instead drawing on the power of Satan.  Even Satanists will tell you their power comes from the Devil.   What an insulting charge! What an outrageous spin!

​But Jesus responds to them calmly and logically.  Essentially, He says, I am casting Satan out of people; why would Satan want Me to work contrary to his goals?  He asserts in verses 23-26àHow can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.  Then He warns them—I am doing what I do by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you call what I do a work of Satan, you have blasphemed/falsely accused both the Holy Spirit and Me, two persons of the Trinity.  This is not smart. This is in fact an unforgivable sin because it credits the Work of God to Satan; and it indicates a heart already taken over by Satan.  Again, semantic spin is very expensive!

​Now He’s really said it, hasn’t He?  The crowd is murmuring, no doubt speculating how long Jesus has before the power elites arrest Him.  Some gossip, or perhaps even some well-meaning person, runs the 30 miles to Nazareth to get Mary, James and Jude to rescue Jesus before He is arrested.  No doubt they cry, He’s talking crazy!  He’s making them mad!  They’ll arrest Him for sure!  You better go see about Him!  Afterall, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, has already been arrested and jailed.  His family knows what tends to happen to religious zealots.  They’ve suggested Jesus is crazy, but He is just honestly challenging the illogical arguments of the teachers of the Law.  He’s being defined as out of His mind—semantic spin–

but He’s actually exercising His power as God to define what is true.

Nevertheless, Mary and her grown sons rush to rescue Him. When Jesus is told that His family has arrived, He responds in an unexpected way. We/they would have expected Him to go greet them. Instead, Heredefines the concept of family: Verse 33àWho are my mother and my brothers? Verse 34àWhoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. He is saying the spirit-ties of those who believe in Him actually form a closer relationship to Him than blood ties do. Haven’t you found that this is so? I share much more in common with the Body of Christ than I do with my blood kin who do not accept Jesus as Lord. I can and do love them; but there is not the same meeting of the mind and heartwith them that I enjoy with my fellow-believers. We have heard, “Blood is thicker than water.” But here Jesus is saying that the waters of Baptism are supernaturally “thicker than the blood of family.”

So, let’s return to the business of “semantic spin revisited.”

There’s a lot of this going around in our culture today. We need to know God’s Word to discern the truth. We need to call upon the Holy Spirit to pare away fiction or lies from the truth. We can ask the Holy Spirit for spiritual gifts of wisdom and discernment. He can and will help us identify—and resist–lying, pomposity, smugness, and group-think.

​​

Let’s pray: Gracious Lord, please lead, guide and direct us. Help us not to be taken in by those whose motives are to tear down another and advance their own cause. Help us to discern truth and to recognize semantic spin. The enemy tried so many times to accost you with lies, Lord Jesus. We appear to be similarly bombarded with lies today. Reveal to us the truth in every political and governmental situation. Bring integrity and truth-telling back into the halls and agencies of our national and state governments. Rule and overrule the hearts of anyone who is corrupt or who is advancing an evil plot. Bring all lies and corruption out into the light of Christ, we pray in His all-powerful name. AMEN

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams