“The Purifying Power of Shepherding”

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2018

 

Acts 4: 5-12

Psalm 23

1 John 3: 16-24

John 10: 11-18

 

 

Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina

 

Easter! I believe it will not be an exaggeration to say that this is the most glorious time of the year! It took us 40 days, the Season of Lent, to prepare for this; and it is taking us 50 days to celebrate it.  Seven week of Easter which culminates on Pentecost Sunday.  We are now on day 22 of 50.  So, there must be something very special and wonderful about this time.  What does the resurrection of Christ really mean?   Why is it so important for our lives today?

 

The ancient Christians believed that the Resurrection was not just a miraculous event of a man who lived, died, and then, three days later rose again.  For these Christians of the early church, the events of Easter was not just a fact – that a man lived, died, and rose again.  This was the fact of Easter.  Almost everyone then and perhaps even today knows and believes this fact. But the Christians extended the Easter fact to an Easter faith.  It is a faith that will have an impact. What is the significance of this to our daily tasks in our lives today?  This is what made the difference to the Christians then, and this is what will make the difference to us today. 

 

The Christians believed that the resurrection of Christ had far reaching effects into their lives.  They further believed that the effects of the Resurrection also extended not just to man, but to all of creation.  There is a verse in a song that we sing that says, “All creation join in the dance because Christ is risen from the dead trampling death over death.”  Creation rejoices at the Resurrection. Death has lost its power over man.  Jesus Himself said, “Even if you die, you live.”   This was a puzzling statement to His hearers when they first heard it; but after the Resurrection, it became a reality and became clear as crystal.    

 

In 1 Peter 1:3, St. Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  We are born to being alive.  To quote Patrick Hernandez in his very popular song in 1980, “We are not born to die; we are born to be alive.”   There is a transformation of life.  There is a change from living in the kingdom of darkness into living in the Kingdom of His marvelous light.  It is conversion from being slaves to sin to servants of righteousness.

 

This is why Paul expressed this passion in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Christ, and the power of His resurrection.”  This is the Easter faith that God wants us to live in our hearts and in our lives.   It is not just a fact, an event, but the Easter faith that He has called us in.  

 

Let us look at the Gospel today to see further the Easter faith that we may understand its effect on us today 2018 years later.  The gospel unveils to us the heart of Jesus. There are three points in what Jesus said that we wish to highlight in relation to Easter:   The first point is:  He is the GOOD SHEPHERD.  The adjective that Jesus uses here to describe the Shepherd in the original Greek language of the Bible is very interesting.  The word “good” extends beyond being morally upright, but it includes beauty.  The Shepherd – Christ – is not just good but beautiful in character.   This is what Easter has transformed us into.  We have within us not only the goodness of God, but also the beauty of God.  If we spend time with God, our countenance will radiate with the beauty of God.

 

There is something different that happens in our lives.  I think that the Filipino language has captured it well.  It translates “Good Morning” not to “Mabuting Umaga” but to “Magandang Umaga.” Christ’s resurrection has made our lives beautiful.    It brings our lives to a new and broader dimension.  It makes us see this because of Easter; and everything now has beauty within them.  Our work may be humdrum or so tedious, but when we know the Resurrection, we see the beauty in all that we do.  What does this mean? Each of our lives has a quality that is not just free from wrong, but that which is pleasant and delightful.  This is Christ, the Good Shepherd; the Beautiful Shepherd!

 

The second point that the gospel brings out is the COMMITMENT of Christ to His people. He is the COMMITTED SHEPHERD.    The world we live in today where we are immersed in is filled with commitments based on words but empty with actions and deed.  For Christ, commitment is more than just words.  He is willing to lay down His life for His sheep, and He did it.  In 1 John 3:18, it says, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 

 

Commitment embodies two elements in the passage of the gospel today. One element is sacrifice.   It means that we have a Shepherd who not only says His commitment but a Shepherd who is willing to carry this commitment out at the expense and the convenience of His life. It was at the price of His convenience and comfort.  Four times in the Gospel today, Jesus said, “I lay down My life for My sheep.”  This is sacrifice. This is commitment.  

 

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who was very kind to his animals.  He made sure that each of the animals in his farm was well-sheltered, well-protected, and well-fed.  The day of the farmer’s birthday came, so three of the prominent animals in the farm, Ms. Cow, Ms. Chicken and Ms. Pig, discussed what to give the farmer.  They had a bright idea.  They all agreed to serve the farmer a hearty breakfast.  They all said, “That is so wonderful and we are sure that Mr. Farmer will love that.”   So the cow took the lead in organizing the breakfast. She said, “Okay I will give the milk.”  Then, Ms. Chicken immediately replied, “I will provide the eggs, and you, Ms. Pig will take care of the bacon and ham.”  They were all overjoyed, except for Ms. Pig.  She said, “Wait a minute! That is so easy for you to say you love Mr. Farmer, yet all you will give is a small token to serve him breakfast.  I will have to give total commitment to give him a hearty breakfast.”  

 

Total commitment is laying down our lives, but there is more to sacrifice when you are committed to a person, and it is not burdensome.  We need to understand the second element of commitment, and that is intimacy.  Jesus said, “I know My own, and My own know Me.”  It implies an intimacy that God wants us to have.  The model of His intimacy with the Father is His intimacy with us.  It is love in its truest form. It is love experienced; love that is proven.   The sheep know the voice of the shepherd.  How do we know the voice of someone that we love?   Intimacy implies knowledge.  When we know someone, sacrifice will not be a problem. To know in the Bible is not head knowledge, but experiential knowledge that comes from intimacy.   Today, we are being robbed of even knowing our families because a family psychologist said that the greatest enemy of relationships is busyness. If we don’t have time for our family, we won’t know them.  

 

In 1 John 3:24a, “The one who keeps His commandment abides in Him, and He in him.”  Because of intimacy, sacrifice will no longer be a burden or a problem. Because of intimacy, sacrifice becomes a joy; sacrifice becomes pleasurable; sacrifice is something that we do not mind to do. Fathers sacrifice for their children because he knows them.  The sacrifice or work is no longer a real burden, but a real joy because the effect is seen in the family.   

 

The third point in Christ’s word in the Gospel is about His authority.  Christ is the SOVEREIGN SHEPHERD.   When He said in verse 17 and 18 that “I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”  Many thought that Christ was a victim and He had no choice.  Everything He did, even His death on the cross was His will.  He gave Himself; it was not taken.   Scriptures said, “He gave His life.”  No one took His life, but gave it because even though it seemed as though Christ was seen as a victim who was persecuted, tortured, and crucified, this suffering that He underwent was His own plan and desire.  He was in full control and full authority.  He showed this by His humility to submit to the plan of God. 

 

What does this mean to us today?”  If we have a Sovereign Shepherd, this means that we have a risen Savior who is in-charge and is in full control over our lives.  No matter what we face, every situation, difficulty, persecution or trial in our lives, remember that Jesus Christ is in control. Do not fear!  This is mentioned in the Bible 360 times, as if for each day, Jesus is saying, “Do not be afraid.   I am the Sovereign Shepherd.”  

 

In Acts 4:10, St. Peter said, “By the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead,  by His Name,  this man who was crippled before stands here before you in good health.”  Jesus was in-charge.  Verse 12 continues, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”  He is in-charge; He is the Sovereign Shepherd.  He will never fail to provide the answers for the problems we face.  It might not be instant according to our time table but He knows what He is doing, and He Who promised is faithful.  He will accomplish His purpose for us because He is our Good Shepherd! He is committed and is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 says, “ Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  In another translation, it says that Jesus is “utterly dependable.”

 

Life might be unfair, but God is Sovereign.  He is in-charge; and He who is in-charge is the Good Shepherd who is after our welfare.  God wants what is best for us. He is committed to make sure that this will happen to us.

 

As a point of reminder, in our Church, in the Cathedral of the King, we have men, the clergy, who were ordained. They are men who bowed before the Altar of God, men who said that they will be committed to the Church.  They are committed not to an institution, to a building, to a ceremony, to rituals or to vestments, but to the cure of souls. The word cure means the care of our souls.  For us, care means compassion and always responds.   The heart of Jesus is through these clergy. In behalf of our Bishop, we stand here as your shepherds committed to the charge Christ has called us to.  It is not an easy task; we make mistakes; we are human; we have faults, but to the best we can, we are standing before the Altar of the Almighty God to say, “We will do our best to make sure the flock of Christ is cared for.”   We are not hirelings; we are not paid for our job.  We are here because we want Christ’s life perfected in each of us.   

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