Fulfilled Works March Victorious Over Empty Words

Pastor Jake Schram

Worship Theme: Fulfilled Works March Victorious Over Empty Words

First Lesson: Acts 13:15-16a, 26-39 (NIV)

Second Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17 (NIV)
Gospel : John 10:22-30 (NIV)

Music:

  • CW 554 The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • CW 552 The King of Love My Shepherd Is
  • CW 551 Jesus Shepherd of the Sheep
  • CW 804 I Am Jesus' Little Lamb
  • CW 885 There Is a Higher Throne

Message Notes & Growth Group Questions

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Message: Fulfilled Works March Victorious Over Empty Words

Pastor Jake Schram

We were working hard on school projects and studying for finals. Our brains were beginning to feel like mush from the hours upon hours of strain. It was time for a break. One among our group decided to show us a Youtube video of someone singing acoustic songs while playing guitar. The voice was good, the music was well played. It was both soothing and relaxing, until you listened closely to the words. This guy would take the most wildly inappropriate lyrics and sneak them into these smooth songs to see if people would notice. Many continued listening blissfully unaware. Others would gasp as they finally realized what they were listening to. The lyrics did not match the music. His actions didn’t match the words. In the world we live in today. Often people’s words don’t match their actions. We have to be careful not to trust everything we hear even if it sounds good at first. Today, Jesus cuts through all of this. His words are not empty, but worthy of being heard. And he backs it all up with his victorious actions.

It is the feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. Around the year 168 B.C. a Greek king named Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Jerusalem, went to the Jewish temple, and dedicated the temple to Zeus. Tradition often claims that a pig was sacrificed on the altar as well. As you can imagine, sacrificing an unclean animal to a heathen god in the temple of the true God was a big no-no for the Jews. The Jews would fight back, repair, and then rededicate the temple to the one true God. The Feast of Dedication was celebrated each year to remember this rededication. You might be more familiar with a different name for this celebration: Hanukkah.

Because John is writing this gospel not only to Jews, but also to non-Jews, he doesn’t expect everyone to know or understand the festival or when it is. Thus, he tells those of us who aren’t Jewish, it happens during winter. And Jesus is hanging out in Solomon’s Colonnade (which is like a kind of porch to the temple itself which wasn’t built by Solomon, but named after him in his honor). Jesus is teaching here when suddenly a group of Jews gather around him. They pose a question for Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” In other words, they are asking if Jesus is the chosen one, the one who was sent by God to save people. But the question may not be as innocent as it seems.

Two months earlier Jesus had spoken to the people. He had told them that he was the good shepherd. Just like a shepherd tends to his sheep, Jesus tends to those who follow him. He gives them everything they need. Even when something dangerous comes along and most other people would run away, Jesus remains to protect his sheep. Jesus even proclaimed he would give up his life for his sheep. And only through him could his sheep/followers be saved. Therefore, Jesus wanted more sheep to come into his sheep pen, more followers to know the truth in Jesus. More people to be saved. Looking back, we know this is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus stood in the path of sin and death, died on a cross in our place, and was raised to life so that all who believe in him are saved. But the people he was talking to back then didn’t respond all that well to his words. Many of them called him “demon-possessed” and “raving mad.” They said, “Why listen to him?”

Here are those same people. They are probably not just gathering around Jesus in our text. They are surrounding him. Leaders are trying to trick Jesus into making a mistake so they can discredit him or turn him in to the Roman authorities. The innocent question they asked is most likely not so innocent. With false sincerity they tried to give the impression that they were just trying to learn more, but their motives weren’t pure at all.

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.” The problem wasn’t that Jesus hadn’t told them. He had told them again and again in so many different ways. He had told them he was the bread of life (6:35). He had told them he was the light of the world (8:12; 9:5). He had told them he was the gate to heaven (10:7). He had told them he was the resurrection and the life (11:25). He had told them he was the way and the truth (14:6) He had told them he was the true vine (15:1) and that people needed to stay attached to him. Apart from him they would bear no fruit and would die. And as he was about to remind them, he had recently explained how he was the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep (11:25). He had told them. They just weren’t listening.

As I was writing this sermon, I vaguely recalled a situation from school. One friend from among our group had started dating a girl who was bad news. We knew it, but he couldn’t see it. One day we actually heard her say to someone that she was dating our friend just to toy with him, just to get free gifts, just so she could use him and then break his heart for the fun of it. And of course we told him what we heard. We warned him. We advised him. We brought up evidence from the past. We explained our motive for telling him all this. Why would we want anything other than the best for our friend? But he wasn’t listening. He didn’t believe us. And sure enough, he wasted a lot of time, energy, and money just to have his heart broken exactly as we explained would happen.

How many of you have told someone the truth, shown them the evidence, but they still didn’t believe you? Let’s flip the question and make it a bit more uncomfortable. How many of you have had someone tell you the truth, shown you the evidence, had a good track record of honesty and you still didn’t believe the person? It's funny thing that we often don’t trust the reliable source. Sometimes our feelings get in the way. Sometimes we just want something to be a certain way sooo badly that we ignore the facts. Sometimes we trust our own judgments too much and we don’t listen.

We too have heard Jesus tell us he is the Messiah. Some of us have heard it our whole lifetimes. Through our parents, and school, and confirmation, and vacation bible school, and church. And yet it’s hard to trust the Messiah. When Jesus tells us in his Word that sex is a gift meant only for marriage, we tell Jesus that doesn’t feel like a good plan. Often this short-term pleasure can lead to long term pain in relationships. When Jesus tells us abortion is wrong and that every life is precious, we often tell Jesus that plan seems too hard. “That will mess up what I want in life.” When Jesus tells us not to be selfish or greedy or mean or uncaring, we know what Jesus is saying, but we often don’t listen, even though as the perfect Messiah Jesus knows best. Or here is a big one. When Jesus tells us that we are freely forgiven and that he has done everything to earn our way into heaven, do we believe him? A part of us wants to say we earn our way into heaven, or that we’ve done too much wrong to be forgiven. In our very text, Jesus says he is the Messiah, the one sent to save us from every sin. Jesus' words show exactly what he means.

Sometimes, after all the times we’ve been lied to or after all the broken promises we’ve received in this life, it’s hard to trust just words. To some of us, words have become an empty shell, devoid of any meaning. How do we know Jesus is the Messiah? How can the people gathered around Jesus be expected to trust Jesus is he? Jesus tells us he didn’t just offer words or empty promises. He backed his words with actions.

Jesus said, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me.” First, think of all the miracles Jesus did. He walked on water, calmed storms, healed sickness, knew what people were thinking, rid people of demons, avoided capture in miraculous ways, and so on and so on. The Gospels are chalked full of these things. All these miracles testified about who Jesus was. He was the Messiah. The people he was talking to had seen many of these miracles with their own eyes.

Second, Jesus is fulfilling prophecy. We talked about this on Good Friday. Everything the Scriptures had foretold about him was being accomplished in Jesus. He was the only one who perfectly fit everything God’s Word proclaimed.

Third, everything Jesus says and does matches the Bible. He taught and carried out the exact same teachings. Every word he said lined up with God’s Word. Every action he did matched God’s commands. We can’t say that about anyone else except Jesus.

Jesus offers one more proof that he is the Messiah, but it won’t seem like proof except to those who believe in him. Those who listen to Jesus’ voice, those who follow him, will receive eternal life from Jesus. They will not perish. They will not be snatched out of Jesus’ hand. His death and resurrection will prove his victory as the Messiah.

Jesus then gives the people surrounding him one more reason to believe who he is. He tells them that God the Father, who they believe in, has the exact same plan as Jesus in mind. By the Father’s authority, people’s fates are on Jesus’ hand. By the Father’s power, no can snatch them out of Jesus’ hand. And there is a reason for that. Jesus fills them in with one last piece of information: it’s because Jesus and the Father are one. They are both persons (along with the Holy Spirit) who are one God. Jesus here leaves them no doubt that he is saying he is the Messiah. He is the chosen one.

Jesus tells the people gathered around him the answer to their question in no uncertain terms, but it wasn’t the answer they wanted to hear. Recorded in the verses after our text for today they try to stone Jesus for claiming he is the Messiah and is God. They weren’t interested in listening to Jesus’ answer. They didn’t believe because they weren’t part of Jesus’ sheep. In our text, Jesus reminds them and us that he is the great shepherd just as he has always said. Those who believe are his sheep and under his protection. Others refuse to be under his watchful eye. The end will be very different for both groups.

When you are a sheep of God, it’s like God puts you in a holy and impenetrable safe. He gives you faith and everything needed to help it grow. His hand is locked around you. Not the devil, not sin, not death can steal you from inside. None of them are smart or strong enough to commit this theft. You are his sheep and Jesus is the shepherd constantly watching out for you and bringing you to eternal life, to heaven. You are righteous based on his account.

However, even though no one can take you from him, you can let yourself out. You know the combination to leave his protection, to throw aside faith, and to no longer be a sheep under his watch. The warning here is not to let yourself out of the sheep pen. Don’t wander slowly away from spending time in God’s Word and forget the promises of God and the work of the Messiah. Away from God’s Word, people fall away. But since you know what causes people to fall away, you also know what helps to bring people in.

Hearing God’s Word draws people closer to Jesus. I hope nothing keeps you up at night. There’s no reason to fear while we are in the palm of Jesus’ mighty hand. But if something ever does keep you up at night, I hope it is this: There are people outside of Jesus’ sheep-pen of believers and they need a Savior. You can do something about it. Jesus backed up all of his Words with actions, we can back up our words, our faith, with actions too. We can help people avoid the fiery pits of hell and instead enjoy the grace and mercy found in God’s sheep pen. It comes from sharing the message of Jesus. And when people understand Jesus’ words are backed up by his actions, they understand how beautiful the words are too. Because fully understanding you are God’s sheep is a beautiful picture.

I want to leave you with the words found in one of our lessons for today to remind us of what we are fighting for. They describe what heaven looks like. And because of Jesus’ actions and victory, we know these words are true and are in store for us one day.

“and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. 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 (Revelation 7:16-17).’” Amen.