I Know Them
The British rock band Led Zeppelin sang a song called “Dazed and Confused.” At times we may feel dazed and confused emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. We feel dazed and confused due to many different voices that beckon us. If you want to buy a car and you are not sure what kind of car you want, you will soon be dazed and confused. If you want to build or buy a house and you are not sure what kind you want, you will soon be dazed and confused. If you are deciding what to do with your life, you might feel dazed and confused: go with the military, go to college, get married, get a job, change careers, retire?
Our religious lives can also become dazed and confused. If you were a new Christian who moved to our community, just think of all the different Christian churches in our town: United Methodist (English and Spanish), Presbyterian, Baptist (English and Spanish), Roman Catholic (English and Spanish), Nazarene, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ (English and Spanish), Assembly of God (English and Spanish), and various independent Pentecostal churches (English and Spanish). To make things a bit more confusing, each church offers a different version of religious belief, a different type of worship, and even a different perspective of our Lord Jesus Christ. One church will emphasize tradition. Another denomination will emphasize the Bible. Another religious group will emphasize the Holy Spirit experience. Another religious body will stress the use of reason.
By contrast, some people grow up in one church and have a lifelong, constant faith experience. Then, when it’s least expected, a terrible life experience shakes one up and one ends up dazed and confused about faith and life.
In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus responds to people who are dazed and confused. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus was near the Temple in Jerusalem during the Festival of Dedication of the Temple. The Festival of Dedication of the Temple is now known as Hanukkah. This Jewish festival celebrates the victory over the Seleucids, led by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
During the Festival of Dedication of the Temple, Jews remembered the destruction and vandalizing of the Temple and Judas, called Maccabaeus, who drove out the Seleucids and restored the Temple. King Herod and an elite group of priests were in an alliance with the Romans who controlled Israel. Many Jews wondered whether a Messiah would come and change their political and religious situation. People were dazed and confused: should they continue the temple tradition? Was John the Baptist the Messiah? Was Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah? It was then that some Jews asked Jesus if he was the Messiah.
If you read John 10:22 and the following verses, you will see that Jesus does not answer. There are two reasons for his silence. First, their understanding of Messiah is different from his. Their perceptions of the Messiah include political, economic, and religious hopes and expectations that Jesus refuses to fulfill. Jesus’ ministry is to proclaim the good news of forgiveness and new life in the kingdom of God.
Second, Jesus knows these Jews are not interested in hearing him. Their minds are made up; they choose to reject Jesus. Jesus attributes their rejection of him to their not belonging to his flock. They follow another shepherd. Then Jesus speaks of those who belong to him. “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” (John 10:27-30).
I started this sermon by saying that there are moments in life when we feel dazed and confused. We feel lost and afraid. We feel alone and abandoned. We want somebody to find us, to call to us, to lovingly embrace us, and to tell us things are going to be okay.
If we belong to Jesus, if Jesus is our Shepherd, then when we get lost and are feeling dazed and confused, Jesus will look for us and find us. What a moment of grace, joy, and peace it is when we hear Jesus calling our names. You see; Jesus knows us. He told the Jews about his flock and said, “I know them.”
Recently, during a hospital visit, a church member told me, “I am not in the hospital I wanted. The doctors here do not know me.” That is not a good feeling. On the other hand, some church members have told me as I visit with them, “I was so glad to see my doctor. He knows me. He knows what to do with me to get me well.” It is a great feeling to see someone you know who can help you. That is the way it is with the Lord Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, he knows you.
Life is rarely easy. Life has its bumps and bruises, hurts and wounds. We find ourselves lost and depressed. We feel dazed and confused. If we belong to Jesus, if Jesus is our Shepherd, Jesus will look for us, find us, recognize us, bind our wounds, and take us to still waters and green pastures. Indeed Jesus says in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” What a great blessing!
I end my sermon by praying a collect from the Book of Common Prayer: “O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (“Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter” [New York: Oxford University Press, 1990], 173).