the voice of strangers
4th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 569 tune 348, 666, 711
Text – John 10:5
A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
THE VOICE OF STRANGERS
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male & female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV) In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reiterates that point, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God created them male & female.” (10:5-6 NASB)
There are many people in our nation today who would have you believe otherwise. The company that makes the beer Bud Light is suffering right now because they listened to the voice of strangers. They listened to ideas that are contrary to the voice of the true Shepherd. That Shepherd is Jesus Christ, who loved the world enough to die for the sins of all.
The makers of Bud Light are never going to die in order to give you life. They only love you for your money. They only love the trans community for their money. Jesus is not about money. He’s about rescuing us from the brokenness of this world. We can see that brokenness in the widespread, deep-seated human sense of alienation from our bodies.
In 2021, Americans spent over $10 billion on cosmetic surgery. That same year, they spent over $72 billion while trying to lose weight. Gender transitioning surgeries are far behind at just under $2 billion. The money spent reveals just how dissatisfied Americans are with the way we look & how we feel about our physical selves.
That reality is not surprising. It is not mistaken nor is it caused by mental illness. This sense of alienation from gender & from our appearance has real spiritual causes. It cannot just be treated cosmetically, surgically, or with counseling. What people truly are reacting to is the ugliness of the human heart & soul. That is what causes confusion & despair & depression, to the point where some take their own lives. People in those shoes are listening to the voice of the ultimate stranger – Satan. Jesus described the Devil’s purpose at the end of the Gospel reading for today, “The thief comes only to steal & kill & destroy.” (John 10:10a ESV)
By contrast, do you remember what the voice of Jesus promises immediately after those words? “I came that they may have life & have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b ESV) Rather than driving us to despair, Jesus brings healing to the ugliness of the human heart & soul. He brings a radical transformation of our whole person, beginning with peace for our conscience.
Through His death & resurrection, Christ redeems our body, transforms our mind, &, as the prophet Ezekiel wrote, “…will give you a new heart, & I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart & give you a tender, responsive heart.” (36:26 NLT) That heart knows the voice of the Good Shepherd & it follows Him.
There are literally millions of strange voices sounding out in our world today. They’ve always been there, but social media has given them an immediate platform to inundate our world. This makes it more important than ever to know the voice of the Good Shepherd so you can distinguish from the voice that climbs into the sheepfold by other means than the door.
God has given His Word to teach us what is good & healthy according to His design. It’s like a lighthouse, which is there to warn ship captains of the dangerous waters & shallow depths. Yet, the Word of God does not only bring warning. It also brings good news of great joy. It is that good news, not the words of warning, that is able to give us a tender, responsive heart.
The world, apart from Jesus Christ, is not able to offer us true or lasting good news. The unbelieving world offers us nothing but the voice of strangers. The lack of civility in our own culture is but one sign of many that the world is simply dead & dying. When Jesus rose from the dead, He was not just proving that He had conquered sin & death. The Son of God was also beginning the creation of the new heaven & the new earth, & He was doing that in His own human flesh. His risen body & blood are not of this world, but of the next. They are forerunners of the things to come in heaven itself.
Chapters 5-9 of John’s Gospel are forerunners of this morning’s Gospel reading. For three years Jesus had been battling with the false shepherds among the Jews. They denied that He was true God. They rejected His teaching. They rejected His miracles. They had just scorned the blind man, whom Jesus healed, & they cast him out of the synagogue.
Jesus searches for the man & reveals Himself as God. Then Jesus explains in the hearing of some of the Pharisees: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may see, & those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39 ESV) The sight & blindness are spiritual, pertaining to the truth about Jesus.
Those Pharisees respond to Jesus in unbelief: “Are we also blind?” (John 9:40b ESV) Jesus answers, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (9:41 ESV) Jesus is equating an admission of blindness with repentance, an admission of sin. In claiming that they see, those Pharisees are denying that they need forgiveness.
Jesus does not mince words. In response, He turns to the Pharisees & tells the parable of today’s Gospel reading. The one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but rather climbs in by another way is a thief & a robber. This man is certainly not the shepherd. The shepherd is known to the doorkeeper, who lets him in by the door.
Likewise, the sheep know their shepherd’s voice. They follow him when he calls. The sheep, however, will not follow a stranger, but rather will flee from him. In other words, the sheep of God, those who trust in Yahweh, do not follow the voice of strangers. The “sheep” in this parable are the people of Israel. The man born blind is one of the sheep. He received sight from Jesus & believed in Him. Through Jesus he received eternal life. Yet this same man was cast out of the synagogue, by the Pharisees. God’s sheep were being scattered & destroyed because their appointed shepherds fed themselves rather than the sheep.
To summarize this sermon we’ll say this, Christians are to flee the voice of false shepherds because those false shepherds will only abandon them to the wolf, who is the devil. Rather, listening to the voice of Jesus grants us abundant life because He came to defeat the devil. People saying anything else are working for Satan & trying to obscure God’s love.
Jesus is the only God who dies for His people that they may live. As He said, “I am the way & the truth & the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the door to eternal life & glory. Anyone who attempts to get there, any other way, is a thief & a robber.
Into a dangerous world, where strangers climb into sheepfolds & hired hands run away, the true Shepherd comes. The beauty of His coming is that the Shepherd calls to His sheep & He knows us by name. Even when we do not know a thing about shepherds, Jesus still calls to us in a voice we recognize. He gathers us together & leads us in the Way.
The one thing that saves us is not what we know about shepherds but that our Shepherd knows us: “He calls His own sheep by name & leads them out,” (John 10:3 ESV) to eternal glory. There, we will never be dissatisfied with the way we look or how we feel about our physical selves. In heaven we will fully be all that God created us to be, & we will be at peace. Amen.
O little flock, fear not the foe who madly seeks your overthrow; dread not his rage & power. And though your courage sometimes faints, his seeming triumph o’er God’s saints lasts but a little hour. As true as God’s own Word is true, not earth nor hell’s satanic crew against us shall prevail. Their might? A joke, a mere façade! God is with us & we with God – our victory cannot fail. Amen. LSB 666:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet