John 10. Last week, Pentecost Sunday, we looked at the work of the Holy Spirit as he empowers us to bring the message of Christ as the mission of the Church. And today we continue to look then on Trinity Sunday at an aspect of that core belief in the divinity of Christ. As we look to the reading of God’s Word, if you would join me in prayer. Father, indeed, you are the source of all light. And by your word you give light to our souls. We ask that you would pour out upon us a spirit of wisdom and understanding that being taught by you in the Holy scriptures, our hearts and our minds would be opened to know what pertains to life and to holiness. And this we ask to Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Beginning in verse 22, at that time, the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was walking in the temple in the Columnate of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and you did not believe.
The works that I do in my father’s name bear witness about me. But you did not believe because you are not a part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father? For which of them are you going to stone me? The Jews answered him, It’s not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God. The Word of the Lord. We please be seated. Small child runs up and grabs your leg and holds on tightly until they look up and see that you’re not mom or dad. That terrified moment of awareness hits them. When you’re knee high, most legs look the same.
But mom or dad, you are not, and it matters. When someone says, all religions are the same, that’s a knee high toddler response. The who matters. Who we are worshiping is not a point of indifference. I was with a group of pastors at a local Christian Ministry event, and an Episcopal Chaplain finished out and prayed for us and used the name of Allah. It was a what? Everybody’s just going huh? And it mattered. It wasn’t okay. It mattered a lot because Allah is not the Father. In Scripture, God does not identify himself as the great metaphysical abstraction of being. We hear Him say, I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, identifying himself as our redeemer. Then you hear in the Ten Commandments, anyhow, you shall have no other gods before me. This is who I am, and this is how you should respond. You see, to give worship to anyone else is blasphemous. And because God has revealed himself as one God in three persons, we must know and worship him as the Trinity, as triune. Is it a mystery? Yes, to be sure.
Yet the universe is filled with mysteries. And there have always been some who have objected to this doctrine, rejected it. And they say, Well, this is just an invasion of Greek philosophy and early Christianity, or something like that. But ignorance in that position is found when you try to understand Scripture itself. As you read Scripture, you see the Father is divine because He’s God. As you read Scripture, you see that Jesus is divine because He’s God. And as you read Scripture, you see the Spirit is divine because He is God. At the same time, we see there’s a distinction between the three, one God and three persons. In Matthew 3, when Jesus was being baptized, it said, Immediately he went up from the water and behold, the heavens were open to him. And he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. And behold, a voice from heaven said, this is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased. Second Corinthians 13, Paul ends his letter with his blessing to God’s people. And he says, The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Jesus, at the great commissioning, Matthew 28, telling his disciples to bapt them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In many texts like that, we see the threeness and the oneness of God. Whenever a person or a group has left this teaching, they leave behind Christianity. The who matters. Get the Trinity wrong and you get Jesus wrong. You leave Christianity. Christianity is unlike any world religion. They’re not all the same. In John 10, Jesus is walking in the temple during the Feast of Dedication, which we call Hanukah today. It’s when the temple was cleansed and the desecration that occurred was removed from Antiochus the fourth. The Jews then gathered around him and they said, verse 24, How long will you keep us in suspense? Are you the Christ? Are you the Messiah? Tell us plainly. And Jesus did answer. He said, I told you, and you did not believe. Then he goes on and says about his people, he goes, I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will snatch him out of my hand. I and the Father are one. The Jews understood what Jesus was claiming.
W e know that because it says they picked up stones to stone him. W hen Jesus asked the why question, they answered, Because you, being a man, make yourself God. See, Jesus was not claiming this to be an inspired Prophet. He was not just simply a miracle worker, a wise and gifted teacher. Jesus claims to be God, and he claims to be man. That infinite chasm between God and our sins has been breached by God becoming man and fulfilling what we broke in the first place. We are united to this personal God through his divine grace because God found us. He found us. Religion of the world is you find God or some principle, some enlightenment. The dominant religion of India is Hinduism. The goal for the Hindu is to be united with the ultimate, impersonal divine reality, Raman, absorbed into this oneness at a total loss of the individual. You are reunited until you figure out that it’s all just an illusion. Who is Jesus to the Hindu? Just another holy man, wise teacher. For the Buddhist, the end game is Nirvana where you cease to exist. Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism does not believe there’s any permanent divine essence that passes along as you cycle through reinformation.
You get off the wheel of life, off the wheel of suffering by following the eightfold path, path to enlightenment. Suffering and a personal self are just illusion. Jesus is also just another enlightened teacher. In Islam, God is essentially unknowable and functionally impersonnal to us. So you save yourself by believing the doctrine of Islam and by doing more good things than bad things. So at the end of the day, the scales are weighed and you hope you did better than you did worse. So Jesus for them is the Prophet Esau, who was sent to the Jews. He was a wise teacher, a miracle worker, and he did not die on the cross, but was taken up into heaven. For Jehovah’s witnesses, Jesus is the created Archangel Michael. For latter day Saints, Jesus was the first born Spirit and then progressed to D&E in the Spirit world. See, for someone to say that these are all the same is plain ignorance. We’ve heard that type of expression like, Well, all paths lead up to the same top. All the religions are just different paths to the same place. Well, in order for anyone to say that, they have to be elevated above everybody else to see it.
That’s a God’s eye perspective. So what they deny everyone else is this perspective to see it all, they claim for themselves. I, unlike all of you, I can actually see. I can transcend myself and see that this is all the same. That is a very particular religious viewpoint and a very ignorant one. The question immediately comes, Well, so what? Why does it matter who Jesus is? Because beliefs get lived out in real life. Beliefs matter. The Hindu caste system is not an accident. If you are in the lower caste system, you will have to suffer through life to hopefully finally reincarnate to a higher caste. And in this, then there’s no incentive to help those who are less fortunate than you. There’s not this communal love shared to those in need because there’s nothing that binds us together. You’re just one unfortunate soul who’s stumbling along like everybody else and hope one day you figure it out. But I’m not responsible for you. The meaning of Islam itself is submission. It’s not a shocker that in Islamic countries, women and non Muslims are severely oppressed. The strong dominate the weak. The violence and the conquest of Muhammad the Return of the Prophet is a part of the violence inherited in the culture.
There’s little to no talk of personal love and forgiveness in their religion. I appreciate Tim Keller’s book, Reasons for God. He said, If God were unipersonal, meaning just one, no diversity, then he can have from all eternity power, sovereignty, and greatness, but not love. Love cannot be at the heart of part of the universe, only power. And what do we see? Wars for power and conquest. Buddhism has given us a wholesale slaughter on a proportion of that of the Nazis in World War II and beyond into Southeast Asia. Both superiority of races, as well as an indifference towards suffering, have been a part of their ethical system that doesn’t have an individual self that matters. The Hollywood Buddhism, that’s just a criteria style that they’ve created themselves. These beliefs have consequences. Now, of course, immediately someone goes, Well, my goodness, Christians have done all kinds of bad things in the name of Christ. Yes, they have. When this happens, Christians are quick to condemn such practices by pointing out who Jesus is. We point out the DNA of Jesus is to be the DNA of the church. When those things happen, we say that’s not what Jesus did.
To love others, to lay down your life, to serve them, to care for those. See, in Christianity, suffering is not an illusion to be thought away. Christ’s suffering is a means of glory that overcomes sin and death. It is to our great peril that we think of doctrine as something to avoid, or worse, to speak against it. It’s not humble to praise ignorance as being spiritual. It’s not humble to praise ignorance as being spiritual. To stand and say, Well, all those theologians, they just muddle everything up. Doctrine should be something that you avoid. Too complicated. We just need to love Jesus. No creed but Christ. Let’s just hear for just Jesus. We know, man, we just need Jesus. Who’s Jesus? Who are you talking about? Whose leg are you holding on to? There’s been a liberal protestant Jesus in the 1960s who looked like a longhaired surfer, who apparently was okay with abortion and never once condemned same sex marriage, a Christless Christianity, or a Jesus who’s just an inspiring revolutionary who never claimed to be God, a Jesus who just wants us to be true to ourselves, or the Jesus who’s an Avatar to help us get to a higher plane of consciousness, the Jesus who’s just a prophet, who never died for anyone’s sins, was never crucified.
The rainbow colored Jesus who loves you and will never challenge you in your beliefs or call you to holiness, the Jesus who is a hapless political figure that failed miserably. Or the Jesus that loves baseball, apple pie, and the American dream of consumerism. The Jesus of gun guts and glory. There’s a Jesus for everyone. The who matters. J. A. Packer wrote, When we disregard the study of God, we sentence ourselves to stumble through life, blindfolded with no sense of direction and no understanding of our surroundings. But the good news is that God has revealed himself to us throughout salvation history. And what he has revealed is that he is triune, one God in three persons. And yes, hard to understand, and we rightly call it a mystery, but affirm it, we must. Innovation is not the job of the church. For more than 2,000 years, we have confessed this great truth. See, when the Jews demanded to know who Jesus is, they are only willing to accept it if it’s who they want him to be. Tell us plainly. He said, I told you, you did not believe because they did not want a suffering Messiah.
They wanted a political leader to come and take care of the Romans, to push out the gentiles. There is no room for a suffering Messiah to die for their sins. That also included the sins of the world. And Jesus said, The works that I do in my father’s name bear witness about me. Because Jesus came to set creation right. He came to restore it and to set free. But to receive this, you have to know you’re bound, that you’re helpless. And he said, But you did not believe because you’re not a part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. Now people hear that and they’re offended because they do not see their condition rightly. For Luke records Jesus saying, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. It’s a recognition, understanding of who we are in our great need. And listen to what he says next in John, he says, I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
My father, who has given them to me is greater than I, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. How on Earth can any man give eternal life? Who can make this claim? No one will snatch you out of my hand. And besides that, it’s like, Well, what makes you the shepherd and us the sheep? Why aren’t you just a sheep like the rest of us? Who are you? And these bold and audacious claims that Jesus is making, and he steps over the line, I and the Father are one. No one’s claimed this before. If they had, they’re egomaniac, tyrants, or crazy people. Earlier, Jesus made some incredible statements. Then in John, we see the Jews try to stone him as well. When he said, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am, you’re making a God claim. It was blasphemy. Here they do it again. Why do you want to stone me for blasphemy? Because you, being a man, make yourself God. For over 2,000 years, the church has affirmed the Trinity. The stakes are high. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, he said, All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that God is love.
True then, true now. You hear it all the time. All sorts of people are fond of repeating that God is love. But they seem not to notice that the words God is love have no real meaning unless God contains at least two persons. Because love is something that one person has for another. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, he was not love. We affirm what the church has taught through the ages. God has come to us while we were lost. He found us. Our sins are forgiven in Him. Jesus has conquered what we could not. As fully man, Jesus has taken every part of our humanity and restored it to himself. There’s no part of you left unredeemed. We’re not just a soul whisking our way to heaven. It’s Jesus is returning to restore us body and soul, a resurrected life because he lived a full human life. In all of this, we can love completely without having complete understanding because of the love that God has given to us in Christ. It’s true of our human relationships. It’s certainly true of our relationship to God. To affirm the Trinity does not mean we have complete understanding.
One scholar has put it well, the Trinity belongs to the inner life of God and can be only known by those who share in that life. As long as you’re on the outside, you will never see beyond his unity. The personableness of God requires you to come on the inside, and Jesus brings us to the inside. My sheep hear my voice. You and I are to hold fast to the leg of Jesus. There are hundreds of other legs out there, and there’s only one Jesus. And we are to cling to Him. And as we do so, we recognize something else there. It is not me holding fast to his leg. It’s Jesus having picked me up in his embrace. Jesus is holding fast to you. That’s the good news. You don’t have to enlighten your way to it. You don’t have to work your way to it. You don’t have to figure it out. My sheep hear my voice and no one will snatch them out of my hand. But who matters. The person and work of Jesus has revealed to us in Scripture, it is the truth, the reality that we hold to. It’s the reality that we live our life by.
Why? Because it is true. Brothers and sisters, we rejoice that the Father has sent his son who has died for our sins, who has set us free, that he was raised on the third day, that he has sent the Holy Spirit now into his people, that we have been embraced and loved and we know him from the inside. Now to take that into the world that’s in desperate need, flailing in untruth, to know the goodness of our God, pray with me. Father, indeed, we thank you that you have found us, that you have not left us in a state of sin and misery. But in your great compassion, you have set us free through your Son, your only begotten Son. Father, we pray and ask then as your people, that it would please you to use us, Father, as proclaimers of Jesus to your world, to your creation. We pray, Father, that the name of Jesus would continue to be lifted high, that he would receive the reward of his suffering. We bless you for the kindness that we have received through him. And we pray and ask all these things in his mighty name, Amen.
Please stand together as we sing, holy.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription