Some things are just hard to explain. They go beyond words. I can tell my children I love them, but in reality, how much I love them goes beyond explanation. People ask me all the time why I enjoy running so much – that it seems like torture. I can’t really explain it except to have you actually start running. I have found that there are experiences in my life that I have had that go beyond explanation. Something as simple as watching a sunrise to eating a fresh tomato grown in a garden to listening to birds sing in a world of chaos. There are so many experiences that we can’t really explain…but when we have them, we just want to show somebody and have them experience it too. Sometimes we may try to capture those moments in pictures – but a sunrise never looks the same through a lens like it does through the experience.
In our lives of faith, we have feelings like that…I feel like God is really working on me or I feel like I am not doing what God has called me to do…or I know God is with me and I can feel his presence. All of these are really indescribable experiences – we just know them and we don’t know why. We want to hold on to them…we may write about them, we may take pictures, we may tell someone – but nothing really captures the essence of what is going on.
Jesus seems to be telling the Jews that had gathered with him that day something along those lines. They want it plain and simple. They want it the way that is easiest for them. Jesus has something to say about that.
They want to know if Jesus is the Messiah – plain and simple. Give it to us, Jesus. They could have been curious or could have been looking for something to accuse him. That would have been considered blasphemy – and remember that is brought back up at his trial. Jesus doesn’t give them a simple yes or no answer though. Why? Because something this big – something this powerful goes beyond explanation – it isn’t as simple as they want – and even if he gave it to them, they wouldn’t get it. Jesus doesn’t answer many questions directly, though. His call and what he is all about is so much bigger than words. He points them to his actions. He does what he does because that is what the Father has called him and sent him to do.
This should have been enough for them – but wasn’t. Jesus tells them that it is because they are NOT his sheep. His sheep know his voice and follow him. He has already said that he is the good shepherd. His sheep follow him.
That could seem like a harsh statement – except keep in mind that there were many during Jesus’ time that didn’t want to be part of his sheep and didn’t care what kind of shepherd he was. They didn’t want to know him or follow him. He is revolutionary. He isn’t comfortable. He isn’t what they have been doing when it comes to religion. He breaks the rules – he makes people squirm – he completely changes everything they have ever known. He has statements that include loving God and loving others – these are statement that they knew really well and thought they knew how to follow. But, Jesus is showing them that they don’t. Jesus shows them that loving others includes feeding and clothing and caring for and visiting. He shows them that loving others is not about condemnation but about outreaching arms. He makes them uncomfortable. They probably could care less that he says they aren’t his sheep. They think they are good just the way they are.
But, for those who are his sheep…he has something for them. This loving and caring business…this getting uncomfortable and going against the established religion…this doing something completely different…all leads to something extraordinary.
Jesus says that his sheep…they hear him, they know him, and they follow him. None of these things are simple to grasp. None of these things are plain or easy. All of these are indescribable. If I ask you if you have ever heard Jesus, I will likely get a variety of answers. Some of you will say…well not audibly – but yes. Some will say, of course I have. Some might say they don’t know what in the world I am talking about. If I ask someone outside of the faith, outside the church, they may think I have lost my mind…do I mean Jesus, a person they go to school with? If I tell you I have heard Jesus calling – I can’t describe that. I just know it. I can’t explain it – can’t tell you what his voice sounds like – can’t tell you why – all I can tell you is that I have.
We have the opportunity to know about him because we have the scriptures. The Bible is a window into who he is. This doesn’t describe God fully. It doesn’t give us complete explanations of anything. I can tell you to read and you can read all about him. But that doesn’t mean you know him any more than when you started. That takes faith. It takes a faith that God inspired this Word and that it is for our instruction and direction. It is alive in that it is still applicable today. But, it doesn’t answer all of our questions. Some things are left to faith and knowing the Shepherd. The more I hear him, the more I know him. How is that possible? Well, that’s not easy to explain.
It also says that his sheep follow him. Following Christ often means making some really difficult choices. It often means leaving behind the comforts of this world to really love. It often means leaving behind familiarities to follow. Being a follower of Christ may mean pushing you to your very limits…and then beyond into the realm of where God works. I can’t tell you what your calling is. I can possibly tell you what gifts you exhibit if I spend time with you. But, I can’t tell you how God wants to use those gifts. I can’t tell you how that will look in the future. I can’t tell you anything except what it means for me to follow. I know what that looks like for me. I can’t explain what following is except to say that I follow because I heard him call.
Now for the good news…For those who are called by him…for those who hear his voice, and know him, and follow him…there is great joy. He promises eternal life – never perishing. He promises that he has a grasp on us that is an eternal grasp. No one will be able to snatch us out of his grasp. We may not grasp him, but he sure has a grasp on us! As if that is not enough, to be grasped by Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is to be grasped by God the Father. Jesus and the Father are unified…in words and deeds. And God has a hold on us with a mighty grip that will carry us through the most difficult storms and lift us up in the most terrifying times. His grip isn’t there because of who we are but because of who he is. Praise him that his grip is forever.
How do I know? Jesus says it. You may say that this is not enough explanation. I will remind you that we are but humans…we are loved, we are held…but we don’t have to get it. We just have to live it. May we live it together.