True and false sheep – John 10:25-28

In the midst of a discussion with some very religious people, Jesus confronts them saying,

… The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

He is only confirming what we have heard many times before – that not everyone will believe. Even among the religious there will be deceivers, many of whom have first deceived themselves. In those days it was Jews celebrating Hanukkah, in our day it might be Christians celebrating Christmas.

In Matthew Jesus spoke of weeds growing in the wheat field and bad fish that needed to be thrown out. Paul elaborates on the same theme to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor 11.

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Lets not be surprised when the church disappoints us or seems to be veering off track. Some of it is intentional and motivated by those who never knew Jesus to begin with. As he put it in the Sermon on the Mount,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Reflecting Jesus – John 9:4-5

While in the act of healing a man blind from birth, Jesus makes the following declaration,

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

The first word that stands out is the first word, “We.” Jesus does not intend to act alone. Here I do not think he is referring to his Father, but to the disciples, who are to work alongside of him.

The next thing that stands out to me is the phrase, “night is coming, when no one can work.” At this moment there is no need to speculate as to when this is or will actually be. It is enough to know there is such a time coming, to motivate us. We will not be able to work whenever or for as long as we want. Procrastination may be a fatal error in this case.

Finally, I see the phrase, “As long as I am in the world,” which somewhat limits the statement, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus is not, or does not intend to be the light of the world in the same way forever. From this statement it seems he no longer fills that role at the present time, since he has left the world physically to be with his Father.

Are these then the days of darkness? Is there no light to be seen or by which to see? Well, not exactly. Jesus has left some light behind if we are prepared to accept the mission.

Remember that first word “We”? There is still work to be done and we are the ones to do it. If we need any further confirmation of this, we find it in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:14-16.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

In John 8 Jesus first announced that he was the light of the world. In John 9, he added the stipulation that he was the light of the world as long as he was in the world. In Matthew 5, he tell his disciples that they are the light of the world and explains how they are to fulfill that function: Through their good works.

There are numerous reasons to serve Jesus in this world. One of them is this. He expects his light to shine through us, to be reflected off of us, to give the world some way of seeing him. The moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun. Nonetheless on a clear night, a full moon appears to be very bright. Let’s become experts in reflecting Jesus.

Of course it’s worth it – Luke 14:26-33

There is a paradox involved in serving Jesus.  We know we are saved by grace and that the eternal life we receive from God is nothing but a gift from him.  At the same time, Jesus makes it very clear that discipleship is truly costly.  This is a cost we all need to count.

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

First some clarification of that love/hate thing.  Those words, love and hate, were used in that culture at that time as comparative terms, not necessarily opposites. Matthew makes this clearer than Luke, in Matthew 10:37-38.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

But the point Jesus makes is still stark.  Our love of God and determination to follow Jesus must be our highest affections.  No person or thing, not even our own lives, can stand in the way of our commitment to Christ.  Nothing can be held as superior to him.  

These are serious words and must be taken as seriously as they are meant.  Jesus encourages us to count the cost.  Are we ready to pay this price?  Can we finish building the tower?  Are we ready to go to war?  Remember, we need to renounce all that we have.

Of course the most faithful, fully devoted discipleship worth any price we might pay.  Does  t bring tension into some relationships?  It’s worth it.  Do we even lose one or more of those relationships as result of following Christ?  Will it affect us materially, in the realm of our career goals, wealth or possessions?  Probably so, according to Jesus, to all of the above questions.  Still, it’s worth it.

Paul served Jesus a long time and endured far more than most in exchange.  Let’s remember the conclusions of his thorough assessment in 2 Corinthians 4:17.  No matter what we face as we follow Jesus, it is nearly nothing.  The glory that awaits us is better to an absurd extreme.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

We need to count the cost of discipleship, but of course this will only determine for us that it’s worth it in the end.