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A, 4 S of Easter, 041308
“Only One Voice is Full of Life”
St. Andrews Lutheran Church, Wichita, KS
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thieves and robbers; shepherds and sheep; sheep pens and gates; today’s
Gospel lesson has them all, but there is one clear message that comes through. It’s in
verse 7, Jesus says “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” (pause) Now
doesn’t that make you feel better?
I’m not surprised if you say, “NO!” Like so many things that Jesus taught and
said, unless we unpack the fullness of His words – they remain just words. Only when
we really deeply look and consider what Jesus is teaching and relating about our life
and His work will we really receive the benefit of what Jesus is saying and doing. So
what does Jesus mean when He calls himself the ‘true gate’?
What do gates do? Aren’t gates a means of entry – into a yard, into a factory,
into a field, and in this case into a sheep pen? Indeed, that’s the purpose of a gate.
Gates act as entry points. Gates provide access – both into and out of – the place
where you want to go. Gates provide controlled access – they are the means of order;
they are the means of establishing one place through which all access is granted.
IN this way, a gate provides protection. When a factory wants to be sure that all
the people entering it have good intentions and don’t just want to steal ideas or
products, they surround the building with fencing and put in a gate. It is through the
gate that access into and out of the factory is controlled. Do you have business in the
factory? Go to the gate and prove your intentions. Are you leaving the factory with
something you are not supposed to take?
Go through the gate and you will be
inspected; you will be proved genuine in all that you have done while in the factory.
Is Jesus your protection? “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be
saved.” Powerful words, don’t you agree? When I think of heaven, I am reminded
about the powerful words of Scripture that comfort me about whom and what will be in
heaven. For me, the book of Revelation holds much promise. This is the end of Rev.
Revelation 21:21-27
The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The
great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings
On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night
The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor
will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the
Lamb's book of life.
When Jesus declares himself to be the gate, he makes an assurance to each of
us – heaven is secure – there is a place where you will be safe – the things that harm
you and try to destroy you now, they will find no entry in heaven! There are so many
things, so many demonic destroyers, so many evil tempters. We may refer to them as
they truly are – thieves and robbers. They try to steal your peace. They try to rob you
of joy. They try to burglarize your homes, your marriages, your relationships, your
devotional life, and if it were possible – they would try to steal even your salvation and
forgiveness, the free gifts given to all believers in God’s word through Jesus.
These thieves and robbers have one purpose. They want to destroy your faith
and trust in God. They want to take all that God has done, for you, in you, and through
you and make it worthless. They want to rob you of security and to make you feel
vulnerable to the attacks of Satan. And there is one thing about thieves and robbers in
this life – they are relentless.
Have you ever noticed that just the time you think all is going well – something
goes wrong? Have you ever just put up your hands and shouted, “When? When is all
this going to end?”
Have you ever felt like there is too much to handle; like the
pressures of this world, the struggles of this world, the pains and trials and tribulations
of this world were just too great? Have you ever thought, “What’s the use? Tomorrow
won’t be any better. Why not just give up?”
These are the thieves and robbers at work in your life. This is how they steal –
they take small amounts of pleasure from you each day.
They rob you of small
amounts of hope today and then come tomorrow to steal a little more strength. They
continually pick and pick at the very foundations of your life in hopes they can
eventually cause the whole foundation and building to collapse in upon itself.
And where do they come from – these thieves and robbers of this world? How
do they get inside your lives? Well – according to Jesus they “climb in by some other
way.” (pause) Now be honest, we all know the places were our security fences in life
are the weakest. We all know the places where our armor is susceptible to attack.
True thieves exploit our weaknesses and look for ways to compromise our defenses.
Many years ago, when I worked in retail jewelry, a thief stole a $10,000 ring from my
hand and ran out of the store. How did he do it? He waited. He watched. He took
advantage of a busy time. He took advantage of the elements of distraction. And he
sensed my inexperience and weakness at how to handle precious commodities. After
assessing all his opportunity – he struck – quickly—decisively.
Your enemy the devil is looking for ways to do something similar in your lives.
But Jesus offers protection. Jesus offers a refuge. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, I
am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” His words are true and
powerful. They are not backed up by a vacant promise. They are not powerful with a
dream that Jesus might be able to live up to what He says. No – these words are
powerful and true because we know that Jesus has done everything He set out to do.
Jesus left the comfort of heaven and became a man like us; he took our flesh
and blood into the Godhead. In that flesh and blood, Jesus was tempted. The thieves
and robbers that assail us constantly assailed our Lord while He was in our flesh.
They tempted Jesus to give in to His earthly desires. They tried to get Jesus to find
some other way to rule heaven. They offered Jesus immense power and riches if He
would just let them steal away His orders and substitute them with their own evil
desires and plans.
But Jesus successfully fought off all temptations.
Jesus held
strong to the Father’s plan for His life, even though we so often fail to do the very
simple things that God asks of us.
Jesus did all this for us – in our place. He lived perfect and then even went
another step further. Jesus died. Not just any death either; Jesus died the death that
we were supposed to die. Jesus died the death that a holy and just God the Father
had demanded from anyone who couldn’t live up to the life that God gave us; the death
of a sinner; the death of someone who let thieves and robbers take over their life. This
death that Jesus died is the greatest gift that he could give to you and me – His life for
ours. Because He died in our place, God no longer looks to us to die again. God the
Father has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice and now Jesus has become our gate.
You and I enter into a new relationship with God the Father through the gate;
through Jesus Christ – God’s Son. When we enter through Him – that is to say – when
we come into the place where God is through Jesus Christ we really do enter into
heaven! “Whoever enters through me will be saved!” It’s done! It’s complete! It’s
finished – just like Jesus said, “It’s finished!” from the cross. It really is finished that we
are saved; that we have eternal life; that we are truly entering into the heaven of God
through faith and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the gate!
Jesus offers us real protection. Jesus offers us real life. It is true that the life we
live now is still susceptible to attack by thieves and robbers who only come to kill and
destroy – but we are not obligated to listen to them. In fact, Jesus reminds us that His
sheep have stopped listening to them. Where before the voices of thieves and robbers
were so enticing that we could not help ourselves but listen and fall for their lies, Jesus
has given us a new power. We can turn them off! We can walk away from their
enticements. We can fight them off with the armor and shields of God’s Word. We can
even defeat them and throw them out of the sheep pen. All because Jesus, the gate,
has assured us that we will be saved! Jesus has assured us that His death and
resurrection is our guarantee for a full life!
Take comfort brothers and sisters in Christ! Christ Jesus is the gate through
which you have entered – into a heavenly joy and protection that is real, that is lasting,
that is strong, and that is perfect. For awhile – thieves and robbers will continue to
assail – but they are powerless. Keep coming and going to pasture through the gate of
Jesus Christ. Keep coming and going in confidence, knowing that one day soon you
will be entering through that heavenly gate and never again will a thief of robber be
able to enter. Never again shall anything evil or impure be allowed to even come up
onto the road that leads to the gate of eternal life. Take comfort in going through the
gate of Jesus, the only voice that leads to a full life.