CSI was the first police procedural show to hit it big. It spawned CSI: New York, and CSI: Miami. This show's theme music was the 1978 The Who's song "Who are You" with the enduring question "who are you, who, who, who who?" Like a police procedural show this text's answers that question.
Who are you? If the enduring question of Disney movies is "do you believe in yourself" the enduring question of teen angst dramas and college campuses everywhere is: who are you? And yes hear the echo: who, who, who, who? However, this is misleading. It suggests the question who are you is or even can be a one and done question. For fallen people it's an ongoing one.
So who are you? Our text leads us to answer that by investigating your answer to this question: whose voice do you hear? Jesus is emphatic here. He says "The sheep of ME the voice of Me they hear." There is no need to have two "me's" here. And there are definite articles with sheep, Me, and voice highlighting the issue is Jesus' voice. And it's in the present tense. The persistent question in our ongoing investigation is: are you hearing the voice of Jesus today.
We have so many voices to listen to and so many ways to do it. You listen to TV, radio, movies, YouTube videos, and they are all speaking, speaking, speaking. But they aren't alone; the old fashioned print media also speaks. They all put forth a pointed point of view. For example: you are supposed to believe the biggest threat to humanity is climate change. You're supposed to believe it is racist to think that men shouldn't marry men, and that it is sexist not to give women the choice to abort their baby. Because of this cacophony of Antichristian voices blaring in your ears some of you run to anything Christian I myself listen to Catholic radio. But just because it is labeled Christian doesn't mean it's the voice of Christ, and remember Jesus is emphatic that we be listening to Him.
The next step in our investigation into who are you is whom do you follow? This too is present tense. Ask yourself right now whom do you follow? "Well, I'm here aren't I?" True, you followed the Good Shepherd into His fold this morning. You might do it every Sunday, but the rest of the week whom do you follow?
The spirit of the age says follow me away from fact based liturgical worship to feeling based contemporary worship, away from boring preaching to relevant preaching, away from closed Communion to open Communion, away from God's order of Creation to men and women being interchangeable, away from God creating in 6 days to the religion of evolution. Follow me says the spirit of the age to doctrines that make sense, to teachings that are popular, to a faith that doesn't conflict with today's science.
Who are you? Who, who? You know in every police procedural, and this is why they are so named, you have scenes with no dialog as various members of the team go through the procedures they do to sift through the clues, sort through the information. To find out who are you we've looked at whose voice do you hear and whom do you follow. Now see a member of the team examining: are you perishing?
Jesus is emphatic on this point. You know how your English teacher always got on you for using a double negative? Well the Greek does that to really emphasize something. Jesus says someone who is His sheep "no way they will perish into the ages." The expression "no way" is the two Greek words for no. The insert translates this "never;" I'm reminded of the last line of "How Firm a Foundation." Jesus says, "That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no never, no never forsake." Jesus says His sheep NEVER perish.
Here our CSI investigation finds me on slippery ground if not a slope. I am perishing, aren't I? Along with Stevie Nicks, "I'm getting older too." If not my own age the age of my kids and grandkids preach to me "the years get shorter not longer." Since I am perishing, I must not be hearing the voice of Jesus or not following Him close enough.
CSI: Austin has exposed the problem with the way the world says the question "who are you" is to be answered. The world points us inside to find out who we are. Teens wake up to find they're gay. Small wonder after their social media, music, and milieu have preached to them gay is good, even better. A spouse wakes up to find they are single after every TV drama, novel, and society has glorified the single life. A Christian can wake up from this CSI investigation and conclude: I'm an unbeliever. Look at the evidence: I hear a multitude of voices not just Jesus. I follow Him only so far, and I am perishing. Where does this evidence point?
Let's go back to the text and hear what Jesus says: Jesus says the only reason a person is to conclude they are not a believer is if they are not His sheep. He says, "You do not believe because you are not My sheep." I don't care what age you are; don't answer who you are by looking inside. Look outside. Jesus says the answer to who are you is whose are you.
Yes, who is answered by whose? Jesus says He knows His sheep. Knows is recognizes and it's present tense meaning there's not a day or moment He forgets His sheep. Ever go to the pound in hopes of finding your lost dog? You go into the kennel area and just about every single dog acts as if they belong to you. It's heartrending really the hopeful barks, the fawning gestures. But you know none of that matters. What matters is when you say, "That's my dog. I recognize him."
Here belong those stunning, dunning passages where Judge Jesus says on the Last Day to those proclaiming that He had taught in their streets and ate and drank with them, "I never knew you." Here belongs the comforting Galatians 4:9, "Now that you know God or rather are known by God." See what counts? God's knowing, and Jesus says He knows His sheep. Does He know you?
Did He call you by name in Baptism? Then He proclaims in Isaiah, "You are mine." Does He know your sins and did He send them away from you in His name by absolution? Then He knows you as a sheep of His flock. Do you eat and drink at the Table that He has prepared for you in the presence of your enemies? He only prepares that for His sheep.
Jesus doesn't just say He knows recognizes who His sheep are. He gives them, another present tense, eternal life. All that aging, all that perishing, all that dying that is going on in your physical body is trumped by these words of Jesus in the ears of His sheep. "I give you eternal life." That's why God the Son came into the world in your flesh and blood: to win eternal life for your flesh and blood. As God the Son ever-lives, the flesh and blood of Mary joined to Him also ever-lives. But because He has Mary's flesh and blood He was also able to do what Deity couldn't, and that's die. And die He did, on a cross, for the sins of the world, to give life to the world.
Who are you is answered by whose are you and Jesus says I claim you in Baptism; I reclaim you in Absolution, and I feed you in Holy Communion. All three are means by which He gives His sheep the eternal life He won on Calvary's cross for an entire world of dead sinners. It's yours in the Waters of Baptism which rebirth you; it's yours in the Words of Absolution which are "words of eternal life." And it's yours in His Body and Blood. Jesus says in John 5 that "just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself." You eat and drink Jesus and you eat and drink life. You don't feed every puppy in the pound, but the one that belongs to you, you sure do.
Stop hearing that "Who are you? Who, who, who?" echoing in your head. It will drive you crazy. Instead hear whose are you. You belong to Jesus; I know that because Jesus says the Father has forever given you to Him. "Given" here is a perfect; that's where the "forever" comes in. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Father forever gave every single one of you to Jesus. How so? The sins of the world were put on Jesus says John. He was a wrath removing sacrifice for the world's sins says another John. God was in Christ reconciling the world, not a piece or part of it, to Himself, says Paul.
This is the full blast Gospel that rocks the world when it's preached. It proclaims that everything has been done by God. There is nothing left for sinners to do to reconcile themselves to God. There is nothing more for sinners to do get their sins forgiven. Sinners aren't being told they are to become sheep, but that in the Person and Work of Jesus, God recognizes them as sheep and forever gives them everlasting life.
Whose are you? You belong to the Son because the Father gave you to Him, and now He has you in His hands and nothing in all creation, not life, not death, not demons, not angels, not past, not present, not future is powerful enough to snatch you out of the hands of the Father.
See the interplay? See how easily Jesus glides from taking about the Father who no man has seen or can see to taking about Himself? He wants to place you in the omnipotent Hand of God but not have you slip off into some ethereal, platonic, spiritual realm. God's hand is the hand of Jesus that was nailed to the cross just so He could pick you up and claim you.
You probably have noticed that in the police procedural shows the police always win. The bad guy may escape but only for a time. CSI: Austin concludes with the comforting fact that not one of Jesus' sheep is ever lost let alone escapes. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Fourth Sunday of Easter (20160417); John 10: 26-30