Why It's Important to be Jesus' Little Lamb
5/2/04Times New RomanArial
In Louisiana, when the boys were small, one of them came to church excitedly telling everyone, "Today we get to sing "I am Jesus' Little Yam." Isn't that cute? Everyone thinks "I am Jesus Little Lamb"is a children's song. It wasn't initially thought of that way. You'll see that once I tell you where in the hymnal it was originally found. It's good to be reminded that "I am Jesus' Little Lamb" isn't just for kids because being a little lamb of Jesus is important not just for kids, but for sheep and even old goats.
If you're Jesus' little lamb, you're God's little lamb. In our text Jesus clearly says, "No one can snatch My sheep out of My hand." Then in the same paragraph He says, "No one can snatch them out of My Father's hand." If you're in Jesus' hand, you're in God's hand. Read the Old Testament. References to the hand of God are all over the place. The Psalmist pleads for God to remove His right hand from His bosom and act. The hand of God is strong to save, to defend, to defeat our enemies. But where is the hand of God?
It's here, it's there, it's everywhere. It's holding up the sky and holding back the waves from washing over the land. It's casting forth lightening bolts in spring and scattering frost in winter. There's no place the right hand of God is not. Yet, how do I know where it is if it's infinite and invisible? God is a Spirit. A spirit has no hands for us to rest in, to take comfort in, to hide behind. Jesus has hands. He stretched out His hand, touched the man full of leprosy and healed him. He reached out His hand to save Peter from drowning. He took Jairus' daughter by the hand and raised her from the dead. Jesus has hands; they are finite and visible. Everyone knows where Jesus hands are.
God is holy, righteous and unapproachable. One touch from His hand and sinners smoke and burn. Sinners can't bear to be touched by the hand of God; it's too hot with holiness for them. Yet, Jesus touches sinners and they are forgiven, healed, helped. You all remember the pictures of Jesus with children in His hands. You've all seen the picture of Jesus carrying the little lamb with it's mother walking along beside looking at Jesus. No one's afraid of Jesus' hands.
You can tell a lot about someone by their hands. A country song in the 80's was called "Daddy's Hands." It sung of how daddy's hands worked till they bled, how they were folded in prayer, how they would spank, but the conclusion was, "There was always love in Daddy's hands." Well, who of us could doubt or deny that there is always love in Jesus' hands? Whether stretched out on the cross, lifted before God the Father in prayer, or baptizing, absolving, or communing us, there is always love in Jesus'hands. You can get close to His hands without fear of being hurt or pushed away. Jesus beckons with His hands for you to come to Him. And what does Jesus say? "I and the Father are one. If in My hands, then in His."
Jesus' hands are like ours. They're flesh and blood hands we can squeeze, be held by, hands that can be pierced and bleed like ours. And these are the hands of the true God. Don't you see? All the world wonders what the hand of God is doing. The hand of God seems mysteriously at work behind the scenes maybe for good, maybe for evil. According to American Civil Religion each religion in the world can only see a part of what God is doing with His hands. No one can say, "I know what the true God is doing with His hands."
But this is precisely what Christianity says. The hands of the true God are that of Jesus Christ. Apart from His hands, no one can see the hands of God or have the foggiest idea what the true God is doing. This is true even in heaven. According to Revelation, God sits on His throne but you don't see Him. You only see the Lamb of God before the throne. If you're in the hand of this Lamb, if you know this Lamb, then you're in God's hand and know God. That means if you're not in the hand of this Lamb, if you don't know this Lamb, then you cannot be in the hand of the true God or know Him at all. See how important it is to be Jesus' little lamb?
This basic truth that if you're not in Jesus' hand, you're not in God's, if you don't know Jesus you don't know God is what Christianity is losing today. But isn't the Bible clear? In John 14 Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father but by Me." American Civil Religion says there are as many paths to God as there are people. Christianity, until modern times, said, "No there's only one way, and it is Jesus." In our text, Jesus says, "I and the Father are one." That simply means: apart from Jesus no one has the true God. American Civil Religion says dedicated, devout, or ancient religions have the true God. Christianity, until modern times, said even if a religion praises Jesus as a prophet, honors Him as a teacher, or holds Him up as an example, unless a religion bows before Jesus as the only true God and confesses there is no salvation apart from Him that religion is of the devil and is nothing but one more path to hell.
And you're on that path if you think you can find God, speak about God, know God apart from Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Jesus in the manger, Jesus in Mary's Lap, Jesus hanging on the cross. This is our sin. We speak about God, think about God, believe in God apart from Jesus. But Jesus speaks about Himself first and takes us to the Father. You don't get to the Father and then to Jesus; you don't get to God and go to Jesus; you go from Jesus to the Father, Jesus to God, not from heaven to the manger, but from the manger to heaven. In other words if you're not Jesus' little lamb, you're lost even if you can speak about God eloquently, piously, nobly.
So, how do you know if you're Jesus' little lamb or not? The first thing people usually ask themselves is, "Do I believe in Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world?" But all you can honestly say is, "I believe; help my unbelief." And notice that's not where Jesus goes in our text. He doesn't tell us, "If you have Me in your hand, then you have the Father." Jesus doesn't invite us to look at what we have in our hand but at what He has in His. Don't look to your hand, to what you hold on to in faith, but look to what Jesus says He holds on to. Jesus says He holds on to you.
Isn't that what He says in your Baptismal waters? "I have called you by name; you are Mine." Don't the waters of your Baptism speak to you of being reborn in Jesus, by Jesus, for Jesus? Don't they whisper, "You are forgiven, regenerated, renewed?" Aren't these the quiet waters that Jesus the Good Shepherd invites His little lambs to lay beside? Stop trying to fathom the depths of God. I know that more people will listen and engage you when you speak of the depths of God, and it does seem childish to speak of Jesus revealing the true God in the shallow waters of the Baptismal font, but what else does it mean when Jesus says that we are baptized literally into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Those 3 little handfuls of water brought you into the grandest, deepest mystery of them all, the Triune God.
Are you Jesus' little lamb? Never mind what you know or think your know about God. Never mind what grand and glorious thoughts you might have about God. Does Jesus know you? Do you listen to His voice? That's what Jesus says sheep, lambs, and old goats of His do: they listen to Him. Is Jesus in your ears? Did you hear Him say this morning, "I forgive you?" Did you say, "Amen" to that? Then you listen to Jesus, and in listening to Jesus you hear the Father, because Jesus and the Father are one.
Doesn't that blow your mind? It should. Read the holy books of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other religion that claims God speaks in them. God doesn't say one word in any of them about the free forgiveness of sins. In them god speaks of dedication, of sacrifice, and believing in him, but not about him forgiving you. Jesus came speaking forgiveness. He died in place of an entire world of sinners and rose from the dead commanding that forgiveness be preached in His name. When you hear your sins forgiven, you are hearing Jesus in your ears, and when Jesus is in your ears the true God is. Therefore, you don't need to wonder what God may or may not be thinking, doing or saying by the things going on in your life. Listen to Jesus and you hear all that God wants to tell you.
Are you Jesus' little lamb? I told you that the hymn which asserts we are didn't begin as a children's hymn. It was originally found among the hymns for Holy Communion. The question am I Jesus' little lamb, can be answered then not just by asking if you have Jesus on your body in Baptism, or Jesus in your ears in Absolution, but also by asking is Jesus in your body by Holy Communion? As the hymn was originally understood, Communion is where Jesus the Good Shepherd guides and provides for His sheep, feeds and leads His little lambs. Here the Good Shepherd comes to His sheep and prepares a table for them in the presence of their enemies.
We are surrounded by our enemies sin, death, and the devil. These unholy 3 relentlessly plot to lead us to despair of the true God loving, caring or providing for us. In this Meal, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, appears and thunders over the lies of sin, death, and the devil saying, "I am God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God and I claim you as My lambs. So take eat, take drink of My Body and Blood given and shed for your forgiveness. You are in My hand; that means My Father has you in His. Therefore, no one can snatch you away." How else can we respond to this other than to say, "Who so happy as I am,/ Even now the Shepherd's lamb?" Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Easter IV (5-2-04); John 10:22-30