The 4th Sunday after Easter on April 29, 2007 uses readings from Acts 20:17-35 (Paul in Ephesus); Revelation 7:9-17 (The martyrs) and John 10:22-30 (Sheep hear Jesus’ voice). Selected to preach about is John 10:26 which reads, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”
Jesus has been confronted by Jews who want Him to speak plainly as to whether or not He is the Christ. From the context it appears that these are Jews who are attempting to get Jesus into trouble as did the lawyer (Luke 10) and others. Jesus answers that He has already told them and the works He does bears witness to that fact. He continues with, “But you do not believe, because…” How Jesus completes that sentence is critical to what evangelism is all about. How so?
Were Jesus to complete the sentence with, “because you have not been given sufficient evidence” then we know what the task of evangelism is about. It is giving people sufficient evidence by means of our reason to convince them that the words of the Bible are true. And not just true in regard to normal historical events like Rome invading Palestine but also in regard to radical, abnormal, never-to-be-repeated events like the resurrection from the dead by God Himself!
However, no amount of evidence and reasoning can convince the unbeliever because he does not have a mind that is persuadable in regard to Christian truth. The natural man simply cannot fathom and understand the things of God. They are foolishness to him. Regardless of what people say, no one was ever brought to faith by arguments of reason or evidence that are overwhelming.
Were Jesus to complete the sentence with, “because you haven’t made the right decision” then we know what the task of evangelism is about. It is about persuading people to make the right decision to invite Christ into their heart and permit Him to be Lord of their lives! However, such an attempt is ridiculous since the unbeliever’s will is bound and has no freedom to make such a choice.
What Jesus does say is “because you are not of My sheep.” That’s the problem! Then the task of evangelism is clear. It is to make use of that which truly moves a person from the kingdom of Satan to the flock of Jesus’ sheep. The question before us is what are the means God has provided to do just that? They are called the “means of grace” which refers to the means whereby the benefits won for us by our gracious Savior Jesus Christ are given free of charge to those who do not deserve to receive them!
The means by which God’s gracious attitude bestows gifts of salvation upon the unbeliever are Word and Sacraments. It is neither our reason or our persuasion that brings a new sheep into the flock. It is the pure Word of God and the proper use of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Apart from these, no one is ever saved by our witness.
The sermon would correct the false views that many have of their contribution to their own salvation. It would then reveal the only true means of salvation which is centered on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ as He took away the curse of the Law and provided us with the robe of righteousness and the forgiveness of sins. With those gifts receive by faith alone through Word and Sacrament, the unbeliever who is now a believer understands verse 25 that the real cause of not recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah is because “you do not believe.”