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The Good Judge

April 30, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

good shepherdChrist Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
April 30, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Easter 4
The Good Judge


[The blind man made well] said, "I believe, Lord," and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, "For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see should see; and those who see might become blind." Now some of the Pharisees who were near him heard these things and said to him, "Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, "If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin. But now that you say, "We see," you remain culpable." Truly truly! I say to you! He who does not enter the courtyard of the sheep by the door, but enters by another way, is a thief and bandit. But he who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  John 9:38 –10:3 (DKV)

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If ever there were a single-minded religious fanatic it would be Jesus. That term, fanatic, is employed to berate and dismiss a person, but whoever you are you must NEVER dismiss Jesus; not THIS Jesus.

The Jesus of pop culture, Hollywood blockbusters, evangelical “love-fests” and the so-called Christian music industry: Jesus the product who swells egos, fattens wallets and leads people to hell – that one you should disregard; and the same with “Super Bowl Jesus” who “Gets Us”. He, too, can be overlooked because Jesus did not enter the world to “get us” but to save us.

This Jesus, as we learned in last week’s gospel, is only known and accessed in the church; in “the breaking of the bread.” This bread! As we also hear in today’s 1st reading where the earliest worshipers did what we are doing now.

This is the place; inside of these walls; not in the park or God forbid! the parking lot – where the gifts of his glorious liturgy are lavished upon all who enter.

All who enter here are beckoned to lie down in verdant pastures, alongside still waters. To drink deeply from the wells of salvation. From the “pure spiritual milk of the Word” in Holy Communion which is the body and blood of our resurrected Lord Jesus to whose name be glory unto the ages of ages.

No Jesus did not come into the world to “get us” but to save us. Not with silver or gold which perish! But by “bearing our sins in his body and the tree.” (1 Peter 2:24).

And so if we come here hoping for New Life we must empty ourselves of ourselves; and give ourselves altogether over to God. We must check our pride, our ideologies and our self-righteousness at the door because Jesus says:

“I have come into the world for judgment so that those who are “woke” might be made blind, and the blind may be given sight.”

Yes, the Good Shepherd did not come to “get us” but to save us. To lead us out of the confines of sin, death and Satan.

But lest we get bamboozled by the term “Jesus saves us,” let us empty our minds the American Evangelical religious enterprises of the last 150 years, which still persists under the form of “altar calls,” “giving your life to Jesus,” “getting saved,” and so on.

Because there is something subtle going on in today’s gospel. It begins in chapter 7 but comes to a head in chapters 8:31 where Jesus goes ballistic!

Where Jesus excoriates “the Jews who believed in him.”

Think about that for a moment: that Jesus ‘goes off’ on the Jews who believed in him; and he concludes his diatribe by categorizing them – not as children of the heavenly Father – but children of the devil himself; and he was not engaging in hyperbole.

Nor embellishing.

Because in the curse of Genesis 3:15 the LORD God said to the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, and between your progeny and hers, which is the Good Shepherd we celebrate today. The very Gate by which the sheep enter the eternal habitations. Or as the 100th Psalm says:

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
       and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him;
       bless his name!

But why is Jesus so unyielding; so demanding, so fanatical? Why does he so “go off” like he does on “the Jews who believed in him?”

Answer: Because it is not enough to acknowledge Jesus; or to be dazzled by his miracles; or to feel warm and fuzzy about him.

Recently there was a man walking on Broadview Rd. in Cleveland wearing a large cardboard sign on his back (and a construction helmet) that says, “Trust Jesus!” He was not wrong in his sentiments, and Jesus says, “those who are not against us are with us.” But slogans, even that slogan, can not help us; anymore than the picture of a sizzling steak on a billboard can feed a hungry man.

No it was not enough to trust, but one had to commit himself to Jesus and his gospel and his church! But what does that mean? For the Jews in our gospel it meant to do what the blind man did in chapter nine. To be baptized into Christ, worship him, confess him before men – even at the cost of being excommunicated from the synagogue IN HIS DAY; or from the culture IN OUR DAY.

It means that we must flee youthful lusts. Take flight from the prevailing religion of our nation, which is, in a word, everything that is opposite of what Sacred Scripture teaches, promotes, promises and glorifies.

This is well summarized in John 12:42-43 where the Evangelist writes,
“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities BELIEVED IN HIM, but for fear of the Pharisees they did NOT CONFESS IT, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;

“for they loved the glory that comes from man,
      more than the glory that comes from God.”

Now to work our way back to where we began – if you desire to enter the Courtyard of the True Temple; the church of Jesus Christ, where there is safety from sin, death and Satan; where one obtains divine courage, confidence, wisdom, rest and the remission of sins – then you must enter by Jesus who is the Gate; who is the Good Shepherd; for only he can “restore your soul.” No other religion or program or plan can do that. But Jesus can! Jesus does! Jesus will!

In him we are truly glorious. If not in the mirror. If not before the critics. If not in the sight of those who wish to cut you down to size – we most surely are dazzling in the judgment of the only One who counts. Jesus the Good Shepherd of the Sheep.