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Jesus’ Mission Statement

The sermon below was preached on May 11, 2014, by Dr. Bill Nieporte, at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, VA.  You can watch the video and/or read the manuscript below.

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Jesus’ Mission Statement – May 11, 2014, at Patterson Ave. Baptist

 

 

You can read the text here:  John 10:1-10

We have in today’s Gospel lesson Jesus’ declaration of His mission – his statement about the form, focus, and purpose of His life.  Everything else we could know about Jesus is reflected in his personal mission statement, where he says:  “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!” Look at every sermon Jesus ever preached

Look at every lesson Jesus ever taught

Look at every deed Jesus ever did

Look at every miracle Jesus ever perform

Look even at to cross and the empty tomb

Look at everything there is to see about the life and ministry of Jesus, and you will discover that his mission was to give all humanity the gift of “abundant life.”

Part of what that means is presented in today’s Gospel lesson.

Jesus says, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep; the gate keeper opens the gate for him and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Jesus teaches that He is that Good  Shepherd.  His is the voice his sheep recognize.  Through Jesus, human kind can experience the abundant life’s blessing of knowing that we belong – that we are liked, loved, accepted, included, and adopted.  We have a place in the fellowship of God.

In the story that immediately precedes today’s Gospel lesson, we see how different Jesus mission was when compared to the religious legalists.

Legalism will never lead to a sense of belonging.

Legalism will…

… never allow you to feel as  though God likes you.

… never permit you to feel like you are loved.

… tell you that you are unacceptable.

… inform you that you are to insufficient to be included.

…inform you that you don’t have a place in God’s fellowship.

Legalism will never lead you to the blessings of “abundant life.”

Chapter 9 of John tells us about a day when Jesus healed a man who was born blind, and how that healing blessing got that man in all sorts of hot water with the legalists.

Jesus and his disciples were traveling down a dusty Palestinian road when they happened upon a man who’d been blind since birth.  In a society that valued a person’s worth based primarily on his productivity at manual labor, being born blind was a terrible blight.  The common perception was that such a person was cursed by God.  Either he or his parents had committed some great sin before His birth.  In either case, the superstition of the culture assumed God was angry and had cursed the man with blindness.

Think about it!  From the very first day of his life this man is forced to live with the stigma of being cursed by God – hardly what we might call the start of an “abundant life.”

Imagine how his parents felt.  They loved their son, but his blindness was something of an embarrassment to them.  He was born blind – obviously cursed because of some sin.  Was it their sin?  Every time they had looked at him they remembered every little indiscretion.  They felt responsible, guilty, and somewhat ashamed.  The home is supposed to be a place where a child can find safety, security and acceptance.  That wasn’t the case in this man’s experience!

This man knew little about belonging, nothing of acceptance, and what love he experienced was given to him more out of guilt than from joy.  He was stigmatized by this blindness.  He spent his days on the road begging for spare change from those who passed by.

The disgraced followed this man throughout his life, into adulthood, and right up to the moment he met Jesus.  As Jesus approached, one of the disciples asked: “Teacher, who sinned to cause this man to be born blind?  Was it his sin or the sin of his parents?”

Jesus response was something this man had never heard from anyone associated with God.   For the first time in a long time – perhaps for the first time in his life – this man heard a message of hope.

“It was neither this man nor his parents who caused this blindness,” said Jesus.

So why was this man blind?  Jesus continued, “This happened so that God’s work can be displayed in His life.  This has happened so that everyone will see that I am the light of the world.”

Then Jesus spit on the ground, formed a mud pack with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes, and said:  “Go was in the pool of

Well sure!  If somebody made a mud pie out of his spit and wiped it on my face, my first thought would be “take a bath.”

The blind man makes his way through town (remember he was blind).  When he finds the pool of Siloam he washes his face and first time in his life HE CAN SEE! Imagine his joy.  He’s never seen the sky, a tree, a bird, a dog, or even a pretty woman.  He dances through town, heading for home, taking everything in.  And as he travels he is the center of attention.

“Isn’t that the blind man?”

“No, it can’t be the blind man because he’s not blind.”

“It must be some kind of look alike.”

“Nope, I am pretty sure that is the man that was born blind.”

“If that’s him, he’s sure not blind anymore.”

Enter the Pharisees – the religious legalists of Jesus’ day.  We know the legalists.   Their biggest  source of frustration in life is the thought that somebody somewhere might be having a good time.

Here’s a man who was blessed by God – a man celebrating the gift of new found sight.  Here was a man rejoicing over what God has done in his life.  “We can’t have any of that,” the legalism chimed in.  So they sent their doctrinal deputies to check out the scene and gather all the facts.  Do you know what they discovered?  They discovered that the miracle took place on the Sabbath.  That’s the last day you want a miracle to take place.

They quizzed everyone about what had happened: the man, his neighbors, even his parents.

“How did this happen?”

“Is this some sort of trick?”

“This must be the work of the devil.”

Once again the man started to feel a sense of stigma – this time not because he was cursed, but because he was blessed.  Legalists are like that.  If things are a little rough around the edges of your life, they will say it’s because God is judging you because of your sinned.  If your life is filled with goodness, often they will suggest it is because you are in league with Satan.

There is just no way to please a legalist!

The buzz from being healed wore off quickly as the formerly blind man dealt with these legalists.  It got even worse when his parents were quizzed.  Mom and Dad admitted that he was their son, but beyond that they were not going to say anything.  They were so afraid of the Pharisees that they refused to stand by his side and celebrate his good fortune.  To top everything off, the guy was excommunicated.  That’s right – they kicked him right out of church!

So here we have a man born blind who was blessed by God.  His life is made more abundant by Jesus who gives the man his sight.  What is the response of the religious legalists?  Do they welcome him into their presence?  Do they accept him and celebrate his good fortune?  Do they show him any sort of love or even the smallest amount of respect?  No!  Just the opposite!  They insult him, curse him, and exclude him.

When Jesus finds out what had happened, he goes looking for the man.  He had a greater blessing to share.  He went to offer the man a sense of belonging.  He wanted the man to know that his Abba – the Father whom he came to represent – had a place for this man in his fellowship.  He wanted the man to know that he was liked, loved, accepted, included, adopted.

When Jesus found the man, he asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is He, sir?  Tell me so that I may believe in Him!”

Jesus said: “You’ve seen Him and you are speaking to Him right now.”

“I believe,” the man said, and he worshipped Jesus.

From this story about the blind man being healed, John’s Gospel moves immediately into Jesus’ teaching about his mission to bring “abundant life” to the world.

Jesus is saying that the ways of the legalists is not what is best for the people.  He differentiates himself from these wannabes.  They were not Good Shepherds.  They were “thieves” and “robbers.”

Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd.  With Jesus the sheep have a place of belonging.  With Jesus the sheep know the blessing of acceptance.  With Jesus they know they are liked and love.  Jesus knows all His sheep by name.  Jesus has come that His sheep might know belonging, acceptance, and love.  Jesus says that He is the doorway “abundant life.”

To understand what Jesus is saying, we need to travel back in time to ancient Palestine at the time of Jesus – back to a time of sheep and shepherds.

Following a day of grazing in green pastures and drinking from still waters, a shepherd would lead his sheep into large pens (called sheepfolds) for protection during the night.  The sheepfolds had large walls (about five feet high) that were cut out of rocks.  Along the top of each wall were briars or prickly branches (sort of like a first century barb wire).  The result was that the mountain lions and wolves couldn’t get inside the sheep pen.

The entrance to the sheep fold was very small – only about two feet wide.  That begs the question: What was the door made of?  Was it wood? Or stones? Or some sort of fabric?  Knowing the answer is the key to understanding Jesus’ illustration.

Here’s the answer:  The shepherd himself was the door. Each night, once each sheep was safely in the sheepfold, the shepherd himself would sleep there in the small opening of the rock wall. He would sleep there all night by the fire.  If any wild animals would come, say a mountain lion or a wolf, the shepherd would grab his rod and staff to fight off the predator.   So the doorway – the gate – was literally the shepherd himself.

Jesus is saying that this is how he functions for His followers.  He is saying:

“I am the door through which you find a sense of belonging in my Father’s house.”

“I am the entry way into the Father’s acceptance.”

“I am the gateway into the Father’s love.”

“I am the door to the banquet, the feast, the green pastures, to the greatest party ever.”

Why did Jesus come into this world?  What was his mission?  He came to be the doorway that keeps us safe from the predators so that we might revel in the joy of his gift of “abundant life.”

He said:  “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!”

If you don’t hear anything else this morning, please hear this: you belong in God’s presence.  Abba God likes, loves, accepts, includes, and adopts you into his family.  You have a place in the fellowship of God.

A few years ago, the folks that worked in our nursery put one of those card-board cut out pictures of Jesus on the wall.  You know what I mean – the blue eyed, brown hair picture of Jesus in the long rob. Places at Jesus feet were pictures of little lambs, and every child in the nursery had his or her picture and name connected to one of those little lambs.

One young child – I think it was Isabella – said to me:  “Hey, Pastor Bill,  that’s me.  That’s my picture!  I am one of Jesus little lambs.”

That picture allowed Isabella to know that belonged.

My friends, there is a picture of a little lamb today resting calmly at the feet of a smiling Jesus.  And guess what?  Your picture is attached to that little lamb.  You belong.  You are accepted.  You are loved!  That’s the “life abundant” message that God’s wants you to recognize today. That’s also our mission.  That’s why the church exists.

We are not suppose to make our way through our day the way a legalists does.  We don’t waste our time and energy giving people hoops to jump through and religious expectations to fulfill.   What we get to do is paint pictures (word pictures and deed pictures) that shares the message Jesus reveals about his Papa.  It’s a message that declares that that the whole world is a beneficiary of God’s gift of ABUNDANT LIFE.

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