DEVOTIONAL: Do we know His voice when we hear the Lord speak?
By the Rev. E. Ragland Coxe, Rector,
Saint Matthew’s Church, Darlington
As we continue to celebrate the risen Lord following this Easter Season, we move from the discovery of an empty tomb toward an abundant life when we hear the voice of the good shepherd. Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) This is one of seven “I am” statements made by Jesus in John’s Gospel: I am the bread of life. (6:35, 48, 51) I am the light of the world. (8:12; 9:5) I am the door of the sheep. (10:7,9) I am the good shepherd. (10:11, 14) I am the resurrection and the life. (11:25) I am the way, the truth, and the life. (14:6) I am the true vine. (15:1) When Moses encountered God in the burning bush (Exodus 3), The Lord said, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Moses, like most of the leaders called by God in the Bible, questioned and made excuses that sounded like: I’m not the person for the job. But God proves He is always faithful, particularly to those who respond in faith, even if it takes a while. Moses had lots of credentials to take on the leadership role because he knew Egypt and how the Pharaoh dictatorship worked, but he didn’t really know God until he knew His name. Their relationship grew from there. “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God goes on to clarify and qualify His name. “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’” The word LORD, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name YHWH. This explains why the Jews were horrified when Jesus qualified his identity: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) For a human to use God’s Holy name was considered blasphemy to the Jews, and yet Jesus kept on claiming a preposterous relationship with God! A 19th century Scottish Christian preacher, John Duncan, and later author C.S. Lewis popularized the argument that Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic or the Lord. When a person who claims to be God must belong to one of three categories: First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic. Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie. Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God. The argument can be formulated as follows: If Jesus were not Lord, he would be a liar or a lunatic. Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic. Therefore, Jesus is Lord. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ is the great shepherd of the sheep, and in order to follow him, we must hear his voice to the point we know him in our heart. When we learned a poem in elementary school, we would have said, “I learned it by heart.” When we hear a loved one on the phone, we know their voice because they are in our heart. We must hear the voice of God above the voices of the bad shepherds (leaders who deceive others for self-gain, and even worse, like wolves in sheep’s clothing who seek to kill and destroy)! The Word of God is his voice. His tone is echoed by his love for the Father, and the Holy Spirit testifies to Jesus as the perfect imprint of God in human form. The God of our fathers will continue to gather His sheep until the day Christ returns. Do we hear our name being called? Do we know His voice when we hear the Lord speak? Our earthly lifetime is limited, and we must continue our journey wherever the good shepherd leads us. This is why Jesus established his Church so that God’s voice would be heard and obeyed throughout the world. God promises us eternal union with Him where all things are of a new creation. It will be the beginning of a new and resurrected life. And our future resurrection story can start now. There are no better offers beyond this life except the one true offer through Jesus Christ. His grace is so personal and so wonderful a free gift, how could we not respond in faith? Death still grieves our hearts, but it does not capture our souls. The Resurrection ensures it. “So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16b)