Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)
Scriptural Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalms 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6; 1 Peter 2:20b-25
My dear encountered couples:
“I truly assure you,” Jesus said, “whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a marauder.”
“Sheepfold.” Do you know what that is? Of course, you do. You might not be sure you know, but I’m sure I know. I looked it up. A “sheepfold” is a fenced-in enclosure for sheep. This fenced-in enclosure for sheep that Jesus is talking about has only one gate. The sheep go in and out through that gate or they don’t go in and out at all. We find Jesus telling us that he is not only the shepherd who opens the gate for the sheep to go in and out – He is the very gate itself.
Heaven is the enclosure, we are the sheep, Jesus Christ opens the gate of heaven for us to go in. That is easy for us to under-stand. But how about the part where he calls himself the gate? “My solemn word is this:” Jesus said. “I am the sheepgate. All who came before me were thieves and marauders whom the sheep did not heed. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe. He will go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it to the full.”
It is very important that we understand this. It is not only important – our lives in eternity depend on our understanding of this. And not only on understanding it, but hanging our hat on it – our shoes as well. We must accept, subscribe, and embrace with all our hearts and souls Jesus Christ as the one and only source of our salvation. Jesus and none other can give us what we want, what we need, what we must have to be complete and satisfied. There is no other source or person who can take his place.
Yes, it is very important, it is essentially essential to our well-being that we listen to what Jesus is saying and etch it upon our minds and in our memories like in marble. We must never ever forget it!
There is no other person, there is no other thing, there is no other way to happiness than through Jesus Christ. He is the gate through whom and through which every single person ever created must go in order to find paradise. Let anybody else take his place, make anything else our savior or our god and we will be more than a little disappointed. Jesus Christ is the only way out of our problems, our situations, our predicaments. Every other way is a dead end. He is the only one who can forever and always take away our ills and pains.
Maybe you think I am belaboring the point a bit much, that I am overdoing my emphasis on the place Jesus plays in our lives. I am not! I find it a point that must be hammered into all of us repeatedly until it hopefully, finally takes hold. Even I forget sometimes that Jesus is our only source of complete satisfaction. We all are tempted by the world to think there are other solutions to our problems. And we waste a lot of time indulging in those other solutions. Shall I mention a few?
There are always the obvious: Drink and drugs. Many turn to those as a solution to their unhappiness. How about diet? Yes, I include diet. How many Americans think dieting will solve their problems?
That dieting along with regular exercise will make them more desirable physically? And if they are desirable physically they expect to more desirable socially, not to mention sexually. Being a beauty or a hunk opens the world for us to live a life of fulfillment, says the world, life becomes complete and replete, we become alive and satisfied. Yeah, sure! Ask those who have been there how happy and satisfied with life they are. Drink, drugs, sexual promiscuity are merely temporary escapes from an unhappy life. Diet and exercise are good for health, but not the panacea or cure-all for our happiness problem. The only real answer is Jesus Christ.
We have been hearing candidates for the presidency and other offices promising us nothing but the best if we elect them. I am among the first to admit our country is in dire need of a savior. But let’s not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking any human being will solve all the problems this country has, that life in these United States will ever become heaven on earth. Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone can save us and our country. Adhering to him and his ways are our only real hope. How many elections and administrations have you already lived through that made the same basic promises of a happy and prosperous America? Has it gotten better? Jesus Christ and his values have been placed so far down the list of what is considered important that I think Jesus gets hoarse trying to get our attention.
Will our futures in this country improve or get worse? Will jobs multiply or decrease? Will we be better off financially, or worse? How about our health? Will scientists soon find a cure for AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the perennial flu bug? Maybe. But in the meantime, many of us will die from those things.
Politicians are not the gate into the sheepfold, nor are scientists, or fat-free foods, or Internet. There is only one gate to heaven, happiness, and complete satisfaction - Jesus Christ! How long will it take before the world finally discovers that? How many incorrect choices will you and I make until we become convinced of the only right one? Seeking solutions and happiness anywhere outside of Jesus Christ is again and again finding ourselves at the end of a dead-end street.
“My solemn word is this:” Jesus said. “I am the shipmate. All who came before me were thieves and marauders whom the sheep did not heed. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe. He will go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it to the full.”
Jesus must always be the one to whom we look for solutions. He might work through others to save us, but when we put those others in his place our troubles are only beginning. Jesus is the way, Jesus is the gate, Jesus Christ is our only real hope. May the Holy Spirit never let us forget that!