I Know Them...
“I Know Them...” (Mother’s Day 2022)
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Those who hear his voice follow him, they believe him, they trust him; and he gives them eternal life. Not because of anything we’ve done, or anything we deserve, mind you... but ONLY because of what Christ has done.
Christ has taken our sins upon himself! He bore our cross, and died our death - and arose to life. And, in doing so, Jesus defeated both sin and the grave - and He accomplished our salvation. It is finished! Finito, done! Christ earned it, completed it, and attained it. In fact, He actually accomplished it... he came to accomplish salvation for a particular people in order to give those particular people eternal life.
And those particular people, are those who listen to his voice. The Bible calls those who hear, and follow, the Elect.
There’s nothing any of us could ever do, to merit, or earn, what Christ has done for us.
However: our scripture today does not simply say “they know him” (as in the sheep know Jesus) - it says “I know them” (as in Jesus knows his sheep) - and there’s a significant theological truth in the simplicity of that statement - that sometimes gets overlooked.
Hear it again: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Of course, we expect Jesus to say that the sheep follow him because they know him! After all that’s what most of us say and teach and believe, as of utmost importance... right?!
We say things like: If we only knew Jesus better... if I could only know his will... if we only worked harder at being good, and obeying the commandments, and doing good works.
ALL of which are good things, for heaven’s sake! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know Jesus better! And how in the world could any of us go wrong in working for the kingdom... and being obedient... and serving Christ by serving others? We should be doing all of these things (and MORE) as a reflection of our love for Christ, and as a symptom of following Jesus!
The problem is we too often get the cart before the horse, and we find ourselves frustrated in our efforts. We think: if we... if I... only did this or that, or knew this or that, then I could be a real Christian. A true follower of Christ.
But instead Jesus says that his sheep follow him because he knows them!
And that changes everything! What a liberating thought! Can you sense how freeing that is!? To know that Christ knows me! “I know them, and they follow me” is an echo of Jesus’ words to his disciples (John 15:16), “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit...”
And it leads us to a simple, yet profound truth, that’s at the very heart of the Gospel. It’s the very truth we sing about with our children every week, during our Children’s Time. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
The well known Theologian Karl Barth, was at Rockefeller Chapel (really a Gothic cathedral!) on the campus of the University of Chicago during his lecture tour of the U.S. in 1962. After his lecture, during the Q & A time, a student asked Barth if he could summarize his whole life’s work in theology in a sentence. Barth allegedly said something like, “Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”
Jesus loves us! You, me! Christ draws us to himself with his irresistible grace and love and mercy. He calls to us, beckoning us to follow. And those who listen are his sheep. He knows his sheep. And they follow him.
It’s the formula of redemption!
We long to be known - to be understood at the deepest levels. And to have it here... in Scripture... in “black & white” before us, that, Jesus “knows us” - he knows our past and our future, our joys and our fears, our victories and our failures. He’s intimately acquainted with all our ways! Yet, he still loves us, and calls us, and chooses us.
Profound intimacy equates to profound love.
John’s Gospel makes it clear that Jesus sees to the very depth of our hearts; and he loves us anyway! It’s no wonder, his sheep perceive that love, and follow him.
Christ’s love is kinda like a mother’s love. Today being Mother’s Day, that seems an appropriate analogy.
Have you ever been in a room full of kids; 3,4,5 year olds? When 12 of them are calling out “mama” - the mother always knows her own. She hears her child, because she knows her child better than anyone else.
That’s how Jesus knows us. He hears us. He loves us. And he has accomplished our salvation. Our eternal reward is secure. Our hope, our assurance of his eternal presence, is safe in his hands... Amen.