At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30 NRSV)
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. It is the 4th Sunday of Easter and we read (those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary) Psalm 23 and a Gospel lesson from John 10 every year.
I was struck this week with the opening verse for Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
As I read this I wondered if I truly was a sheep of Jesus’ fold. Because I will be the first to admit I Want! I wrote a post on it a few days ago, which you can see here. I want health, wealth happiness, you name it I probably want it. We all want things, if we are honest with ourselves. And if we are really honest deep down in those dark places of our lives we want to know that our faith will pay off in the end. That all of the promises that God has made are really and we can truly count on Him to get us through. We want to know this.
Which brings us to our gospel lesson for the day. You see Jesus’ people wanted to know plainly if He was the Messiah, the Christ, or not. They were questioning Him, in the Portico of Solomon, the place a king would give judgments of justice. They wanted to know. The idiom used here in John in the original Greek today means, “How long will you continue to annoy us?” They were questioning Jesus and I bet He was getting tired of it.
Have you ever been asked questions by someone and been annoyed by it? We all ask questions, and it is good to question. We have setup in our congregations and worship places and communities of worship that faith and doubt or questions do not live well together. We want to think a person of faith would not doubt and that questions are bad. But the people in today’s reading who are questioning Jesus are asking Him to verify His power, that He is actually God. And don’t we all want verifiable proof of this? We all want to know the promises are real!
I’ll be the first to tell you that doubt if not the opposite of faith! I have had many doubts and have gone to many dark places in the past years as I wait on God. I have no fear that God is with me and walks and prepares a place for me. He is always with me and will always be with me, but I doubt my abilities as a husband, as a father, as a preacher, as a ministry worker. I doubt I have the abilities to make it! I have been to dark places and wondered how I would get back out. We need to admit that doubt is there. As people of faith it is OK for us to doubt. It is OK for us to question, because God is big enough to take our doubt and our questions. We need to know that others among us, who sit next to us in the pew, on the bus or train, in the next cubical, across the restaurant are hurting and wondering how they are going to make, and if God really loves them. It is OK to question if God is with you. Doubt does not make your faith weaker, if you always fall back on your faith, it will make it stronger. Your questions will push you towards God and deepening of that relationship.
I have had doubts and I will always have doubts until He comes again, but I will never fear that He has left me. He always walks with me.
Remember that you shall not want, because He will provide everything that you need. And He is always with you.
The last line of Psalm 23 tells us this:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Goodness and mercy will follow you… Sounds like a little puppy following on your heals. But is should be more like “surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life…” We think that the only think that pursues us is darkness, pain, evil, but here the psalmist tell us that God pursues you. He is chasing after you where ever you go. He loves you too much to let a little doubt or question get in the way.
Live in the question and the doubt and allow God to pursue you and fill you with His peace. It will not make everything perfect, but it will get rid of fear!