Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:14-16
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me —  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep”.

 Jesus and trouble

In his letter James asks the question, “Are there any among you who are in trouble?” (5:13).
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
Job said, “How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1 NLT).
The psalmist said, “I am in trouble” (Ps 69:17).

The Bible reflects what most of are experiencing. Trouble is a constant companion with us on our journey through life. It doesn’t matter what age we are – from the very young to the most frail – trouble is never far away.

It affects us physically, emotionally, spiritually.
It consumes us to the point where we find it difficult to cope with every day because we feel so overwhelmed, so consumed, so disoriented and lost. The trouble we are in becomes the focus of our lives.  Our thoughts and decisions and actions are affected because everything in us is in turmoil. The psalmist says, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught” (Ps 55:2).

You know how things happen. Just when things seem to be going well in your life and everything is going smoothly suddenly things take a turn for the worse and one thing after another goes haywire.

Maybe you have finally got on top of everything financially and then comes an unexpectedly high bill say for car repairs, and no sooner are you back on the road than you are caught in a moment of absent mindedness speeding through a school zone and you cop a huge speeding fine. Not only do you feel bad because of the financial loss but you feel bad because what might have happened in that school zone because of your lack of concentration. 

Maybe trouble comes into a relationship that has been really beautiful, but you say something or do something that suddenly changes everything.  What was once wonderful and enjoyable now has become a source of pain and upset.  Trouble has entered into the friendship you had with that person and your boyfriend or girlfriend, you partner, your spouse, your friend is no longer talking to you and your day has been totally wrecked. You’ve upset them and your mind can’t rest, and you keep on going over the trouble between you, maybe trying to justify what you did or said; maybe trying to figure a way to make things right again.

We’ve all been there.  Maybe we feel like Job who said,  If my troubles and griefs were weighed on scales, they would weigh more than the sands of the sea” (Job 6:1) or the Psalmist who said, “Trouble is near and there is no-one to help me” (Ps 22:11).

We start to think “If only I could do something to change things”. 
“If only the person with whom I’m having trouble would change”. 
“If only I could win Gold Lotto to solve my financial problems”.  
So we start to look for our own solutions to what is causing us so many headaches.

Football coach Lou Holtz said, “Things have a way of working themselves out if we just remain positive.”

In other words, trouble will sort itself out with the power of positive thinking, by slapping on a happy face, looking for the silver lining in every dark cloud, indulging in retail therapy, letting the light inside of you shine and chase away the darkness of your troubles.

A common piece of advice goes like this, “Be courageous, stay the course, don’t give up even when you’re almost ready to give up on life, don’t let go until you win”.

Motivational speakers have loads of advice like this, so we dig down, try to sort out our own problems and yes, this might work for a while. 

Our troubles seem to settle down but really all it takes is that one circumstance, that one comment, that one phone call, that one thing in our lives which upsets our balance, and we are back where we were before. Our boat has been rocked again and maybe this time we will be completely tipped out. When trouble comes it doesn’t matter how much we have tried to think positively or dug down deep to work things out, to be courageous, the truth is, as Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

We know how real all this is because trouble is part of our lives.  Today’s readings help us when it comes to trouble. They tell us about God’s way of dealing with trouble in our lives.  Jesus says to us who face trouble in every form, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”.

We are still in the Easter season and we are God’s Easter people.  Here the great “I AM” of the Old Testament is speaking to us just as he spoke to the people of old when they were confronted with trouble in the wilderness or in captivity. We know the great “I AM” was introduced to us in the New Testament as Jesus who is “Immanuel”, “God with us”. He is God’s presence, God’s love, God’s strength on our life’s journey right now in 2021. 

He is God’s “I AM” in us, with us and for us.  He says to us, “I am your good shepherd, I know you, my sheep”. 

Jesus knows us, he knows us intimately, he knows what is going on inside of us, he knows the turmoil that fills our minds and hearts and how twisted up we get when trouble comes. He knows and he feels for us because he knows that as much as we try to wriggle out of our trouble, it’s like quicksand, it holds onto us and drags us down further and won’t let us go.

So, he comes to us today and says, “I am your good shepherd,  I know you and I will walk with you through the darkest valleys. 
I am all that you need to live a joy-filled, confident life in the troubles and evil of this world. 
I am your real, very present, living Lord, and I am yours forever. 
I am closer to you than you think, even when you think I’m not listening, or believe I’m a long way distant, I am with you”.

The psalmist put it this way, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps 23:4). In the darkest, most terrible, most terrifying times when we think we are alone, when all hope has left us, when there is nothing left to hold on to, there is still one who holds on to us and gives us his strength and assurance and love which in turns gives us hope and peace. That’s Jesus, our good shepherd.

When Jesus first spoke these words, it wasn’t long before he entered Jerusalem for the last time. He knew people were plotting against him. He said to his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble”.  He knew his disciples would soon desert him. He knew that they would be troubled by their own actions.  He knew that his suffering and cruel death would trouble them and challenge them spiritually.  But he assures them that in him they have peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

In trouble and dark valleys, we can try to work out own ways of finding peace like looking for a silver lining in the dark clouds or drive away dark thoughts with positive thinking – that’s the way of the world. 

Jesus offers something very different.  He offers himself.  “I am the good shepherd. I know you so well.  In fact, as close as I am to my Father, and  my Father and I are so close we can hardly be separated – that’s how close I am to you and how well I know what is happening to you and what’s in your heart and mind.  That might seem a bit scary to some people but to those who love me, that’s mighty comforting.  Those who know me can say, ‘Come what may I have the “Great I AM” on my side’ the one who says ‘I am your good shepherd’.”  Jesus is talking about a relationship – a loving, caring, protecting relationship.

As much as we might baulk at the idea of being regarded as needy sheep always in danger of falling prey to any kind of danger that happens to come our way, the truth is, in this world we are vulnerable.  We know from experience that even as Christians we don’t escape trouble.  Pain and suffering are still much of our life in this world.  As Jesus said to his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Whatever troubles you, always remember that the new life that has been born in you through Jesus, the love that Jesus has for you as demonstrated to you on the cross and in the water of baptism, the relationship that he renews in you through his resurrected body and blood in Holy Communion, none of this will be taken away from you by the trouble you endure.

The apostle Paul certainly knew trouble and experienced the Easter joy of knowing Jesus as his constant helper and strength. He wrote,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

When you want to hide away or curl up in a ball or even wish to die like some of the psalmists, remember nothing can remove the presence of your living Lord from you.  He is your good shepherd.  He knows you and what is happening to you.

You see that’s why Good Shepherd Sunday is in the Easter season. This kind of relationship with Jesus and the Father is only possible because Jesus has suffered for us and is now alive.  He has restored and renewed the relationship between God and us. When James asks, “Are any of you in trouble?” he confidently answers, “Then pray” because Jesus has made it possible for us to take any of our troubles to God in prayer. His resurrection guarantees that our heavenly Father will hear and answer our prayers.

If you are afraid, if you are worried, if you are anxious about what tomorrow may bring calm yourself in the knowledge that your good shepherd knows, he invites you to ask your Father to calm your heart, to place the matter in his hands and be filled with his peace, a peace which keeps your heart safe. 

No-one knows what tomorrow may bring.  We can be certain that somewhere along the way there will be trouble.  But also be certain the resurrected Jesus has made a huge difference in the way we view those troubles.  He gives us confidence and joy in the face of heartache and sorrow.  We have a Good Shepherd, who knows us so well and who is our constant companion through every dark valley.


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
25th April 2021

More Sermons

Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
All material written by Vince Gerhardy is copyright, but permission is freely given for limited use.
Please e-mail for permission, or with questions or comments about this web site.