Sermon: Beware The Voice of Strangers

Text: John 10:1-10
The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Listen to the Sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Imagine you’re a child walking through a crowded marketplace with your parents, and you see a man smiling and beckoning you over. “Come here, little one. I have something to show you,” he says. You take a step towards him, curious about what he might have. But as you get closer, you notice a dark look beneath the smiling face that makes you uneasy. The man starts walking towards you, holding the goodie in his hand. You are frozen, feeling a knot in your stomach as he approaches you. But just before he is within reach, you hear your name being called by a familiar voice. You feel a strong tug on your sleeve. You turn to see your parents looking at you with concern. “Do not talk to strangers.” You momentarily hesitate, looking back at the man who seems less friendly. You feel relieved that your parents were there to protect you, and you cling to their hands as they guide you through the bustling crowd.

As children, we learned early on to be cautious of strangers with ill intentions. Our parents warned us not to talk to or follow them, and we trusted their guidance to keep us safe. Just as children must be cautious of strangers, so must we be cautious of those who would spiritually lead us astray. That is why this morning in John 10, Jesus the Good Shepherd tells us to beware of the voice of strangers.

Listening to the Wrong Voices

Our Lord uses the picture of the sheep pen, a walled enclosure designed to protect the sheep during the night. The walls were high enough to keep the sheep in but wild animals out. A doorkeeper guarded the entrance during the night to ensure that no unwelcome guests could enter. Jesus contrasts himself with the false shepherds, the wolves in sheep’s clothing who come to steal the sheep. They are the ones who sneak, who climb over fences, and look for ways to trick the sheep. They do not own the sheep and do not really care about the sheep. They may speak the reassuring words of a shepherd. They may even come dressed as an authentic shepherd. But in the end, they only destroy the precious souls of people through their false teachings.

Jesus was referring to the false teachers of his day. Indeed, there are still many of these false teachers around today. Robbers and thieves still attempt to crawl over the fence and into the Church to do as much damage as possible (Jude 3–4). They still are trying to steal the sheep. And many listen to them. These thieves and robbers call you with their seductive voices, promising pleasing ideas and things that may sound good. They’re tempting you to listen to lies and false promises. They’re trying to lead you away from the Good Shepherd into the wilderness where they can devour you. Any thief or robber you hear doesn’t care about you. They don’t love you, and all they tell you are lies leading to eternal death because they want to destroy your faith in the Good Shepherd. False teachers and leaders seek to rob you of Jesus’s abundant life. Beware the voice of strangers, for they come only to steal you and then kill and destroy you.

Well, who are they? I could stand here and list some of them. But I’m not going to give them that sort of attention. Suffice it to say this: The narrow door leading to the sheep and the sheep into green pasture is nothing but the door of Jesus’ cross, His death, and resurrection. Whoever does not preach Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins and the justification of the sinner is not a shepherd. Anyone who would preach anything but Jesus Christ and Him crucified is a thief and a robber. Anyone who would have you live, act, or think contrary to God’s Word is trying to destroy you. Bear that in mind when you read or watch anything these days because everyone wants you.

Examine your own life: Whom do you follow? What voices do you recognize? Where do you go for shelter in the storm? Do your ideas conform to what God says in his Word? Or are they drawn from the world around you? So, what does Jesus say? He says, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Don’t listen to them! Don’t listen to the lies of the devil or this sinful world. Instead, run from them as fast as you can. 

The world hates this, and our old Adam doesn’t much care for it, either. And the devil, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, would love to get you away from Jesus’ death and resurrection and on to something more uplifting, more religious, more anything but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The world abhors the exclusivity of Jesus. Why only Him? The world cannot stand that the Almighty Creator has standards for our behavior. Yet, the greatest danger to your spiritual health will most likely come from someone claiming to be a Christian who distracts you from the gospel of Jesus. Listening to their voices will lead you down dangerous paths, ultimately leading to your spiritual ruin. If you are not careful in what voices you listen to, you will be led astray from the truth and into the hands of those who seek to destroy you. Beware the voice of strangers.

Recognizing the True Voice

We must recognize the importance of knowing and listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd. A shepherd knows each of his sheep by name, and the sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice. In the same way, we must know the voice of our Good Shepherd and listen to His guidance and direction in our lives. Do you know the voice of your Shepherd?

It is not the voice of a stranger or thief, but the voice of the Good Shepherd is the voice of the Crucified and Risen Jesus. He speaks to you here, in the Church. Look, right here! Here is the quiet water in the font that washes away all of your sins. Look over here! Here is the table prepared in the presence of your enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Over there, the cup overflows with His true blood shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. Look around, beloved, and see the goodness of your Shepherd watching over you, caring for you, offering Himself to you each week. Here in this Church, in our Good Shepherd’s sheep pen. The Good Shepherd gathers his Church where the voice of the Gospel is heard. Through the Word and Sacraments, His grace is bestowed upon us.

As Martin Luther noted in the Smalcald Articles, even a seven-year-old knows what the Church is: the gathering of the lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. Wherever people gather around and clinging to the Word of the Good Shepherd, you will find the Church. It is through the voice of the Good Shepherd that we are brought into the Church, and it is by His voice that we are sustained to eternal life.

“No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus said. Jesus describes Himself as the door of the sheep. Sheep pens didn’t have wooden doors because each pen had an opening. The shepherd laid down in the entrance so that the only way in and out was through him. The only way to the green pastures of eternal life is through Jesus. The narrow door is His death and resurrection. His perfect life, innocent suffering, and death won abundant life. Recognize His voice when He forgives your sins. Listen to him because He is the only way to the Father, and there is no other shepherd than Jesus the Good Shepherd. Pay attention to his voice because Good Shepherd comes to give you life. He gives it to you abundantly, but He gives it through His Word in His Church.

As we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we must also recognize the danger of listening to the voice of strangers. False teachers and leaders seek to lead us astray from the truth and the abundant life Jesus offers. They come only to steal, kill, destroy, and rob us of the blessings Jesus has in store for us. Without Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we are hopelessly lost and condemned. But the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. When you listen to the voice of Jesus, your Good Shepherd, you lack nothing. He is the door of the sheep, the way to the green pastures of eternal life. He forgives our sins, frees us from guilt, and gives us abundant grace, joy, and peace. Where the Shepherd goes, there also goes His sheep. Sheep and shepherd are always together. With Jesus as our Good Shepherd, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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