“Here is a Torah teacher who says in his own name what the Torah says in God’s name… I am troubled not so much by the message, though I might take exception to this or that, as I am by the messenger.” — Jacob Neusnar, Jewish Rabbi and Scholar
“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). For those of us who have grown comfortable with the Trinity, this statement doesn’t make us blink. We move right along. But it is radical.
Ivy is studying world religions as part of social studies and this week asked me for help. She then listed the monotheistic religions. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. “Hang on, Hinduism isn’t monotheistic.” To which she explains that all gods we see are forms of the one god from a different angle. I agree, this is true of Hinduism. But I start to push back, so she responds, “Dad, it is kind of like the Trinity.” (Imagine exasperated teen voice, wondering — correctly — why she asked her dad for help!)
The Trinity requires mental gymnastics and if you aren’t willing to bend… well, this is why Jews and Muslims do not consider Christianity to be monotheistic! But the words of Jesus refuse to let us believe he was just a man, just a prophet. If you have been following the sermon series, Ezekiel 34 and Isaiah 40 both mention the shepherd who saves. But in both passages the shepherd is God. So when Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd.” He is not claiming I am a good teacher… He is claiming to be God.
Hence Neusnar’s quote. Many support parts of Jesus’s message. But to accept him, you must also accept this claim.
For those of us who have grown comfortable with this claim, it is good to revisit the implications. Jesus is saying that He is God. For Christians reading today, that means Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. We must read His truth back into those pages. We must allow God to supersede our understanding!
Too often we read passages as if this is God the Father (in the Old Testament), that is God the Son (in the New). But separation creates DIFFERENT gods, rather than ONE God! And there can only be One. So when we read the Old Testament, we must find Jesus. (Likewise we find Father and Spirit.)
And if we read in such a way that a passage does not make sense with the life of Jesus, then we need to read in a different way (along with saving act, Jesus was God demonstrating how to live in this world). So we apply to every passage the message of Jesus, “you have heard it said, but I tell“. Or, you have heard it said, but I show you. Following this way is how we may live God’s way!
I hope you will join us this Sunday at 10:30. We are in person with masks or streamed live to Facebook and Youtube. It is the final in our series on Shepherding and we will look at Jesus as Shepherd of Psalm 23.