Preach to the Choir

I’ve discovered that preaching to the choir is one of the best ways to free yourself from stress. I know preaching to the choir has a negative connotation because it means you are trying to convince the converted, thus wasting your time and energy.

However, contrary to the conventional wisdom, Jesus wants us to preach only to the choir when he says, “feed my sheep.” That means he has already chosen an audience for you to serve. He wants you to focus on the sheep, not the goats or pigs.

The opposite of preaching to the choir is “throwing pearls to the pigs.” Jesus said if you throw pearls to the pigs, they do not only unappreciative of your pearls but also attack you for giving them. That would be a formula for stress. How many of us try to feed the pigs and not the sheep?

In his book “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us,” Seth Godin presents the idea that each of us has a tribe waiting for us to lead. A tribe is like a flock connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. Our life is best used and meaningful when we find our tribe and serve them.

Godin asserts that your tribe is waiting for you to lead them. The problem is, how do you identify and find your tribe so that you don’t waste your lives on unfruitful enterprises? Don’t waste your life whistling in the wind. God has a target market for you to distribute your pearls.

I know, out of kindness, we don’t want to leave anyone out. We want to feed every animal, not just the sheep. We want to force-feed the pigs with pearls and complain about fruitlessness. Elbert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Let’s be wise.

The good news is that Jesus has taught us how to find the flock so that we can be fruitful by preaching to the choir and not wasting our lives throwing pearls to the pigs. So, let’s explore from today’s scripture lesson how to identify the flock we are called to serve. Let’s begin!

[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, and the scripture lesson is from the Gospel according to John 10:22-30. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 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.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30).

[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]

The context of this passage will help us understand the situation better. It says,

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. (John 10:22-23).

The festival of the Dedication is known as Hanukkah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights. If you have Jewish friends, you know they celebrate Hanukkah in December, around the time we celebrate Christmas. You won’t find any information about Hanukkah in the Old Testament Bible because it became a festival only about a hundred years before Christ.

Here’s a brief history to understand the emotional intensity of this time. During the 2nd century BCE, Seleucid Empire occupied Judea and oppressed the Jewish religion. They occupied Jerusalem and made the temple a place for cult sacrifices. They even sacrificed pigs in the temple, which was sacrilege of the holy place and a serious insult to the Jews.

That triggers a strong rebellion against the occupation by a group of Jewish warriors known as Maccabeans. It’s called the Maccabean Revolts. They successfully retook the temple and rededicated it as a holy place. That’s why Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Dedication.

During Jesus’ time, Judia was again occupied by a foreign power. Can you imagine what the Jews are thinking during this festival? What would you think the Roman government would be doing during this time? Hanukkah made the Jews remember their successful rebellion. Everyone was retelling the Maccabean Revolt.

The Roman government might pay serious attention to this festival, and to prevent rebellion, they must have Roman soldiers among the crowd. Some Roman spies in disguise may mingle among the people, especially in the temple, because this was the day the temple was retaken from foreign occupation.

The verse says that “Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.” The portico of Solomon or Solomon’s Porch is near the east entrance of the temple, which was a crowded place where people gathered for teaching and learning. So many Roman soldiers and secret service agents might also be roaming around to detect troublemakers. The next verse says,

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.” (John 10:24).

In John’s Gospel, the term “Jews” only means the religious authority, particularly the Pharisees and the Priests. It doesn’t mean the Jews as an ethnicity. Jesus and his disciples were Jews. So, it refers to only the religious leaders who despised Jesus and wanted to incriminate him for plotting an insurrection.

Knowing the context, you realize what “tell us plainly” means. It was a trap question to get Jesus into trouble. The “Messiah” was someone to lead the Jews to overthrow the foreign occupation during that time. Like the Maccabean Revolt, they believed the Messiah would lead the Jewish warriors to fight against the Romans.

Remember I said the Roman soldiers and spies are among the crowds to prevent that from happening. The government officers are on alert. If Jesus answered their question “plainly,” by saying, “Yes, I am the Messiah,” what do you think would happen.

You can imagine those religious leaders would shout out, “Arrest him! He is leading the rebellion against Ceasar.” Jesus would be immediately arrested and may be executed. It was not yet time for Jesus to reveal his Messiahship. It is only chapter 10 of John, the beginning of his ministry.

The disciples were not yet fully trained to continue the ministry if he died. Few people understood that the Messiah came for spiritual salvation, not physical liberation. He came to give eternal life, not for temporal life. Jesus’ did not fall into their trap question. The next verse says,

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me.” (John 10:25).

They asked Jesus to tell them plainly, but Jesus asked them to look at the evidence. Actions speak louder than words. Jesus wants them to see that the Messiah is doing spiritual works, not political works. The mind was preoccupied with politics, and they missed God’s presence among them. He then said,

“but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.” (John 10:26).

Jesus knew he was throwing pearls to the pigs. They wouldn’t believe it no matter what he said because they were not his sheep. This verse should keep us humble. If God cannot convince the pigs to become sheep, why would you do that?

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was visiting his hometown, and people refused to believe in him because he was just a hometown boy. The Bible says,

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6).

If God cannot do a deed of power over the unbelief, don’t we think we should accept the reality when we encounter the same situation?

How many of you try to sell your product to someone who does not appreciate it? It’s a waste of time convincing the pigs to buy the pearls. Later, these religious leaders tried to stone him for saying that he and the Father are one.

When they could not arrest him politically, they tried to stone him religiously. It’s just like he said, being attacked by the pigs. Jesus later sneaked out from this angry crowd and went on to preach to the choir. The Bible” says,

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. And many believed in him there. (John  10:40, 42).

We must learn that Jesus doesn’t waste time with the pigs. Otherwise, the sheep get cheated. You fail to feed the sheep when you waste your time throwing pearls at the pigs. We discussed last week that the risen Lord had given us the Great Commission to feed his sheep. Who would feed the sheep if you spend your time fighting the pigs?

Now, let’s talk about how to identify the sheep. Jesus said,

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27).

Do sheep really listen to the shepherd’s voice? There are a few videos on Youtube that you can find that show sheep listening only to the voice of their shepherd. It’s fascinating. They ignore the voices of the strangers, but when the shepherd calls them, they run to him.

Jesus is saying, to tend the sheep is effortless. You don’t have to risk your life throwing the pearls to the pigs. All you have to do is call them, and they will come. Here is the tricky part. How do they know our voice since they are Jesus’ sheep, not ours? The only way they will listen is that we make Jesus’ voice. What does Jesus’ voice sound like? He said,

“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.” (John 10:28-29).

Jesus’ voice is the voice of eternal certainty. We live in a world of uncertainty, especially after these years of the pandemic. Now, we all feel as if we stand on the ground of shifting sands. Jesus said,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.” (Mat 7:24–26).

So, we are called to deliver the words of certainty in this uncertain world. Let’s pay attention to the phrase “acts on them”—hear his words and act on them. It will help us understand the rest of the passage. Jesus said,

“The Father and I are one.” (John 10: 30).

Then the religious leaders picked up the stones to stone Jesus. Jesus said, “Why do you stone me.” They said because he said he and God are one. Then,

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? (Jn 10:34).

Jesus quoted Psalm 82, which talks about those who act on God’s words are gods, but those who don’t act on God’s words are mortals. Jesus explained that if human beings can be called gods by acting on God’s words, why would he not be the Son of God when he did what only God could do?

Jesus used his actions to prove that he is the Son of God and that he and God are one. At the end of his ministry, Jesus prayed that we would become one with him and with the Father. How do we become one, then? By acting on his words! Now this will lead back to our voice as undershepherds.

If we, Jesus, and God are one, would our voice be the voice of the shepherd? So, to fulfill our Great Commission to feed the sheep, we must build our life on the rock of certainty by acting on God’s word. We cannot sell what we don’t have. By acting on his words, we also become one with him, and his sheep will listen to our voice and follow us.

There’s one more phrase we need to deal with in order to preach to the choir. Jesus said,

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27).

Not only do the sheep know Jesus’ voice, Jesus knows his sheep. That means we must also know his sheep in order to feed them. Jesus warned us to beware of the wolves in sheep clothes. He expects us to be innocent like children but not naiive—pure like a dove but wise like the snake. Jesus said,

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7:15–16a).

God’s sheep have the Holy Spirit in them. So you can see the fruit of the Spirit from them—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If they already have the fruit of the Spirit, then why do we have to feed them? Isn’t it preaching to the choir?

We feed them to bear more fruit and much fruit. Jesus described these stages in John 15. Don’t worry if the pigs are left out. That’s God’s job. Our job is to feed the sheep and preach to the choir until they bear much fruit.

So, let’s focus our energy only on what we are called to do and nothing else. As Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” when we feed the sheep!

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.

Amen!

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