30 April 2017
Text: John 10:11-16 (Ezek 34:11-16, 1 Pet 2:21-25)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
One of our fathers in the faith, the Blessed Doctor Martin Luther, wrote this:
“Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do,” says Dr. Luther.
This, dear friends, is a beautiful expression of what our Lord says, “I know My own, and My own know Me.”
For our Lord Jesus Christ is “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” He is not just any shepherd, for He isn’t a “hired hand” who “cares nothing for the sheep.” No indeed! He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd because “He lays down His life for the sheep.”
Rather than allow the wolf to come and snatch us and scatter us, our Shepherd gathers us into one flock, and He protects us from the wolf. He will even suffer death upon the cross before He will allow you to become the wolf’s prey. Is there any other shepherd who stands up for you like this? Is there any other shepherd so good?
Jesus doesn’t just make promises and talk, rather He takes up His cross, and He speaks words of condemnation to the devil, and words of comfort to His flock. Our Shepherd’s goodness is in His love for us. For out of this boundless love and mercy for us, He is willing to suffer and bleed and die – all so that we might live.
That, dear brothers and sisters, is the hallmark of the Good Shepherd.
He is not just working to make a few bucks off of us, but rather He works in order to take the sins away from us. He doesn’t only save our lives by defeating the devil, but what’s more, He gives us life – eternal and joyful life – by being our one true Good Shepherd.
For what did the Lord speak through the prophet Ezekiel? “Behold, I, I Myself will search for My sheep and will seek them out…. I will seek out… I will rescue.” He goes on to say that He will bring them out, gather them, bring them in, and feed them.” The Lord God Himself does this. He doesn’t leave this to a hired hand. The Lord, the Son of God Himself, is this very Shepherd!
Dear friends, the Lord Jesus defied evil by rising from the dead. He confounded the devil and the grave by forgiving our sins and restoring us to the Father unto eternal life. And so whenever sin tempts you; whenever death haunts you; whenever the devil lies in wait for you, you have a Good Shepherd to defend you: to crack the head of the devil, to defeat death by dying, and by destroying the power of sin. You do not have a hireling. No, you have a Good Shepherd, one who wields the shepherd’s crook mightily, all for you, and He does not back down. And so you can trust Him! This, dear friends, is the very faith that Luther writes about.
Perhaps in your life you have had a pet that trusted you without wavering – even in frightening or difficult times. Your animals perceive that you love them and will take care of them. And if you are a good shepherd of sorts, your pet will show unwavering faith in you.
But in the case of Jesus, He is our truly Good Shepherd. He is perfect. His love is perfect. His care for us is perfect. And we are not brute beasts, but human beings created in the very image of God. We are valuable not because of what we can do, but rather because of the love God has for us. Christ died for us. That is how valuable we are to Him.
“He Himself,” declares St. Peter, “bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Because of His perfect love toward us, we can perfectly trust Him, for He is the Good Shepherd.
Dear friends, Dr. Luther is right. Because Jesus is our Good Shepherd, we can follow Him implicitly, even trusting our lives to Him a thousand times over without question.
This is the source of our faith: our Good Shepherd in whom we trust, in His promises, in His atonement of us, in His resurrection that points forward to our own resurrection as well.
Dear friends, Your Shepherd is calling you to follow Him. He is beckoning You to the rich pasture of the eternal feast. He is inviting you gather with the flock, to remain faithful, to trust Him, and to enjoy the blessings of eternal life.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd! Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.