I Know Them
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are still in the season of Easter. The world has moved on, but the church has not and the church will not. The church always remembers that Sunday morning when the tomb was open. Our savior Jesus Christ was not found among the dead but he is with the living.
In fact, from the early days of Christians gathering together, every Sunday is a remembering that Jesus defeated death. Therefore not a week goes by that we do not give thanks to the Lord for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Easter is forever.
Good Shepherd Sunday
On Good Friday we watched as Jesus became the Lamb of God who suffered and died to take away our sins. Because “all we like sheep have gone astray,” one of us had to be sacrificed for our sins. So for us, the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us until the day he was nailed to the cross.
On this Sunday each year we remember another name given to Jesus. The fourth Sunday of Easter, is called Good Shepherd Sunday. Each year on this Sunday we read a portion of John chapter 10. We hear Jesus proclaim, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
Yes, Jesus is both the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. He is the Lamb of God who became the sacrifice to take away the sins of the sheep. At the same time, he is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep.
The Lord is our shepherd who was beaten and crucified, whose blood was shed for his sheep. This shepherd was laid in a tomb. The world thought that death had ended his caring for the sheep.
The Good Shepherd laid down his life for sheep who stray away from the shepherd, sheep who go their own way, and sheep who sin against the Lord. In both Psalm twenty-three and John chapter 10 we hear about the shepherd who cares for his sheep. We hear about the Lord who cares for us. The Lord and the Shepherd are one in the same.
Not A Sentimental Shepherd
It is good that we take a Sunday to hear about the Good Shepherd. It is good that we make the connection between the shepherd in Psalm 23 and the one in John chapter 10. We do not yet live in a sentimental peace filled world of green pastures and still waters.
It seems like peace is being snatched away from us wherever we turn. It is not always so public either. In our personal lives, there are times when situations and events and people seem to be trying to take away our peace, our peace of mind, our peace of security, our peace of a loving relationship.
I cannot take away these assaults on your peace. I cannot stop terrorists or deadly accidents. I cannot through counseling take away your personal hardships or make things all better. I have only one thing to give you. I have the words of Jesus.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Looking For Another
The Jews who met Jesus in the temple refused to listen to his words. They were looking for a different kind of shepherd, a shepherd who would give them peace on their terms. They were looking for a shepherd who would give them an earthly kingdom and honor them for their shepherding.
They did not want a shepherd who would lay down his life for the forgiveness of their sins. That would mean that they would have to confess their sins. It would mean that they would have to admit that they needed forgiveness.
It was bad enough that they would not listen to Jesus or believe that he was the Good Shepherd who came to restore their souls. They did not want anyone else to hear the words of Jesus either.
In a final act of refusing to hear Jesus, they put him on trial and then cried for his crucifixion. They thought this would silence Jesus who claimed to be the Christ, who spoke about himself as being the Good Shepherd. They thought that in the tomb he would be buried and forgotten.
The victory, however, was not theirs. They did not win. The Good Shepherd gave himself to be the sacrifice for the sheep. Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
On the third day, he rose from the dead. From that day forward the words of Jesus have been proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubles, neither let them be afraid.”
Trying To Silence
Satan would like nothing better than for the events of this world to drown out the words of Jesus. He would like nothing better than for terrorist and explosions to snatch you away from the Good Shepherd. Your enemy wants fear and despair in your life to doubt the words of Jesus that he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Even more personal, Satan wants you to think that your sins can separate you from the Good Shepherd. He wants you to think that your sins are too great and too many for Jesus to forgive you.
Your sins are great and they are many. Even if you have not sinned very much by what you have done, there are always those things that you have left undone. There are those thoughts, words, and deeds that you have not yet learned are sinful.
Your sins are great and they are many, but God’s grace is greater and more bountiful. His peace is peace beyond all understanding. He is strong when we are weak. We live in a world of great tribulation, some caused by others and some cause by us. His blood cleanses us from all our unrighteousness.
These tribulations cannot, however, separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus the Good Shepherd. Jesus speaks to you through Saint Paul when he wrote, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them.” Jesus calls you to come here week after week because he knows you. He knows that you are troubled by the world, that you fear the unknown, and that you are not at peace with your own selves.
Jesus knows your weaknesses and your failures. Even as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he wants you to fear no evil for he is with you to comfort you. He knows you, he knows what you need and he provides it.
He speaks to you through your pastor. Jesus says to you he shed his blood for you so that your sins are forgiven and so that you could be free from guilt and the fear of punishment.
He prepares a table for you with his very body and blood that was sacrificed for you on Calvary’s cross. He suffered and died for you so that you have the promise of eternal life where there will be no more hunger or thirst and where ever tear will be wiped away.
You were baptized by him, his name was placed on you. A cross was placed on your forehead and your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. With that water and his word you were made children of the heavenly Father and no one is able to snatch you out of his hand.
There Will Be More
This week there will be events that tempt you to think that God is not in control. You will be sinned against and you will sin, but the voice of your shepherd says to you, “I am the Good Shepherd and I have laid down my life for you.” Come to him all you who labor and are heavy laden and he will give you rest.
The Good Shepherd has promised you that you will not perish, and that no one will snatch you out of his hand. Listen to his promise. It is given to you as a gift along with his Holy Spirit so that you can follow him. He will lead you in the paths of righteousness.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria