The Shepherd Provides
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” These are the words of our Lord, recorded for us by the prophet Jeremiah. The Lord often used the words “shepherds and sheep” to describe his people and those given the responsibility to care for them.
These particular words from the book of Jeremiah tell us about God’s anger when those who are chosen to be shepherds do not care for God’s precious sheep. The Lord was angry with those who were supposed to care for his people and didn’t.
The Lord was angry with the kings and priests who were supposed to feed the people of Israel with God’s words of mercy and grace. They were supposed to protect the people from false prophets whose purpose was to steal the people away from the Lord.
This lack of care for the people started when the kings and priests began to rely on their own wisdom and understanding of what was best for the people of Israel. They themselves had gone astray from the Lord. Their next step was to lead the people astray as well.
In addition to God’s words of anger, Jeremiah records words of compassion and hope that God spoke. The Lord said, “I will gather the remnant of my flock … and I will bring them back to the fold.” “I will set shepherds over them who will take care of them.”
Do you hear the two little words? “I will” are the words that the Lord spoke. The Lord was forever looking at the people of Israel and having compassion on them. He was forever stepping in where the leaders and the people themselves had failed to follow his words.
He was forever stepping in when they had failed to trust in him and him alone. The Lord was forever rescuing the sheep and the shepherds when they went their own way and found themselves lost and condemned.
The Lord made a promise, a promise that was for all people. – “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he will reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
The Compassionate Shepherd
The Lord fulfilled that promise one night in the little town of Bethlehem. The Lord raised up a new king, a new shepherd for all people. An infant named Jesus was incarnate, made flesh and blood, by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
This Jesus was a descendent of King David who himself was once a shepherd. Jesus was true man. This Jesus was the Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds. He was true God. By becoming the Good Shepherd, he came to save all other shepherds and sheep.
Jesus came to fulfilled the Law of God for you. He came to take upon himself God’s anger by suffering and dying for you. As you shepherd he rose from the dead and now intercedes for you with his Father.
Jesus came to bring you his righteousness, to cover your sins with his perfection, to wash your robes in his blood so that they would be whiter than snow. As the Lord promised, he came to save his people from sin and death.
Dwelt Among Us
The Lord said, “I will,” and so the Son of God came and dwelt for a while with his people. He came to earth to do what was necessary to save you from your sin, to feed you with his word, to protect you from those who want to take you away from him.
Jesus began his work among the people who lived in Judea and Galilee. Today we hear how a large crowd came to Jesus. When Jesus saw them, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
These people were searching for the truth. They were hearing the Law, the Word of God that tells us how God wants us to live. They heard the Pharisees saying that unless people lived like them they would have no hope.
Their shepherds had lost their way and were no help to the sheep. There were no shepherds telling the people about God’s mercy and grace. The message of Jesus was a message of good news. With the good news, he was gathering people back into God’s kingdom.
Sheep who only hear the law of God have no hope. If you only hear how God wants you to live your life, you are lost and condemned. You are lost and condemned because you are not able to live as God wants you to live.
No one who is born of a man and a woman is able to fulfill the law of God perfectly. Therefore, no one is able to save themselves or others from God’s anger. Only Jesus could and did fulfill the law. He accomplished what we are unable to do.
Their Compassionate Shepherd
Jesus saw people who needed to be feed with the true Word of God. He saw people who needed to be protected from those who knew and taught only about a God of punishment. Jesus had compassion on them.
They needed to hear that he was their shepherd who would fulfill the law for them and who would sacrifice his life for them so that they would not be lost or condemned. Jesus came to tell them, “I will” do what you are unable to do.
Jesus had compassion on the crowd and began to teach them. I can imagine him telling them that their righteousness and even the righteousness of the Pharisees was not good enough to save them.
His message was that God has mercy on those who repent. Jesus had compassion on the crowd of people and taught them “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Jesus taught them to trust in the heavenly Father who had sent him to be the Righteous One, the One who would save them from their sins. He taught them that God’s mercy and grace, his forgiveness and salvation are gifts. God’s gifts are given because the Son of God came to be the Good Shepherd and the final sacrifice.
Watching The Clock
The disciples were watching the clock. It was getting late. They wanted Jesus to send the crowd away so that the crowd could go and buy themselves something to eat. Heaven forbid that Jesus and the disciples should be responsible for feeding such a large crowd.
The disciples didn’t want to take responsibility for the crowd. The crowd had been given enough. It is easy for us to say to those around us go and take care of your needs on your own. It is easy for us to say we have our own burdens why should I take on the burden of others.
The good and compassionate shepherd did not send the crowd away. Instead, he asked the disciples, “How many loaves do you have?” They brought him five loaves of bread and two fish. He blessed the food and then gave it to the disciples to distribute to the people.
Feed and Protected
The good and compassionate shepherd does not send us away. We are the disciples and the crowd. Jesus feeds and protects us with his Word. Jesus says to you, “I am your shepherd, I was born for you, I lived for you, I died for you, and I rose from the dead for you.”
Jesus says to you, “I forgive you all your sins, I washed them away in your baptism, I give you my body and blood, I promise to come for you on the Last Day.” Jesus says to you, “I will protect you from those who would take you away from me.”
Our good and compassionate shepherd is also with us when he calls us to serve one another. He has not gathered us together as Gloria Dei Lutheran Church without promising to be with us. We are not alone here, we are not called to do it by ourselves, We are the Body of Christ. Jesus said I am with you always even to the end of the age.
Our shepherd blesses the time and the talents and the money that we bring to this place. He blesses our efforts to teach and to show mercy and to live together as his sheep.
The Lord promised, ““I will” send a savior.” He kept that promise to you and he continues to keep that promise to you each day. Jesus tells you the truth, your sins are forgiven and you may dwell in peace.
Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria