Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009 Easter III John 10:11-16 Good Shepherd Sunday

I AM the Shepherd, the Excellent one. The Shepherd, the Excellent one, His life He lays down on behalf of the sheep. The one, a hireling and not as a shepherd, that one is not the sheep's owner; he sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters; because a hireling, he is, and has no care in himself about the sheep. I AM The Shepherd, the Excellent one, and I know Mine, and Mine know Me. Just as the Father knows Me and I Myself know the Father, and My life I lay down on behalf of the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; those it is necessary for Me to bring in, and My voice they will hear and they will become one flock–one Shepherd. Through this the Father loves me because I Myself lay down My life, in order to take it up again.

*Good Shepherd* Sunday is once again upon us, and the message is the same each year at this time, "You are God's sheep, and Jesus is your Good Shepherd!". I suppose there are not too many variations on this particular theme. In fact, I was accused a while back of "recycling my sermons" most likely with reference to this day, since there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of *new* things to say about Jesus being our Good Shepherd. He's the Shepherd, we are His lambs. That's about it.

So let's take a different approach--from the perspective of those outside of the Good Shepherd's flock. The unbeliever will hear all of this talk about a faithful shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, and to them it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If the shepherd is killed by wolves, how does that help the flock? There would be no one left to protect them, and then the pack would have a field day, feasting on notin' but mutton! It sure doesn't seem like a dead Shepherd is of much use.

Now, there are some that would try to take away from Christ's words here, as though He were only saying that He would be willing to risk almost everything, even to the brink of death, to protect the sheep. Such a pretty-good shepherd would be acceptable to even an atheist, I suppose. But it is not good enough. Jesus is an excellent Shepherd, as good as good can get. He is a Shepherd Who does exactly what He says, laying down His life, unto death, for the sake of you, His sheep.

This is just how it had to be. For Jesus, your Almighty, Divine Shepherd does not choose to remain so very different from you, His sheep. He becomes one of you, sheep-like in every way, except that He never fell into the habit of wandering that sinful sheep like you know all too well. He came in your place, becoming the sacrificial lamb for you at the cross. There, He suffered all the punishments for your wanderings, and died your death there for you on the hill called Calvary. He laid down His life for you.

Jesus does this to show how His death for you is a paschal death, that eternal death would pass over you completely, and kill Him instead! For Jesus is not only your Good Shepherd, but He is also your passover lamb, Whose blood marks your doorposts as those who are redeemed by His sacrificial death in your stead. Just as the 1st-born were spared back in Egypt, so are you now spared by He Who is called the First-born of all creation, Christ Jesus, your Lord & Savior–your Good Shepherd!

For your most Excellent Shepherd had both the authority to lay down His life unto death, and also was able to take that life up once again on Easter Sunday. He did not allow death to have a victory, but took His life back up to continue being your Good Shepherd even now! He leads you beside the still waters of baptism, which for you become living water unto life everlasting! He brings you to the green pastures of His Own Supper table, feeding you with His body and blood for your forgiveness.

Not only does He Shepherd you in this way, but He provides under-shepherds to care for you in the individual flock of this congregation. These men are no hirelings who work only for a paycheck, but those employed by the Good Shepherd Himself. He is even given the title of those who shepherd the flock to good pasture–Pastors. They proclaim forgiveness with the Good Shepherd's Own voice, which you the flock recognize in the pulpit, and in the blessed sacrament of Holy Absolution.

So, what good is a dead Shepherd anyway? The ultimate good, since by Jesus' death, the Good Shepherd has destroyed death for you eternally. By His rising to life again Easter Sunday, this most Excellent Shepherd has restored everlasting life to you and He has brought immortality to light for you as well. By His laying down His life unto death, your death sentence is removed forevermore. By His taking up His life again for you, you now live in heaven with Him as your Good Shepherd's flock.

Today's hymns from LSB:
#710 The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want
#709 The King of Love my Shepherd Is
#740 I Am Jesus' Little Lamb

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