Monday, April 22, 2013

Easter 4 aka Good Shepherd Sunday

After these things I saw, and look a great crowd, which no one was able to count, out of every ethnicity and tribes and peoples and languages, standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and palms in their hands, and they cried in great voice, saying; "the salvation in our God, in the One sitting upon the throne and in the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and the presbyters and the four living ones, and they fell before the throne and knelt in worship before God saying "Amen, the blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength in our God into the ages of the ages. Amen." And answered, one out of the presbyters saying to me, "These the ones dressed in the white robes, who are they and from where have they come?" And I say to him, "My master, you know," and He said to me, "these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes and whitened them in the blood of the Lamb. Through this, they are in front of the throne of God and serve Him in worship day and night in His sanctuary; and the One sitting upon the throne tabernacles upon them. They will not hunger still, nor will they thirst still, no, the sun will not fall upon them nor all heat; for the Lamb, the One in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and will lead their way upon springs of the waters of life, and "God will wipe every tear out of their eyes."  

Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, as God directs our attention to the work of Jesus who leads us to green pastures and still waters. He is our Shepherd, and as such He takes care of us as His beloved lambs. But Jesus is no ordinary Shepherd. He's no guy who watches over sheep just because somebody is paying Him to do it. He's no hireling. In fact, Jesus is the very opposite of a money grubber. As your Good Shepherd, Jesus cares for you as His Own no matter what it costs Him 

Just what did it cost Jesus? A whole lot! The price Jesus paid to be your Good Shepherd was enormous! First, to be the best shepherd for you, Jesus begins by humbling Himself to be exactly the same as you. You are a lamb in need of care, so Jesus becomes a lamb like you. Although He was God in heaven above, He didn't consider His God-ness something to hold on to, so He humbled Himself to come down to this world to be born as a human person, in every way just like you.

But understand, this was just the very beginning of Jesus' humiliation for you. Things only got worse for Him from there. Because you have failed so miserably in loving God with your whole heart, and in loving your neighbor as you love yourself, Jesus came to live under God's Law in your place. Where you failed to keep the commandments, your Savior lived under the burden of God's Law perfectly, obedient in every thought, word and act. He alone was righteous before God the Father in heaven.

Yet Jesus didn't just take your place in life here on earth. He went one step further. Jesus made Himself to be a perfect sacrifice for your sin. He offered Himself up as the sacrificial Lamb killed in your place. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, became a Lamb like you to lay down His life unto death for you. He takes the punishment you deserved at Calvary. He lays down His life embracing your sin and death as His Own, in order to take it up again to bring life and immortality to light for you.

Jesus does not remain a dead Lamb, but raises Himself to life again to continue being your Good Shepherd. For you daily sin much. You need your filthy garments cleansed in the waters of your baptism, made white in those waters of life. The robe you wear in front of your heavenly Father's throne is the robe of Jesus' Own righteousness, exchanged with you for your sin which He bore in His body on the tree of Calvary. Jesus' holiness, His goodness, Christ's pure righteousness is yours–a gift

You aren't just washed with the water which flowed from Jesus' pierced side, but also you are cleansed by His blood shed for you at Golgotha. The Good Shepherd laid down His body in death at the cross so that you may eat it in the Lord's Supper. He shed His cleansing blood for you there so that you now drink it in the cup of salvation which is in the Lamb. With this blessed food of Holy Communion, you know that you will neither hunger nor thirst any more before God's throne in heaven.

So you see, this is precisely how Jesus, the Lamb of God, has become your shepherd, using under-shepherds like your pastor to wash you in Holy Baptism, lead you to the green pastures of the Lord's Table, and proclaim the Good Shepherd's voice to you, which by the gift of faith, you recognize. You are those whom Jesus will shepherd through the great tribulation, wiping every tear from your eyes. Jesus shepherds you here, until you stand in front of the throne of God in the sanctuary of heaven.


Hymns for today 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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