Fourth Sunday of Easter
Passage: John 10:1–10:10
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: John 10:1-10
Date: May 7th, 2017; Easter 4; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We are his sheep.
We, God’s people, are often described as sheep in the Bible.
In Isaiah we read “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
We read in the Gospel of St. Matthew, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Although we don’t like to admit it - when we consider our lives we recognize that we are vulnerable like sheep.
Suddenly it’s a car accident.
Suddenly we are injured or we are diagnosed with an illness.
Suddenly we find ourselves in financial difficulties.
Suddenly we find ourselves constantly fighting with the people we love.
Suddenly we find ourselves entangled in sin and we are filled with guilt and shame and there seems to be no hope.
Suddenly someone we love dearly is taken from us.
Everything was going so well last week - this week it has all changed.
Vulnerable sheep need a shepherd, and the Lord provides. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lays down his life for his sheep. He lays down his life for you!
He doesn’t run away in order to save his own skin when the fight to save you gets tough.
He doesn’t let the satanic lion and demon-driven dogs sink their teeth into his sheep.
Jesus put himself into the lion’s mouth and let the dogs surround and corner him.
He suffered for us. He allowed himself to be betrayed, tortured, crucified, and to be put to death.
He made himself a silent, uncomplaining lamb in our place.
As St. Peter confesses: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself 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” (1 Peter 2:23-24).
On the darkest day—a Friday called Good—Jesus delivered you by delivering himself into death.
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He lays down his life for you!
And he leads his sheep.
The Good Shepherd calls his sheep and they follow his voice.
He not only lays down his life, but he takes it up again. He rises from the dead to lead you.
Sheep have impeccable hearing. Multiple flocks can be merged together at night and then separated in the morning, simply by the shepherds calling.
This is what Jesus taught in our Gospel lesson, speaking of himself as the Shepherd, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).
Jesus leads you by his voice. He first tenderly taught you to recognize his voice at your Baptism.
Through his Word and the Lord’s Supper, he continues to teach you and lead you through this sinful world with his voice.
In Psalm 23 we hear that all of the important actions happen by the Shepherd’s work, his doing - not yours.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores. He leads.
Dr. Martin Luther wrote, “If you wish, therefore, to be richly supplied in both body and soul, then above all give careful attention to the voice of this Shepherd, listen to his words, let him feed, direct, lead, protect, and comfort you. That is: hold fast to his Word, hear and learn it gladly, for then you will be well supplied in both body and soul” (AE 12:157).
Jesus lays down his life for you. He leads you. And the Good Shepherd never forsakes his flock.
King David, who faced death many times, calls us to pray: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
There are times when you might feel abandoned.
Why would a caring shepherd lead me through the valley of the shadow of death?
Why would the death of a dear one cast a shadow over me?
Why does my own death loom before me as a dark cloud?
Is it that the Good Shepherd has left me?
No, Jesus has not failed to care for you. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Jesus is with us in death. He went through it first to open the way to life for you.
Jesus is with us in mourning. He wept at Lazarus’s tomb.
Jesus is your Good Shepherd, who comforts you. He sends to you goodness and mercy.
He will never forsake you.
He leads you right into his house here today and will keep you who follow him in his house forever.
Remember that sheep that are separated from the flock are easy pickings for the poachers.
Christians don’t go it alone—that would be going against the very voice of the Good Shepherd.
Experience teaches that people without a congregation tend to believe in a little bit of everything, and so in truth wind up believing in nothing at all.
Sheep who don’t hear, learn, and follow the voice of their Shepherd - will soon follow any voice - and they will find themselves confused and lost.
So, hear the voice of your Good Shepherd who laid down his life for you - he declares that all of your sin is forgiven.
Hear the voice of your Good Shepherd who restores the joy of salvation to your soul, who leads you and guides you in his righteousness, who comforts you even under the dark shadows of death.
Hear the voice of your Good Shepherd who will never forsake you.
Because of your Good Shepherd’s boundless, selfless love - received by the faith he supplies - surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.