“The One Who Shepherds Us”

“The One Who Shepherds Us” – John 10:11-18
The Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)  4/22/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

Peace is knowing that a day does not go by… an hour, minute or second… where we are not attended to, closely watched over, cared for, protected and supported.

Peace is knowing that there is never a time or a place that we are defenseless and unequipped… ill-equipped… to make it through that very second, minute, hour or day.

If you and I know the reality of this, believe this, embrace and confess this… we have peace… true peace… peace of body, mind and soul… peace that is not fleeting, but ever present.

It is peace, our peace, in Jesus Christ and Him alone. He who came to earth, took on our flesh and died for us, sparing us from the ravages of sin, death and the devil… bearing for us the righteous wrath of God. This Christ did in our place… as our Substitute… as our Savior and… in keeping with the focus of this day… as our Good Shepherd.

That’s what shepherds do… those who are true, those who are totally committed, determined and caring. They will do anything and everything that is good, right and beneficial for their sheep… including, if need be, dying for them. And in regard to our situation… we who faced certain death and eternal destruction… the need was there. The need was all too great and real. There was… is… no other way… no other hope… no other help… but in Jesus Christ.

The vocation of a shepherd is quite a unique one. Dealing with animals who can be so frustrating… so obstinate… and to be willing to give up one’s life for the likes of these.

A little bit much wouldn’t you say? Is it worth it… are they worth it? Animals who are so apt to stray.

Well, what about our Savior giving up His life for all of mankind? The same questions can be asked. A little bit much? Way too much? Absurd even? For the very Son of God… He who is Holy and Righteous to die for the unholy and the unrighteous… those who, indeed, can be worse than animals in their actions and behavior.

Think about it. Shepherds may have to fight off, fend off many different kinds of wild animals and may even die doing it. But their own flock pose no real danger to them. When is the last time you heard of killer sheep? But in regard to the Good Shepherd, it was the sheep who did exactly that. The very sheep, each and every one of them whom Jesus loved, killed Him. They killed… we killed… the Good Shepherd. He who became for us the Sacrificial Lamb!

The Good Shepherd… Jesus… who in our Gospel lesson makes it very clear that He knew what His sheep would do and still He went along with it. He still allowed it to happen. He still made sure it would happen… for our sake, yours and mine, and that of the whole world!

Jesus tells us, 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. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17b-18)

I do not think that we could ever ponder enough what Jesus, our Jesus, our Good Shepherd did for us… and this so willingly and wantingly… so desirously… on His part.

He desired it because He loves us. He loves you. Jesus loves you. He loves me and all the world. And this, too, we can never ponder enough or think about too often. That love, true and perfect, is found in only One Person… graciously and mercifully bestowed upon us by the Lord Himself.

Jesus’ love that is shared with us by His called and ordained undershepherds. His love shared by those who are also part of the Shepherd’s flock… our dear brothers and sisters in Christ in this the Holy Christian Church. Here… in Him… love abides. Here… in Him… peace abides.

Oh, if we only knew far more than we do already, how zealous the Lord is for each and every one of us. How personal this all is… to HIM… His relationship to us… Shepherd to sheep.

Listen again to how our Lord states this so personally and in such a possessive way, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)

How can anyone read this, hear this, and not be overwhelmed and filled with great emotion regarding how much the Good Shepherd loves us? Again and again, He declares to us and to all, “You are mine. I bought you. I purchased you, won you back, not with gold or silver, but with my holy precious body and blood given and shed for you.”

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is real. I say that because this gives you and me great peace and comfort, living as we are… living as we will for a little while longer in this world… surrounded by false shepherds… wolves actually, in shepherd’s clothing who are all too real. Those who, the Master warns, care nothing about the sheep. Those who actually scatter the sheep… who take them from the flock that we know as the Christian Church. Those who, given the chance, will devour the sheep, including little lambs and others who are not aware of the perilous situation they are in.

My friends, this includes far more that those who call themselves pastors, ministers, spiritual leaders and guides. Hollywood seeks to shepherd you… as well as our society… as well as some… many… in our society who educate both you and your children… those who supposedly report the news to us… those who lead us at all levels of government… and a wide variety of  individuals who have been given “star status” all because they can act, sing, catch a ball or whatever.

It is amazing who people follow… and yes… “religiously.” What about you? I know what your quick answer would be, but I ask… I plead with you… to give this a lot of prayerful thought and soul searching today and in the days ahead. Who is leading you? Who is feeding you with information? Who is filling your head… your heart… your children’s heads and hearts?

Consider long and hard your true Shepherd… the overseer of your souls. Consider the great privilege of being in His flock… of being one of His own.  Consider the joy of having Him lead you… and this in His Holy Word. The joy of having Him comfort, guide, protect and sustain you… and this in His Holy Church… in this church… in this congregation. Consider… and be at peace. Amen.