Easter 4C:April 29, 2007 – “The Good Shepherd”

30 Apr

Text: John 10:22-30

The Good Shepherd

mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, amen. The text for this
morning comes from the Gospel and other selected verses from Matthew 10.

One sure
sign of spring at Concordia Theological Seminary and Concordia St. Louis is the Vicarage
Assignment/Deaconess Internship and Candidate Placement services held each
April. This past week, several gentlemen
who started “seminary bootcamp” known as Summer Greek with me were placed into
the office of holy ministry. A former
vicar here, Michael Groves, was placed into the office of holy ministry from Concordia St.
Louis. Men, such as these, have been
called to be pastors and teachers. They
have been called to be shepherds from He who is the Good Shepherd.

office, to which some are called, is a difficult and challenging office to
serve in. Yes, it has its many joys and
rewards, but there are times where it becomes difficult and challenging to say
the least. Even our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, faced difficult times and challenges in His
ministry to His flock. John records for
us today in our text one such occurrence.

The entire
10th chapter of John revolves around Jesus and His discourses to
others about who He is: the Good Shepherd. He tells those gathered around very plainly that “I am the good shepherd. The
good shepherd lays down his life 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.”
These words were meant for the people to be
words of comfort and of assurance, knowing that Christ is indeed the Savior,
the One promised of old. Instead of the
crowd acknowledging Christ’s words, they were split: some of the Jewish leaders
said that He was possessed by a demon and insane, while others believed in
Jesus because of the miracles which He had performed.

Two months
later, we find Jesus at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. Two months earlier, Jesus had told them that He was the good shepherd,
that He was the Son of God. Now they
want proof of who Jesus is: “How long
will you keep us in suspense? If you are
the Christ, tell us plainly.”
more proof do the people need? Haven’t
they heard the message which He has preached? Haven’t they seen the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies
regarding the coming Savior? Haven’t
they seen the miracles which He has performed? Surely someone present had to have eaten some of the fish and bread when
Jesus fed the 5000 people. Food kept
coming from what seemed like nowhere, and there was no stopping it, not until
everyone had eaten their fill.

The answer
which Jesus gave was not the answer they had wanted to hear. What they wanted to hear was a simple “yes”
or “no.” They didn’t want any
complicated answer. They didn’t want to try
to read between what Jesus was saying for an answer. “Are you or aren’t you? Just say “yes” or “no.”

Jesus saw
through their words and actions and He understood clearly the intent of their
question. He answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.” Therein lies the tragedy of unbelief. “I told
you, and you do not believe.”
had already clearly spoken the good news of God’s grace. From the beginning He had revealed the
goodness of the Father. His preaching
and His teaching had announced simply but forcibly that the Father loves what
He created. In contrast to those who
said that one had to do something to win the affection of God, Jesus came
proclaiming a message, the Gospel, the Word, that God loves the world in spite
of its sin.

it was religious people who did not want to believe this. They did not want to believe this message,
not because they did not want to be saved. They did not want to believe it because they thought they had to do
something to be saved. Unbelief does not
grow out of the unwillingness to be saved. Unbelief is the notion that God is not good. Sometimes it is the sinners who do not
believe that God can forgive. In this
instance, they people who thought they were righteous did not believe that God
was so good as to accept them without their merit. Or we could say they thought they could be so
good that God would have to accept

The latter
half of His answer was more pointed, so pointed that the Jewish leaders wanted
to stone Jesus. “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you
do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”
“The Jews” show, by not believing in Jesus,
by not recognizing who He is in spite of the miracles which show His Father’s
authorization of Him, that they do not belong to His flock. When Jesus had spoken to them previously
about Himself as the “Good Shepherd,” they had become very angry.

What more
startling of a statement can Jesus make than this: that if you believe in Him,
you are of His flock. If you don’t
believe in Him, then you are not of His flock. If you want to be of Christ’s flock, then you must believe. And for the Jewish leaders, there was a
significant number who did not believe. For
those who did believe, they had the assurance that they were indeed members of
Jesus’ flock. That meant that they would
have eternal life and they will never perish, as Jesus says.

If you know
anything at all about sheep, they are dumb animals and will literally lead
themselves off a cliff or separate themselves from the flock, wander away and
die if no one is there to shepherd them. Jesus tells us that He is the good shepherd. “The
good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
That is exactly what our Good Shepherd did
for us, Jesus Christ laid down His life of perfection so that He could become
sin and death, so that you and I might have a life of holiness by His body and
blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.

The sheep
of Jesus’ flock hear the voice of Jesus. He knows us and we follow Him. Sheep “listen to” the voice of their shepherd. They not only hear this voice outwardly. They listen obediently. The shepherd also “knows” his own sheep. He knows, recognizes as his own, and
understands their ways. This meaning is
conveyed by the word used here by Jesus. The sheep therefore “follow” their shepherd. They do so obediently.

A traveler relates that one day he came to a
well at the time when the shepherds watered their flocks. Many different flocks came there at the same
time. The sheep of the various flocks
mingled, and no attempt was made to keep them separated. The traveler thought that the shepherds would
have a tedious and difficult job separating them. But when the time came, each shepherd went
his way calling his sheep, and every sheep followed its shepherd. Every sheep of Christ knows and follows His

from the picture to the application Jesus adds, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will
snatch them out of my hand.”
free gift of “eternal life” is assured. In no way shall the sheep of Jesus “perish.” No one has the power to snatch the believers
out of His protecting hand. Only by
rejecting His hand of salvation will they go astray.

We are all
chosen to be sheep of Jesus’ flock. That
was what God had wanted. Unfortunately,
some of these sheep have wandered away. For the sheep who remain, we know that by listening to the voice of the
Good Shepherd, all will be well. The
Good Shepherd knows His sheep and will continue to watch over us. He will keep us away from the cliffs and will
bring us back into the rest of the flock when we go astray. We as sheep follow the shepherd. God provides to us shepherds of congregations
to watch over and lead and guide, just as He did this past week when He called
223 men to be undershepherds of the Good Shepherd of the Church. We rest, knowing that we are safe in the
shepherd’s care, both in the Church on earth, and in the Church in heaven, for
we have the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life, so we may have eternal life,

Now the
peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds
through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Easter 4C

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