How do you enter your house? If you’re like most people, it’s by one of two ways: either you enter the front door or you enter by your garage door leading into the house. That’s the normal way. Think about what that says. It says that you belong there, that it is your house and you have permission to enter it. Now imagine if you entered your house say through the living room window. It seems odd, doesn’t it? If someone were to drive by and see you entering through the window, what do you think their first thought would be? Obviously, they would think that someone was breaking into the house. You see, when you enter the house through the window, it gives the impression that this isn’t your house, that you don’t belong there.
In our Gospel for today, St. John records for us a parable of Jesus talking about sheep, a shepherd, and robbers. Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Imagine before you a pen of sheep. There is one way into the pen – through the door. When the shepherd enters through the door, the sheep recognize him as their shepherd and they follow him around the pen and wherever he would lead them. But if a person enters the sheep pen through an unusual way, the sheep are thrown off. They know that something is amiss.
Shepherds are a major part of the Scriptures. Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known psalm of them all. We all know the beginning words: “The LORD is my shepherd.” Who is your Shepherd? The Lord is your Shepherd. Jesus is your Shepherd. He leads you and He restores you. He comforts you. He prepares a table for you. He anoints your head. He does everything for you. And in our Introit this morning, Jesus tells you one more thing that He does for you. He says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Today, on this day, the day often called Good Shepherd Sunday, we recognize what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ did; by dying on the Cross, He laid down His life for His sheep. That is precisely what a shepherd does – lays down his life for the life of the sheep.
Your Lord has laid down His life for you because He loves you. Christ Jesus is our Shepherd out of His pure grace. He did not decide to be our Shepherd because we deserve Him. We deserve the Butcher, not the Shepherd. But Jesus comes to us in love anyway. He nurtures and tenderly cares for us sinners. He truly desires to be the Shepherd for you and for me. He does what any true shepherd does – He gives His life in defense of the sheep. He gives His life in defense of you and me.
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, does what a shepherd does. He enters by the door. He speaks honestly, without concern for Himself. That’s what any good shepherd does. The shepherd puts the sheep before himself. He will sacrifice himself to insure the safety of the sheep that are entrusted to him.
Jesus our Good Shepherd has gone before us to prepare the way for His flock. He has gone before us to make sure that the way is safe. He has guaranteed that safety by laying down His life for you and for me. He has gone before us and taken our place. He has taken our rightful punishment on Himself so that what is ours now becomes His.
Christ Jesus continues to shepherd His flock today. He leads us beside living waters, and feeds us the best food. In Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Christ cares for His sheep. He bathes us in Baptism, and washes us with His cleansing Blood, so that we are absolutely clean. He makes us healthy with a proper diet of Word and Sacrament. As He absolves and proclaims and preaches His Gospel, He heals our spiritual diseases and binds up our wounds.
Who cares for sheep better than our Good Shepherd? Who paid a greater price than He? Who is more loving and generous and attentive? Who has faced greater wolves than Jesus faced: sin, death, and the devil?
Your Good Shepherd did all of this for you out of the love for the Father. We have a loving Father who gave to us at so great a cost what we needed the most: salvation.
Christ is your Good Shepherd, who has laid down His life for the sheep, for you. He has gone to the cross to redeem you from sin; He has suffered God’s judgment so that you might be His people. And so the psalm declares, “we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”
Your Good Shepherd has laid down His life for you, and now He has taken it up again. He is risen from the dead, just as He said He would, for the grave cannot silence Him. He declares, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me.” Today you hear His voice, for even today He speaks and His Word does what it says it will do. To you He cries out, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” To you He cries out, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” To you He cries out, “I am the resurrection and life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” He declares this to you in His eternal Word; and by the work of His Holy Spirit, you hear His voice and follow Him. He is your rest. He is your resurrection. He is your life. He is your Good Shepherd.
Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” When we walk through the door that is Christ, we walk into His death and His resurrection. We walk into His forgiveness. We walk into His holiness. We walk into the new life that is only found in Christ. While the thief “comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, “came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly.”
You are sheep of the Good Shepherd, who has laid His life down for the sheep. Your Shepherd does not come to lead you to slaughter; instead, He has already been led to the cross in order to give you life. He does not come to rob you of all that you have in return for His help, but to give you freely of the grace and salvation He has won. He does not call upon you to work hard to snatch grace from Him by your works and labors; He calls you to freely receive. That is why He leads you beside still waters. That is why He speaks His Word. That is why He prepares a banquet table for you, even in the presence of your enemies.
He has done all these things for you. He is your Good Shepherd. By His Word, He has voiced His salvation to you. He is your Door, and through Him you have come into the Kingdom of heaven. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.