1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Here ends our text.
Shepherds are good people. They’re good people to know when it comes to caring. They’re good people to know when it comes to protecting. They’re good people to know when you’re in need. Sheep love to have a shepherd. The shepherd cares for their every need, often placing the sheep’s needs over their own. They protect the sheep when they are in danger or when evil comes calling. When the sheep need anything, the shepherd is there to see that the sheep are well taken care of.
For as good as a shepherd is taking care of sheep, there is one Shepherd who is greater than them all. Karla knew that Shepherd. She knew that Shepherd on May 1, 1960 when He called her to be His beloved child through the waters of Holy Baptism. There, at the font, Christ called Karla to be His beloved sheep and He promised that He would be her Good Shepherd.
Jesus tells us in John 10, “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.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has taken care of Karla all of her life. He has watched over and protected her from her baptism to her death on Tuesday. He has done exactly what He said He would: He laid down His life for her that she would have everlasting life. Tuesday, she received everlasting life as she breathed her last and stood before God with a body that is glorified, perfect, and without sin. For Karla, that means that she stands before God with a body that is free from all sickness and disease, including MS. This disease robbed Karla of her life as a result of sin’s entering the world. What was once perfect became forever tainted and infected by sin, with the ultimate result of death. Paul tells us this in Romans 6: “For the wages of sin is death…”
God was not pleased with that. He did not create the world only to have it be infected with sin and death. That was not what He created. He created a world that was created in His image, perfect and without sin. But now, that is not the case. The world in which we live in is not perfect, it is not without sin. Sin is at the very fiber of our being. God did not want this and so He made a promise: He would send a Savior.
This Savior is your Good Shepherd. He has promised to care for you, to provide for you, to lay down His life for you that you may have everlasting life. That was a promise made by God all the way back in the Garden of Eden when man first sinned. He promised that He would send a Savior to redeem the world from the clutches of sin, death, and the devil.
Jesus Christ is that Savior. He is Karla’s Savior and He is your Savior. He is the Shepherd that David speaks of in Psalm 23. David knew of the promise of Christ. He knew of the graciousness that God had shown to him and the graciousness that He would show in the Savior. David was a shepherd himself. He knew what the role of a shepherd was: to provide, care, and protect the sheep of his flock. He knew exactly what this Shepherd would do: He would provide, care, and protect the sheep of His flock. The greatest way that the Shepherd could care for the sheep was to lay down His life for the sheep.
Karla knew exactly who this Shepherd was. She knew the words of the psalmist to be true, for she was given what she needed the most – God’s forgiveness, and because of God’s forgiveness, she was made to lie down in green pastures. She was satisfied and secure in the loving arms of her heavenly Father and His Son. God had shown His love to her when He sent His Son to live and to die in Karla’s place 2000 years ago. Everything that Karla would experience in her earthly life would only reinforce for her the desire and need she had to be cared for by the Shepherd because she knew she couldn’t do it herself. She could not bring about her own forgiveness. She could not make herself right in the eyes of God herself. She knew that only Jesus Christ could do that for her, and He did. Jesus did that for you and for me also. He did what we could not do – lead a perfect and sinless life.
God the Son came into this world, not to show us how to save ourselves, but to take upon Himself the sentence of God’s wrath. Jesus was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. That is what Christmas is all about, that God is with us so we may say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Christ was not born to condemn the world, and that includes you, but rather, to take upon Himself the penalty of all sins of all people, and that includes yours. That is what Good Friday is all about … God dying for you at that time, so that you might be able, to say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
Please understand that there is an eternity of difference between walking through the valley of death and walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus went through the valley of death when He suffered for you during the darkness of the cross, when He was forsaken for you at the Place of the Skull, when He died the death you deserved that you might be given the Life that He earned for you. Is it any wonder that Jesus is our Redeemer? Three days later Jesus rose from the dead, and in doing so, the evil one was defeated and death has lost its sting. That is what Easter is all about … God rising from the dead for you.
The Lord leads His people by the still waters of Baptism, restoring our souls…not just once, but each and every day. Those who know His voice and follow Him are led in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Think about some of His names: Savior, Redeemer, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Door, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God with us, the Son of David, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Suffering Servant, the Rock, the Alpha, the Omega, the Resurrection and the Life, the First and the Last, and the Good Shepherd. Because He is all these names and more, our cup runneth over and He leads His people in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake.
One thing Karla knew was that the Lord would indeed restore her soul. In the darkest and lowest hour of David’s life, God did not give him up to the whims of Satan. There were many things that David did throughout his life that would have made it very easy for God to turn His back to David and give him over to Satan, yet He did not. In Karla’s darkest and lowest hours, God restored her soul, but not how we thought. Instead of restoring her health, He called her to be with Him forever. There in that moment, she was restored to how God had created her: perfect, holy, and without sin.
To you Don and Marlene, Dale, Nole, Brian, and Duane, you have comfort in knowing that Karla’s Good Shepherd has laid down His life for her that she “may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In the name of Jesus, amen.