"The Good Shepherd Feeds His Sheep"
Fourth Sunday of Easter
St. John 10:11-18
May 7, 2006
IN NOMINE JESU
Christ is risen! CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
Behold the voice of your Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, calling to you, "Come, follow Me." He calls for His sheep to hear His voice and follow Him, to follow Him on the way that leads to everlasting life, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him, the Son of God, the Good Shepherd. We are here to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd on this the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as "Good Shepherd Sunday," the namesake Sunday of our congregation, Shepherd of the Hills Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Lord calls you by His Word to make you lie down in green pastures and to lead you beside still waters. He desires to restore your soul, feeding you on His body and blood, which He gave for the life of His sheep, and on His Word, for it is His Word and His voice He uses to call you, His sheep, His voice coming through me, His called and ordained servant of the Word, His undershepherd. Through the reading and proclamation of the Word, our Good Shepherd seeks to draw us closer to Himself, having placed His brand, His Name on us, marking us with the sign of the cross at the living waters of our Baptism, that we may know and firmly believe that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd.
In tending his sheep, a shepherd uses his rod and his staff to keep his sheep in the way that they should go, using the rod to get his sheep to move and keep them going in the right direction. Likewise, Christ's undershepherd, the preacher, today uses the rod in his preaching of the Law. He preaches the Law because we all like sheep have gone astray. Unlike the four-legged sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd and follow him, we rebel against the Good Shepherd, expressing our rebellion in not listening to the under shepherds He sends. God has commanded that we remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy. Martin Luther explains what this does mean in his Explanation to the Third Commandment, namely, that "we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it." This is most certainly true, regardless which teaching from God's Word we hear here in His house. Although our Lord has prepared a table before us, we prefer to graze at a theological buffet, where we pick and choose which parts of His Word we want to believe for ourselves, and rejecting the parts that do not make sense to us or those that hit too close to home for us. This is true of all of us, whether the teaching is on the sin of gossip and slander, or on the scriptural and ancient practice of closed communion, or on the central teaching of justification by grace through faith, or any other teaching from Scripture. We show ourselves to be not sheep but goats, for we seek to butt heads with the Lord, bleating as loud as we can to drown out the noise of His teaching.
We would rather hold to erroneous beliefs put forth by false shepherds and hirelings, those who are feeding poison to the sheep entrusted into their care. Take a look at all these so-called churches that dot the landscape here in Brown County. There are some fringe groups out there that have extreme views on many things, most of which are rejected by Scripture. Yet these false shepherds continue to feed their poison to anyone who wants to listen to them. They are taking the sheep God has given them and leading them over a cliff, and they won't hit bottom until they land in hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. These false shepherds are nothing but ravenous wolves who seek to destroy the sheep of the Good Shepherd. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way" (Is. 53:6a). Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
Our Lord hears our prayers for His Son's sake, the sake of the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, His sheep. Rather than having one of His sheep suffer, our Lord suffered for us, having done so patiently and willingly. "He was oppressed and He as afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Is. 53:7). Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has laid down His life for us, His sheep, only to take it back up again on the third day, according to the Scriptures. By His death He has destroyed death, and by His rising to life again He has restored to us everlasting life; He has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. This is the message the Lord has given me to give to you. This is the Gospel, that Christ died for your sins and rose, that you would have eternal life with Him in the heavens. The Good Shepherd has died for you, His sheep, and lives to lead you to green pastures, for He has called you His own. The Lord has led you beside still waters and washed you in the saving bath of Holy Baptism.
Now you been shown the staff of the Good Shepherd, for He uses His staff, that is, the Gospel, to lead in the way that He has gone, the way that leads us to Him and to Him alone, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear, for He is with us, His rod and His staff that are the Gospel comfort us, for He tells us that He is with us and has laid down His life in our place. And in a moment He will prepare His Table before you, so that you would taste and see that He is good. The Good Shepherd does not give poison to His sheep, but the gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation that He gives in His Means of Grace. To the goats, the unbelievers, the gifts are poison. But to us the sheep who believe and confess the faith confessed at this altar, it is the Bread and Blood of Life. Your cup runs over, for He pours into you from His chalice, the blood of the Lamb without blemish or spot, and it is "At the Lamb's High Feast we sing Praise to our victorious King, Who has washed us in the tide Flowing from His pierced side. Alleluia! Praise we Him, whose love divine Gives His sacred blood for wine, Gives His body for the feast, Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest. Alleluia!" (WS 733:1-2).
Christ is risen! CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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