Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
In our text for today, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, as the only one who can carry this name with full justice.
This is a fulfillment of the Old Testament. As our reading says (Ezekiel 34: 11-16), "For thus says Jehová: Behold, I myself will go and seek my sheep, and I will recognize them. As the shepherd recognizes his flock the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I recognize my sheep, and I will deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on the cloudy, dark day. "
That is to say, the true shepherd of the people of God is Jehovah himself. Jesus here says that He is equal to Jehovah. However, although the Son is equal to the Almighty Father, the Father sent Him for this purpose: that He give His life, His own soul, as a ransom, as the only complete sacrifice, for the sake of all sinners, who have earned eternal damnation. He has become our subsitute; He took upon himself our transgressions and died in our place. Thus the guilty, the sinners, were delivered from sin and destruction.
And as Almighty God the Father sent him, Jesus Christ sent His church to accomplish this mission: Find the scattered sheep and gather them in the fold of the Lord until his return in glory. We confess our belief in one church, holy, apostolic and universal (this is the original meaning of catholic: the Catholic Church is not located in Rome, but in all parts of the world).
The church today is apostolic in this sense: By mandate of our Lord, it must call and ordain ministers to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments in the manner that the Lord has commanded us. This is the pastoral office. Three words are found in the New Testament for the pastoral office. One is poimen, ποιμήν, which is translated pastor. Another is presbuteros, πρεσβύτερος, which is translated elder. And in our epistle (1 Peter 2: 21-25), we find this one, which is identified as a title of Jesus Christ as well: "But now you have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls". The Greek word is episkopos, ἐπίσκοπος, which means supervisor or guide.
Well, in the New Testament, these words are used without distinction. There are no ranks among the ministers of the church instituted by God. All preach with the same authority, which is the Word of Christ. However, later in the history of the church, the title of bishop was reserved for the leader of the Christian community in a city or region. Example, the Bishop of Jerusalem or the Bishop of Rome. With the development of a hierarchy, the bishops were turned into princes or lords of the church. Because of its historical link to the abuse of power in the church, some of our Lutheran churches avoid the use of the title, although others allow for its use in the sense of a supervisor of pastors.
Anyway, to lord it over the church is not the model that Jesus gave to all those who bear the name of pastor as His assistants in the great work. For that purpose, He also puts himself in deliberate contrast with hired hands. Such hirelings, whose only concern is money and the desire to take their ease in Zion, have no interest in the souls of the men entrusted to their care. They are strictly mercenary and will work only as long as their lives and welfare seem safe. At the first sign of the wolf, at the first sign of real danger, of probable persecution, suffering and even martyrdom, they hasten to flee, leaving the sheep to disperse and be killed by their enemies. But the employee does not care; He has no worries, no anxiety, no interest in the sheep.
But, ith their Master as an example, the true pastors of the church do not flee in difficult times. With the help of God, they are willing to give their lives for the sheep if necessary. They are faithful to their Lord and His Word. Therefore, the sheep are sure that when the pastor announces in the stead and by the command of our Lord, the complete forgiveness of sins, it is the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd.
In this we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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