Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Let’s go back to six months before the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The growing tension between him and the Jewish authorities was reaching its climax. But it is surprising that so often these comforting gospel texts are found in a context of danger, hostility, and anger toward Jesus. In all the "I am" statements in John, Jesus declared who he is. He then he declares what he does.
In our text for today, Jesus says twice, "I am the Good Shepherd." The words, "Good Shepherd" mean the true and perfect shepherd. The first time, he continues with these words: "But the hireling, who is not the shepherd, whose sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. So the hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and does not care for the sheep. "
The prophet Ezekiel also deals with this same subject, the true Shepherd and the false ones. He says thus in the first part of chapter 34, “Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? "
But who is the true Shepherd of God's flocks? God himself. Says the prophet, "For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I myself will go and find my sheep, and I will recognize them." Our psalm for today is dedicated to this topic as well. “Jehovah is my shepherd; I will lack nothing ”. And Jesus tells us the second time, "I am the Good Shepherd and I know my sheep, and mine know me." Jesus Christ is none other than Jehovah.
Saint Peter says in our epistle (1 Peter 2: 21-25), “For you were like lost sheep; but now you have returned to the pastor and bishop of your souls. " ποιμήν, the Greek word translated shepherd means shepherd of the sheep. Also, ἐπίσκοπος, translated bishop, means caretaker. We have this language in the church today. There are pastors and bishops. Jesus Christ himself instituted the office of preaching the Word and administering the sacraments for the welfare of his sheep. He said this same Peter, "If you love me, you feed my sheep" (John 21:17).
In this regard, Jesus is an example for all those who bear the name of shepherd as his helpers in this great work. The mercenaries, the false teachers, have no interest in the souls of the men entrusted to their care. At the first sign of the wolf, at the first indication of real danger, of probable persecution, suffering, and even martyrdom, they turn to headlong flight. The result is the dispersal and slaughter of the sheep by the enemies.
However, both times, our Lord says thus: "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" and "I lay down my life for the sheep." The true Shepherd of souls is this, who gives his life as the only complete sacrifice, through the fault of all sinners, who have earned eternal damnation. He became his substitute; He took his transgressions upon himself and died in his place. By his own will, Jesus gave himself into the hands of sinful men to die. Many times his enemies wanted to kill him but did not allow it until his time came. And even then, He knew exactly what would happen before they knew it.
"I also have other sheep that are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be a flock, and a shepherd."
"This fold" is a phrase denoting Old Testament covenant believers. But, Jesus did not make his sacrifice only for the Jews, but also for all nations. This verse is both a prophecy and a promise.
In the creed we confess our belief in a single, universal, apostolic Christian church. In the original form, the true church is named holy, apostolic, and catholic. This word, catholic, means universal. We use the word, universal, to avoid confusion with the Roman church, although to say “the Roman Catholic church” is a contradiction. The holy, apostolic and catholic church is bigger than the Roman church, even bigger than the Lutheran church. The true church is the body of all true believers in all places and at all times, even in Old Testament times.
"I am the Good Shepherd and I know my sheep, and mine know me." The "holy Christian Church, communion of saints", has gathered in the world since the first proclamation of the gospel, and all the true believers in Christ form the great invisible church.
There is not a word here about uniting visible church organizations into one large and powerful body. Because of false teachers, there will always be schisms in the visible church until the second coming of the Lord. But it will also be a remnant where the Word is preached in its purity and the sacraments administered according to the command of the Lord. and we have the assurance from Jesus that at last "there will be one flock" when He returns in glory. In this promise we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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