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Our Victorious Savior Safely Safeguards His Sheep

John 10:27-29 (22-30)

Rev. Thomas Handrick, Sr.

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Immanuel Lutheran Church & School  
Perryville, MO

View Associated File

Sun, Apr 29, 2007
Fourth Sunday of Easter

Standard LSB C Readings:
First: Acts 20:17-35
Epistle: Rev 7:9-17
Gospel: John 10:22-30
Psalm: Ps 23 (4)


In the name of the Triune God—Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

(John 10:27-29) "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

INTRODUCTION: Dear fellow lambs and sheep of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Being called a lamb or sheep is not a good thing … it is not a compliment!  In fact, it is a most degrading and humiliating thing because lambs and sheep are self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and self-centered.  They are so fully occupied with what they want and desire that almost all they think about is tasty tufts of green luscious grass for which they constantly search and then greedily nibble to satisfy their own hungry appetites.

They rarely look up and around to see where they are, where they are going, or what may be lurking nearby to attack and consume them as a tasty morning, afternoon, or evening snack or meal.  Left on their own they are vulnerable to predators.  In fact, they may even stumble into a ravine or walk over a cliff while feverously feeding their bellies and not paying attention to their surroundings.

Because of all that, they need to be protected and provided for by someone who cares enough to watch over them, lead them, and guard them.  Isaiah captured that stark reality about us when he wrote,

(Isa 53:6) "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way ... ." 

However, we can be certain of everlasting life as our 1991 Synodical Catechism informs us,

(LUTHER'S SMALL CATECHISM WITH EXPLANATION, © 1991 CPH, p. 167.) "191. Are you sure that you have eternal life?  Even as I now believe in Christ my Savior, I also know that I have been chosen to eternal life out of pure grace in Christ without any merit of my own and that no one can pluck me out of His hand (eternal election of grace or predestination)."

The sole source of such assurance are the words in today's Gospel Reading that our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, spoke telling us the good news that …

Transition: OUR VICTORIOUS SAVIOR SAFELY SAFEGUARDS HIS SHEEP but, sadly, All Who Reject Jesus as the Christ Are Not Part of His Flock while, happily, Jesus and His Father Share a Unified Relationship.

I. ALL WHO REJECT JESUS AS THE CHRIST ARE NOT PART OF HIS FLOCK. [22-26: "At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, 'How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.'"] It was another seemingly innocent question-and-answer session between the unbelieving Jews and Jesus.  They obstinately denied that He was the Messiah.  They constantly tried to compromise Him by getting Him to contradict Himself or, better yet, simply admit that He really was not the Christ as He claimed to be.  However, in the face of such efforts, …

A. Jesus Told Them Plainly That He Was the Christ.  The problem was not with His clarity of speech.  He didn't beat around the bush nor talk in a foreign language or secret code.  His own self-identifying words and miraculous works as well as what others said about Him were very clear and simple.

Disciple Peter gave a bold witness about such before Immanuel's death and resurrection when he declared,

(Matt 16:16; Mk 8:29) "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 

In a sermon after Immanuel's death and resurrection then Preacher Peter further declared,

(Acts 10:38) "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power." 

Martha, the sister of dead Lazarus, likewise declared when Jesus questioned her about His identity and atonement activity,

(John 11:27) "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

At the mock trial during which both church and civic leaders falsely accused and shamefully treated Jesus He declared when asked whether He was the Christ, the Son of God,

(Matt 26:64) "You have said so."

We ourselves declare that Jesus is the Christ every time we speak the Apostles', Nicene, or Athanasian Creed or sing the "Te Deum Laudamus."

Unfortunately and very sadly, however, ...

B. They Refused to Believe What Jesus Told Them about Himself.  That's the disastrously sad problem with those Jews then and many people today, sometimes even inside the church ... perhaps this church!  We hear and, as I just said, even verbally confess the true message about our Beautiful Savior.  Then we think, act, and talk with attitudes, actions, and words that communicate a totally different message—one that says we really don't believe all that "stuff" that we said.

After all, if we really believed it wouldn't we live it?  Wouldn't we shun the temptations of Satan, the world, and our sinful selves?  Wouldn't we strive to remain faithful to our marriage vows; set aside anger, hate, and jealousy; seek to reconcile damaged or broken relationships rather than simply take the easy worldly way out; and energetically tell the Good News about Jesus to one another, others, and all whom God places in our daily paths?

Well, yes ... and no.  In our fallen state of spiritual uncleanness we often deny our Savior with sinful thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions.  In our Baptismally-sanctified state of spiritual cleanness we strive to live the sanctified life that confesses Jesus as the Christ.  It is a troublesome state of frustration and anxiety that St. Paul captured when he wrote,

(Rom 7:15, 18-19) "I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."

Desiring to know the solution for his dilemma the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write,

(Rom 7:24-25) "Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

That becomes also our heart-wrenching admission of sin and soul-comforting confession of faith as we realize that ...

Transition: OUR VICTORIOUS SAVIOR SAFELY SAFEGUARDS HIS SHEEP but, sadly, All Who Reject Jesus as the Christ Are Not Part of His Flock while, happily, Jesus and His Father Share a Unified Relationship.

II. JESUS AND HIS FATHER SHARE A UNIFIED RELATIONSHIP. [30: "I and the Father are one."] Unity is necessary for sports teams to succeed.  That is, the teams' members must self-sacrificially work together as one.  Unity is likewise necessary for marriages to last.  That is, both husband and wife must self-sacrificially live and work with one another, not against each other.  As Christians of the same confession of faith we recognize our oneness and declare the same by partaking of the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion together, wherein God gives us Christ's real body and blood to comfort us with His forgiveness and strengthen us steadfast in the one true faith.

The bond of absolute unity existed between Jesus and the Father as Jesus revealed when He said in His High Priestly Prayer,

(John 17:21) "... you, Father, are in me, and I in you ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

Later in this very chapter Jesus stated,

(John 10:38) "... the Father is in me and I am in the Father." 

Jesus instructed Philip about this when He said,

(John 14:9-11) "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me ... ." 

A divinely-mystical and even ironic union exists between the Father and Jesus Christ, one in which …

A. The Father Sent Jesus to Save Us.  That was the all-consuming love God has for us sinners as expressed in that familiar "Gospel-in-a-nutshell" statement by Jesus,

(John 3:16-17) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

That's the love Immanuel wants us to have for each other as well.  The Apostle John's strong recurring theme that Jesus Himself taught tells us,

(John 13:34-35) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Because of His great love for us, ...

B. Jesus Fulfilled the Father's Will for Him to Save Us.  He lived the perfect life that we cannot live ... for us.  He suffered and died the gruesome death that we deserve because of our sins ... for us.  And, He conquered Satan, sin, and death itself with His bodily resurrection from the dead ... for us.  He did all of that because,

(Matt 20:28; Mk 10:45) "... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Having completed our salvation that we have now claimed as our own by the power of the Holy Spirit, we thank and praise God that ...

Transition: OUR VICTORIOUS SAVIOR SAFELY SAFEGUARDS HIS SHEEP but, sadly, All Who Reject Jesus as the Christ Are Not Part of His Flock while, happily, Jesus and His Father Share a Unified Relationship.

CONCLUSION: St. Paul admonished Pastors in today's 1st Bible Reading to,

(Acts 20:28) "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

The responsibility God gives Pastors is an awesome, overwhelming, and ongoing one that is revealed in the "Pastor" reference.  The word "Pastor" comes from the Latin language and means "shepherd."  It is intended to be a term of endearment that communicates a precious and meaningful shepherd-sheep relationship despite our human weaknesses and shortcomings.  Even though qualities that would make us perfect pastors are often absent, God has led Pastor Cole, Pastor Marks, and me here through the prayer-covered call process to be your Pastors.

But know this, the reason you call us "Pastor" is not to separate us from you but to gratefully acknowledge our God-given responsibility to care for your spiritual welfare.  In so doing, we serve as the visible physical manifestation of the invisible Good Shepherd.  We do that by seeking to "pay careful attention" to your spiritual needs as we exercise Christlike care, concern, and compassion for the temporal and eternal welfare of your souls.  That is, the Good Shepherd Himself leads us Pastor-shepherds to love and serve you in His behalf as we watch over, lead, and protect you His lambs and sheep each and every day, 24/7; whether you are at home, work, school, or play; and in whatever life-situation you find yourself.

St. John recorded the following for us in today's Epistle Reading,

(Rev 7:9-10, 14, 17) "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' And he said to me, 'These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'"

We're headed to that eternal joyful celebration in heaven's splendor before the Lamb (upper case L!), Immanuel Himself.  And, rest assured that we will attain it because He won salvation for us, the Holy Spirit washed us clean with Christ's holy precious blood, and Jesus has clothed us with His righteous white robes!  So rejoice with thanksgiving that Our Victorious Savior Safely Safeguards His Sheep whom the Holy Spirit leads to confess that Jesus is the Christ and honor the unified relationship He has with His Father.

God grant it all for the sake of Jesus Christ, His humble Son, our holy Savior.  Amen.

In the name of the Triune God—Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

This sermon is not copyrighted. It is God's gift to His Church for free and unrestricted use through me who am one of His many faithful servants. Please exercise the common courtesy of properly acknowledging its source should you use part or all of it for any purposes.

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