“The Good Shepherd Gives Gifts to His Sheep” (John 10:1-18, 22-30)
“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” So we just said we believe when we confessed the Apostles’ Creed. This is the faith all Christians believe. This is the faith Dorothy believed. It’s the faith into which she was baptized. “The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” These are gifts given us by the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. They are gifts given to Dorothy. They are gifts given to you. The good news today is “The Good Shepherd Gives Gifts to His Sheep.”
Because the Good Shepherd Jesus gives these gifts to his sheep, this will give you comfort and hope in the midst of grief and sorrow. And surely you will miss Dorothy. A devoted wife to her husband, she and Homer recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. 70 years! Dorothy was a devoted mother and grandmother to her family. She was the matriarch of a very large family. She and Homer have literally dozens and dozens of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren. When I would go their home, Dorothy would tell me about this one or that one having a birthday or some other special event. How she kept track of all those birthdays–well, that’s what grandmothers do. In addition to her family, Dorothy was a dear friend to so many in the community. And a dear sister in Christ to her church family at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre, where she was a member for so many decades. Yes, we all will miss Dorothy.
But I tell you, God will get us through this loss. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The care and support of family and friends will be one way God will channel his love to us. But especially I want to point out the added bonus that Christians have, and that is, the knowledge that Christ our Savior and Shepherd gives us those gifts of forgiveness, resurrection, and everlasting life.
First, forgiveness. That means that through faith in Christ, our sins are fully forgiven. The slate is wiped clean. Our sins are not held against us. We are at peace with God. This is such good news! Otherwise, our sins would be held against us, and we would be doomed. All our breakings of God’s commandments, in thought, word, or deed, the wrong things we do and the right things we fail to do–these are the sins we commit against God and against our neighbor. And they would damn us and doom us to hell. The wages of sin is death.
But that is not the end of the story. Thank God! How so? Listen to what Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And again: “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.” For that is exactly what Jesus did to save us from our sins. Our Good Shepherd laid down his life for us weak and straying sheep. Jesus laid down his life by being lifted up on the cross. This is how he paid for our sins. The sinless Son of God shed his holy precious blood to cover all the sins of all the sinners who have ever lived.
That includes you. Yes, you. Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. It includes Dorothy. Her sins were washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism. Dorothy regularly received the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, given and shed for her for the forgiveness of sins. Even when Homer and Dorothy could no longer make it to church, I would bring them the Blessed Sacrament in their home. Dear friends, our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. This is a gift, a free gift, our Good Shepherd gives to his sheep.
“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” So second, the resurrection of the body. This is another gift for which we give thanks to God. Resurrection. That means that these old bodies of ours are going to be raised up when Jesus comes again on the Last Day. This body that we place in the grave today will be raised up on the day when Christ returns. Raised up whole and perfect and glorious, no longer subject to death and decay. We Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. This is what the Bible teaches. Because this is what Jesus did and this is what he promises.
How so? Listen again to the words of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” What is Jesus talking about here? Resurrection. His own resurrection. Jesus would lay down his life by being lifted up on the cross on Good Friday, and then he would take it up again by rising from the dead on Easter morning. Jesus rose bodily. His disciples could see and touch and handle the body of their risen Lord.
Christ’s victory on the cross overcomes all sin and death. This is the good news of Easter. Because Christ shares his victorious resurrection with all those who trust in him and are joined to him in Holy Baptism. This happened to Dorothy. She was baptized into Christ, joined to Jesus in his death and resurrection. And so the promise of the resurrection will be good for Dorothy. She now rests from her labors, her soul is with the Lord, and on the day when Christ returns, he will raise up her body to live forever in a restored creation. And this is the promise for all those who trust in Christ.
“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Life everlasting! Eternal life. To live forever with our Lord and all his people. And not with all the negatives attached to this life, the sickness and the sorrow, the loss of loved ones, the pain and conflict that come with living in this sin-damaged world. No, all those will be gone. No more sin, no more death, no more tears and sadness. Only joy. Joy and peace and fellowship forever. What joy awaits us in the life of the world to come!
And our Good Shepherd gives us this gift. Jesus says: “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.” Jesus gives us eternal life! He assures us of it. Do you hear the voice of your Shepherd? He is calling you today, calling you by name, and saying, “Follow me.” “Follow me. I will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. I have already been through it and come out safe and strong on the other side. Follow me. I will lead you into the green pastures of my Word. When your soul is downcast, I will restore your soul. When evil threatens, any evil to body or soul, I will be with you with my rod and my staff to guard and protect you. Do not fear, little flock. Follow me.”
Dear friends, because the Lord is our Shepherd, we find comfort and hope in the midst of grief and sorrow. Think of the gifts he gives: “The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Gifts given to Dorothy, in which she now rests. Gifts offered freely to you today. Yes, because Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives gifts to his sheep, we can say confidently with the psalmist: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”