Easter 4, April 26, 2015
Sermon Text — John 10:11-18
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 10th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
In the Wilderness
The call to follow the Lord is often a call into the wilderness. Abraham was called to go from his country, his kindred, and his father’s house to a land revealed by the Lord. Following Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea the people dwelt in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the promised Land. David, anointed by Samuel to be king of God’s people first wanders about the wild places of Israel, with no place to lay his, pursued and persecuted by Saul and his legions. Even our Lord, baptized by the Father’s voice is driven by the Spirit, where? To the wilderness where He was surrounded by wild beasts being tempted by the serpent. The call to follow is often a call into the wilderness.
The wilderness is where we find ourselves this morning. Baptized into Jesus’ baptism, we have crossed the Red Sea and been liberated from a life of slavery. But even now we are pursued and persecuted by those who rage against the Lord’s anointed. Though we are sons of Abraham by faith in Abraham’s seed we still have yet to settle in God’s Promised paradise. The world around us is not a peaceful world. There are wolves, there are lions, there are serpents with forked tongues and venomous words. We are like lambs in the midst of a hostile environment. Lambs have no hope against wolves and lions and serpents with forked tongues and venomous words. Lambs need a shepherd, a good shepherd. Sinners need a savior. You need Jesus. Jesus says, “I am the good Shepherd.” Jesus will save you from your sins. Jesus will lead you in the wilderness. When the Lord calls you to follow, no matter where He calls you to follow, He promises to go with you, to go before you.
Not a Hired Hand
Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” And teaching us what makes Him good, He teaches us what He isn’t. Jesus isn’t a hired hand. Hired hands do not own the sheep. Hired hands do not love the sheep. And hired hands do not lay down their life for the sheep. Why does He teach us this? Because we are like sheep and we like to wander. Scripture teaches, “all we like sheep have gone astray we’ve turned every one to his own way.” (Is. 53:6) Like sheep we follow own way, the way that seems right. This way is often set before our ears by those luring us into a trap. Though their intentions may be pious and from the heart, their ways and methods are opposed to the Good Shepherd as they delude the sheep with self-affirming words, building within them a false hope, securing for them a place amongst the wolves. The hired hand has no place amongst the wolves. He flees. He’s gotten what he wants and now abandons the sheep. The sheep are left for dead. They way of wandering, though it seems right, makes sense, and often feels good and affirming, it ultimately leads to destruction as scripture teaches “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) And again, “The way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6) There is no life following our own way. There is only fear of what is come. Despair because of loneliness. And repentance unto sorrow – but not unto life. Sheep don’t need self-help gurus. Sheep don’t need false praise or self-affirming flattery from hired hands who are really out to fleece the sheep. Sheep need a shepherd, a Good Shepherd, one who loves the Sheep. Sheep need Jesus. You need Jesus.
The Good Shepherd
Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The Good Shepherd loves the sheep. Jesus loves you. This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Jesus is the Good Shepherd because the Good Shepherd loves the sheep, loves you, and lays down His life for the sheep. Jesus doesn’t run away when the enemy approaches. He’s not intimidated by wolves. He’s not frightened by roaring lions. And though He is pierced by serpents with forked tongues and venomous words He is so for you. Jesus places Himself between you and your enemies. Jesus plants Himself between you and your sins, between you and your adversary the devil who’s prowling about like a roaring lion, and between you and the wrath of God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd loves the sheep and lays down His life for the sheep. The Good Shepherd loves you and is crucified for you. There on the cross is God’s love. Though the world rage against His anointed one. His anointed one desires to anoint you with Holy Water and pure blood. These flow from His pierced side not to signal His death, as the centurions believed, but to provide us with eternal life. Laying down His life for the sheep our Good Shepherd actually prepares a way for us through death and into life. His way is the way of the righteous. He is that way. He is the only way. There is no other way for there is no other one who lays down His life for His sheep. There is no other who gives life as Jesus gives life. Giving you His life He reconciles you to His Father and He defends you from all danger and guards and protects you from all evil. The life of Jesus is your salvation. He gives you this because He loves you. He has authority to give His life. It is not taken from Him. Nothing happens apart from His authority. Having authority to lay down His life He also has authority to take it up again. Giving His life into death on the cross Jesus allows Himself to be humiliated, mocked, cursed, condemned, even damned for you. He dies for you. And He is buried for you. And on the third day He is risen for you. Every day is now the third day. Every day is a day that Jesus is risen. “For Christ being raised from the dead will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over Him.” And “the death He died He died to sin once for all.” (Romans 6:9-10). Once for all means once for you. If death is conquered so is sin. If sin is conquered you are free!
Owns the Sheep
But free does not mean autonomous. Autonomous sheep love to wander. Redeemed by the blood you have been rescued from the consequences of your sin. You are free to live. You are not free to sin. You are never free to sin. That’s not what it means to believe in Jesus. That’s not what it means to follow Jesus. That’s not what it means to be regenerated, renewed, restored, resurrected, or redeemed. You are not autonomous. You are not your own and therefore you are not to return to your former ways. You’re not to be like the wilderness, the wolves, the lions, or the serpents with forked tongues and venomous words. You are not to chase after hired hands who promise everything under the sun but have no means or authority to deliver. Scripture teaches, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1Co 6:19-20 ESV)
Beloved the Shepherd owns the sheep. He’s redeemed the sheep with blood, holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Such ownership is not one of slavery but liberty. Jesus is no pharaoh. You are not children of the slave woman. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. You are His dearly loved sheep. We are His own and that is good for us. As His own we are called to follow Him. He leads with His Words. His Words not only guide us, but feed us. In this way Jesus knows His sheep and His sheep know their Good Shepherd, even as the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33 ESV) “What love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1)
Lays down His life for the Sheep
Such love does not abandon us but draws us nearer and nearer still. Though Jesus died once for all, He continually lays down His life for the sheep. The body once broken and the blood once shed is set before you today. Here, under bread and wine the Good Shepherd nourishes His lambs with holy food. Ours is a long and arduous journey. We are making our way through the wilderness and towards the Promised Land. Many dangers abound, real dangers, dangers that can swallow up the soul into death forever. Do not be deceived beloved, there are wolves watching, lions prowling, and serpents with forked tongues and venomous words slithering about. If it were not so our Good Shepherd would have told us. The truth is, He has told us to beware, to watch out, to stay awake and to be ready. “The enemy prowls about looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) He looks to devour the weak, the vulnerable, the young and spiritually immature, the one who is sick with sin. He looks for you. So does Jesus. That’s what Shepherds do. They look for lost sheep, sheep who hurt, or are sick, or weak, or immature and vulnerable. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd looks for His sheep. The Good Shepherd finds His sheep. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Satan is defeated.
Sin is destroyed.
Death is vanquished.
And today He lays down His life for you.
Heed His call.
Follow His voice.
Taste and see that the Lord is good, good for you, good for all.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!