May 7, 2017 — Easter IV
Sermon Text — John 10:1-10
A Shepherd for Thieves
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,
The Shepherd and His Sheep
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He lays down His life for the sheep. He lays it down and takes it up again. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed alleluia! Jesus is our Good Shepherd and we are His dearly loved sheep. We are His because He alone has redeemed us, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. We are not our own but we have been purchased, won, redeemed with blood, His blood. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The sheep hear His voice and follow where He leads. He does not sleep or slumber but watches over our going out and our coming in. He watches over us because He loves us, because we are His.
Because we are His we have a home, a place to find rest, a safe place to gather together with our Good Shepherd. This home is the sheep pen, His church, paradise on earth. Those that get lost He seeks after, finds, and brings home. In this sheep pen He binds our wounds suffered from a violent world. He comforts hearts broken by sin. He consoles the discouraged who doubt His love. He feeds the hungry with good things, heavenly manna, and He gives the thirsty to drink from His own cup. In this place our cup overflows. Here in this place, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in heaven and on earth He shows His hands and His side, the marks of His love for us, the peace He’s purchased and won for us. Here in this place He is good to us. He reveals the depths of His heart for us. He opens Heaven’s treasure chest before us and sustains us for life under His dominion. Here He shows Himself to be our God and delights to call us His people.
Thievery! Seizing Equality with God
(Will a man rob God! How have we robbed you? In your tithes! Mal 3:6-12)
Jesus is our Good Shepherd and we are His dearly loved sheep. But sheep are stupid and sheep love to wander. Wandering sheep are sheep on their own. Some wander out of ignorance. Other’s out of complacency. Some wander out curiosity. Other’s out of selfishness. Wandering sheep are on their own and some sheep love to wander because in reality they love to be on their own, apart from the Good Shepherd, without Jesus. Without Jesus there is no life, no peace, no security, only the wilderness.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd but there is no such thing as good sheep. Only God is good. We are sinners. We are sinful. We may gather on Sunday but we wander on Sunday afternoon. Sheep love to wander because sheep love to follow their heart rather than the Shepherd’s voice. Following our heart is exciting. Living in the wilderness is exhilarating. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. Wandering sheep are on their own and when we wander . . . and we do wander more than like to confess . . . we turn into thieves. Yes, thieves! Why thieves? Because wandering sheep have to provide for themselves. Wandering sheep have to get and gather and take and defend and fight and argue and conquer and win for themselves. Wandering sheep are receivers but takers. Such takers are thieves because such taking involves getting what has not been given them. All thievery is taking for ourselves what has not be given or withholding from others what is due them. All sin is thievery because all sin takes or withholds in opposition to love. Love gives and love receives. Love does not take. Love does not withhold.
The man who takes from his wife or the woman who withholds from her husband steal what God would have them give to and receive from each other. The same is true for those who pretend to be married, who live together or sleep together, but refuse to receive God’s gift of the one flesh union in the bonds of matrimony.
Yes, beloved all sin is thievery and all thievery is sin. When we sin against one another we either take love or withhold love from one another. This is true not only of the 6thcommandment which says, You shall not commit adultery, but also of the every other commandment. We rob our neighbor of his dignity when we look down on the poor. We rob them of their reputation when we gossip, curse, or betray them. We rob our parents and other in authority when we anger or disobey them. We rob our children of their home when we divorce. We even steal from God. When we wander we are on our own. On our own we try to provide for ourselves, it’s all up to us. When it’s up to us, it’s up to our strength, our merits, our education, our wisdom, our plotting, our planning, whatever bounty we accumulate. We determine the stewardship of our lives. It’s our life, it’s now or never, you only live once, right? Even we dearly loved sheep who gather at the sheep pen to hear His voice, rob God. “But you say, ‘How have we robbed God?’” and God says, “In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.” says the Lord through His prophet (Malachi 3:6-12). All sin is thievery because all sin considers equality with God something to be grasped, something that is ours for the taking. And we are never more lost from the Good Shepherd than when we refuse to hear His call to repentance.
The Good Shepherd
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He seeks after lost sheep. He seeks after you, to bind you up, forgive your sins and bring you home. He doesn’t seek you to compel you to be good. No one is good but God alone. He seeks you to be good for you, in your place. He seeks to be your goodness. You see, Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but He humbled Himself being made in the form of servant and He was obedient in your place. Thus, He who knew no sin lived the life you should be living. He is our Good Shepherd and no one is good but God alone. Being God and being man, He took your place and was obedient to His heavenly Father. He won for you what you cannot win for yourself so that He could give it to you freely by grace through faith in Him. He who knew no sin became sin, took on your sin, assumed your guilt, and suffered its curse that you could be received as sons, adopted as sons, sons never to be disowned.
Thus our Good Shepherd has gone before us. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross for you and me and this whole nation of thieves! He laid down His life for the sheep, surrendered it to the wolves, allowed them to pierce His brow with thorns, lance His side with the spear, rip His flesh and stripe His back. All this He has done to offer Himself for you and to you to save you from the wilderness of a world without Him. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He lays it down and He takes it up again. Rising from the dead He has defeated all your enemies. Ascending to the Father’s right hand He has gone to prepare a place for you. Heaven is yours to receive. Paradise is the gift He offers. Eternal life is the prize He’s won for you and me and all who believe on His name.
The Good Shepherd Gives through His Word (leads through Words)
Jesus is our Good Shepherd and as our Good Shepherd He goes before us. He leads us. He leads us with His Words. He makes us to lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside quiet waters. He restores our soul. His rod and His staff comfort us as His law and gospel work on our hearts. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Our cup overflows. Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life. Sheep who follow the voice of the Good Shepherd have all that they want because our Good Shepherd gives everything we need . . . more.
Look, look here! Here is the quiet water in the font that washes away all of your sins. Look here! Here is the table prepared with His body and blood for the strengthening of your faith. Look here! Here is the Word, here is the ministry, the voice that quiets anxious hearts and stills fearful sheep. Look here beloved and see the goodness of your Shepherd watching over you, caring for you, offering Himself to you for your good for today, tomorrow, and forevermore. Here beloved, here in this church, in our Good Shepherd’s sheep pen, is the green pastures he promises. Here is His peace that surpasses all understanding. Here is the place of rest from the weary world you live in. Here, look here, look around, see the great cloud of witnesses! Here are brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, children and grandchildren. Here is the family of God in the house of God! It is here and nowhere else because it is here that our Good Shepherd manifests Himself in Word and Sacrament for us. It is here, and only here, where Christ’s sheep are kept safe from the wolves.
Gives the Abundant Life (by grace through faith)
Beloved in the Lord, why do you still wander from here when the Good Shepherd calls you by name? Why do you pursue the treasures of the world assuming He will not give them to you in His good time according to His good grace? Why do you withhold love from your neighbor when Jesus has proven His love for you time and time again? Why do you try to provide for yourself when He has promised to support and sustain you with all that you need for this life and the next? Why do you rob God when He has promised open to the flood gates to all who test Him on this? Why do you, sons of the kingdom that you are, continue to live the life of thievery? Repent, beloved. Heed the voice of your Good Shepherd! You hear His voice. You know His Word. Trust Him. Follow Him. Allow Him to lead you into great pastures. His Word will not lead you astray. His Heart will not withhold from you any of these blessings you so earnestly desire. He is our Good Shepherd and because He is our Good Shepherd His sheep will never be in want, never be lacking good things, happy things, blessed things, like house and home, wife and children, land and animals. All that we have . . . we have because these things have come down from the Father of lights with whom there is no shifting of shadows. Therefore beloved, seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. “Test me in this” says the Lord of Hosts, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!