Easter 3 2019
University Lutheran Chapel, Boulder, CO
In the Name of the Father, and of the X Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
To us wolves are the stuff of National Geographic and specials about how much we love our dogs.
But sheep farmers in wolf territory know another side of the wolf. For them it is no thought experiment or academic exercise in wildlife preservation. There is a good reason why the wolf was driven out from this and other inhabited areas. Wolves are vicious. Most predators only kill what they are going to eat. But I have heard accounts from sheep farmers of having lost entire flocks to wolves. A wolf pack’s frenzy and bloodlust can drive them to slaughter the entire flock. Why? Not because they can eat that much or need to, but because they enjoy the killing. It is fun for them to watch sheep bleed and die. Imagine being a shepherd and finding your entire flock slaughtered by wolves—not even eaten. Just carcasses strewn across a bloodied field.
The wolf is a beautiful animal, but it is the perfect killer. So also the devil. You see, he who knows how to disguise himself as an angel of light does not kill because he is hungry. Satan isn’t looking to bolster hell’s numbers by a few and then it will be enough for him. He kills because he loves the killing. He lies because he loves the lie. There’s no reason for it. No underlying motive. He didn’t grow up with a bad father or fall in with the wrong crowd in his teens. He is evil. He hates God and everything good, and he loves that he hates. He would kill you too, because it is fun for him to watch sheep bleed and die eternally in hell.
Oh, the stupidity of our sin! We see what we have inherited in our first parents: that we aren’t afraid to talk to the serpent, and yet we run and hide from God. We entertain the sin, and yet want to delay repentance for fear that maybe he isn’t good or won’t forgive this time. We are swayed by the outward appearance, all the while convinced that we are able to be judges over what God himself has said.
And yet even dumb sheep aren’t that dumb. They run from the wolf and to the voice of their shepherd. No wonder our Lord holds this simple animal up as our example and teacher.
But that’s always how it goes. In every temptation the devil works against the voice of Jesus. Jesus wants to gather his sheep through what? Through his voice, what he says, his word. They shall hear my voice. The church consists of holy believers and sheep who hear their Shepherd’s voice. If it isn’t Jesus’s voice, his very words on the pages of the Scriptures, it isn’t the church, no matter how much it might look like one.
And so that’s what the devil attacks. This should not be surprising to you. Today the attack might be against the truth that Jesus is the only way to the Father, or against the notion that children have a natural right to be raised by their father and their mother. Tomorrow it will be something else. For the farther man gets from God’s Word, the more educated and sophisticated he thinks he is. Just think how “woke,” “with the times,” and “on the right side of history” we could be if only we would sit in the seat of scoffers and sing their school song: “Just look at what we know now! My how smart we have become in our own eyes!”
But you, dear sheep of the Good Shepherd, want neither the wolf nor the hireling who defers to him. There have always been and always will be hirelings that care more for themselves than for the sheep; those who teach for their own advantage. There were false teachers in Israel; and there are false teachers in our day, teachers who say that you too, like the soon-to-be exiled Hebrews, can have a god of your own choosing; a god who says things you agree with and never what you wouldn’t want to hear. As it says: For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
To doubt what God says is the source and root of all sin. To believe what God says is the source and root of all righteousness. That is the test; of preachers, of fathers and mothers, of civil servants, of every Christian: will one rather lay down his life to hear and promote of the voice and words of the Shepherd, or will one make for what is expedient; what is easiest; what goes with the flow?
To doubt what God says is the source and root of all sin. To believe what God says is the source and root of all righteousness. Does that describe you?
I know a man who knew no sin and never doubted. A man who said: “The Scriptures cannot be broken,” and who lived and believed in perfect accord with that conviction. A man who perfectly entrusted himself to the Father even as he was being nailed to the tree to atone for sins he himself did not commit.
Dear sheep, your Good Shepherd has the righteousness you need. He laid down his life for you. He defeated the wolf by dying, and by rising have proven that the righteousness He earned for you makes for eternal life with God. Jesus is not a hireling. He wouldn’t just tell you want you want to hear. You can trust his promise. You can believe his Gospel. By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. He doesn’t leave you when things get tough and the wolf pack surrounds. Cling to his voice and be not afraid. He lays down his life for you. For you! You are worth it to him.
You see, everyone has to justify himself. Everyone has to be able to say that there is reason I exist, it’s good that I exist, and I should go on existing and not be food for wolves. Apart from Christ you can’t honestly claim that. But You have a good Shepherd who laid down his life for yours. That is your worth, your value.
David once sang: I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living (Ps 27:13). You see, without Christ I can only say, “Though there is no cosmic, objective reason for it, I would prefer to exist and keep on existing.” But Christ came that you may have life, a justified life with God for all eternity. Your value, and that of every human life, is that of the blood of the eternal Son of God who died for you. Christ’s blood is your justification for existing. Christ’s blood is your righteousness before the Father. Your shepherd is good, he laid down his life for yours, and you know and believe his voice. God help us to hear it!
Come soon, Lord Jesus.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
 WA 42:120: Hoc enim Diabolus in omnibus tentationibus solet, ut, quanto homo a uerbo discedit longius, tanto uideatur sibi doctior et sapientior.