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The Third Sunday of Easter – John 10:11-16

by pastorjuhl ~ April 24th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

When the word “servant” comes to mind we think of someone who is willing to give up everything he or she has for the sake of what he or she is given to do. A shepherd fits the description of servant quite well. Shepherds do not own the sheep they watch. Shepherds tend a flock that belongs to someone else. He serves in the stead and by the command of the owner. Whatever he says and does, it is as if the owner himself is saying and doing it. When the flock is attacked by an enemy, the shepherd must do everything in his power to protect the flock. Though they are not his own, the shepherd is responsible for the care of the sheep.

A shepherd worth his hire will get to know the flock he is charged to serve. This knowledge is more than learning habits. Knowing his flock penetrates to the heart of who sheep are. The shepherd knows sheep will go only where the shepherd leads them. Occasionally sheep will stray from the flock. Sometimes sheep will be lured into the trap of an enemy. The shepherd knows his sheep have excellent hearing even though sheep are quite dimwitted animals. Calling sheep dimwitted is not an insult; that is how they are. It is also why sheep need a shepherd who cares for the well-being of the flock and not just the shepherd’s own well-being.

Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd in John chapter ten. Jesus gives His life for the sheep. The Good Shepherd is the opposite of a hireling who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. Contrary to the hireling, the Good Shepherd cares about the sheep. The Good Shepherd cares so much for the sheep that He is willing to give His life on behalf of the sheep.

A hireling, like a faithful shepherd, is someone put in charge of something on behalf of someone else. In John chapter ten the hireling is in charge of sheep. Though the hireling is thought to be trustworthy, he does not care for the sheep. The hireling looks out for his own well-being. He has no stake in the sheep. The hireling is watching someone else’s property. When wolves attack the flock, the hireling is the first to run. Trust and confidence fade away when it comes to survival of the fittest.

It’s sad to say that some pastors in Christ’s Church are hirelings. These men believe they are faithful to their call and faithful to their Lord. They love peace so much they will go to any extreme to keep peace. When the enemy enters the flock to scatter the sheep, the hireling will negotiate with the enemy rather than protecting the flock. It’s better to come to some sort of peaceful settlement with the wolves than make some sheep mad by doing whatever it takes to stop the wolves from devouring the flock.

Can you imagine Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, negotiating with the Pharisees, the Roman Soldiers, Pontius Pilate, even the devil himself? When the devil tells Jesus to command stones to become bread, Jesus bargains with Satan by asking if it’s alright to turn the stones into broccoli! When the Jews yell at Jesus to come down off the cross and save Himself, Jesus responds by asking them if five minutes of showing them His glory might suffice! When Peter tells Jesus He cannot die instead of Jesus rebuking Satan, Jesus tells Peter, “OK, I won’t die. I’ll make my Passion look extra gory, but I won’t die. After all, who would believe that God’s only Son would die on a cross for the sins of the world?”

Seeing Jesus do these things is seeing Him not as our Savior but as our negotiator. We remain stuck in our sin with no hope of salvation. Jesus does not take on flesh as our negotiator Who tries to find a peaceful settlement with sin, death, and Satan. If that were the case, then the Law of God is our only hope for eternal life. That’s like beating a dead horse with another dead horse!

Thanks be to God that Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who gives His life on behalf of the sheep. A hireling has nothing in common with the Son of God. Where the hireling fills lines his pockets with money, pride, possessions, and reputation, he has no loyalty to the one who owns the sheep. Jesus Christ doesn’t consider equality with God something to be desired. So He empties Himself, takes on the form of a servant, and lives among us as One Who serves. The Good Shepherd is our Protector and Defender as well as our Lord and Master.

Contrary to our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, Saint Peter says that Jesus committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth….[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Take another look at the bulletin cover. Jesus carries a shepherd’s staff, crowned with thorns. On His shoulders is a sheep that strayed from the flock. The look on our Lord’s face is one of anguish, but also one of peace. Look closer at that sheep’s face. A careful look will reveal your face on that sheep. Jesus is carrying you back to the fold. Every one of us at one time or another has strayed from the flock. We have followed our own dimwitted path, seeking another pasture of another shepherd. Perhaps we have been scared away by the enemy, not knowing where we are or how we got there. Take heart. You were never lost. Jesus knew exactly where you were the whole time. The Lord God says through the prophet Ezekiel indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

The Good Shepherd seeks and saves His sheep not to shame them but to give them rest. I will feed them in good pasture…they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture…I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. These words echo Psalm 23, perhaps the most beloved psalm in all of Christendom. The psalmist paints a word picture of what our Shepherd Lord does for us not only here in time but also in eternity. He makes us lie down in green pastures. He puts us beside still waters. He restores our soul. He leads us in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. The green pastures of this world are right here in the house of the Lord. The still waters of our baptism wash us clean of sin and refresh us in His forgiveness. We are restored in His Word of Holy Absolution and led down the path of righteousness that leads to the foretaste of the feast to come that is the Lord’s Supper. The bread and the cup are the Body and Blood of Christ, nourishing us with forgiveness and life until we are taken from the valley of the shadow of death into the house of the Lord forever.

That’s you and me resting on the ample shoulders of the Good Shepherd. We might run and hide from Him, but He will find us and return us to the fold. When He calls us, we hear His voice and follow that voice down paths of righteousness, following His steps as our example of living the Christian life. What a merciful Good Shepherd we have. What joy He gives us in His gifts, especially the gift of preachers who give the gifts of God to the people of God. No other god comes to us as Savior and servant at the same time. Though our minds may have a difficult time grasping the concept of a servant-King, we believe that God saves us not through what we might consider the usual way. God saves us through a Shepherd Who gives His life and takes that life up again to call the sheep together and take them Home to our heavenly Father. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

2 Responses to The Third Sunday of Easter – John 10:11-16

  1. Paul Beisel

    Good sermon. My only comment would be that Shepherds were often the owners of the sheep. Sometimes they hired others to tend the sheep. No doubt those who owned the sheep were much more watchful than those who did not, which is the point that Jesus makes in the Gospel.

  2. Tony James

    Good sermon and highlights what is meant by being "saved". At every stage of our lives and in all circumstances Jesus Christ like the Hound of Heaven is searching for us and giving us ample opportunity to surrender to him. My prayer is that all christians ,in whatever circumstances they find themselves, will always throw themselves into the merciful hands of our Saviour.

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