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Third Sunday of Easter/Easter 2 – John 10:11-16

by pastorjuhl ~ April 20th, 2012

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

            Jesus gives His beloved many wonderful names. He calls us disciples, friends, brothers, branches, and many other names. These names say two things. First, they say how to become a Christian. We have not accepted the faith from our teacher. He has called us to His school. We did not choose Him as our friend. He has chosen us as friend. We have not called Him brother. He has become our brother in order that we might be His brothers. We have not grafted Him into the vine. He has grafted us into the Vine of Righteousness. Second, we can also see from these names the blessed state of being a Christian.

There is one name not yet mentioned that is perhaps the best-loved name that Jesus gives His beloved. That name is sheep. We are sheep of the Lord Jesus. Sheep do not choose their shepherd. The Shepherd chooses His sheep. What blessed comfort we have in believing Jesus has chosen us to be His own! What do we learn from the fact that the Lord calls Christians His sheep?

We first learn that He alone has made us His sheep. Psalm 100 says; know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. No one whom God created can call himself a sheep of God. God must make one of His own His sheep.

Earlier in John chapter ten Jesus says, The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Sheep normally follow the voice of the shepherd, but as Isaiah prophesied, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way. Sheep who listen to the voice of a different shepherd, the voice of a hireling or even the voice of a wolf, cannot turn themselves back to the voice of the Good Shepherd. He must seek them out and bring them back.

Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, seeks and returns stray sheep to the fold. He does this by laying down His life on behalf of the sheep. Hirelings would never go the extra mile for sheep. Jesus says, he who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. Notice that the Good Shepherd does not scatter the sheep. Those who set themselves against the Good Shepherd scatter the sheep.

Believing Jesus’ words here should put to rest who is to blame for strife among Christians, especially strife between a pastor and a congregation. The wolf is to blame. Satan is to blame. Satan prowls among the flock seeking those whom he might devour.

Many of you have lived through strife in this congregation or in another congregation. You’ve seen the wounds Satan inflicts through sinful people who think they have the best of intentions, but actually sow seeds of discontent among God’s elect. No one pastor alone, no one shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock, has the magic remedy to bring back the good old days. Only the Means of Grace administered by the steward of the mysteries of God work healing among the flock. It may take a few months or it might take decades, but the Good Shepherd is determined to have one flock and one shepherd. Only Jesus calls us and brings us from deception through His voice, the Word of His Gospel. As Saint Peter confessed in John chapter six, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.

We also learn that there is something marvelous to be among His sheep. We are known by the Shepherd. He even calls us by our names. There’s something quite special about having your name spoken by someone whom you think doesn’t know your name. You are surprised in a good way. Wow! He knows my name. What else might he know about me? Jesus knows everything about you. Chiefly He knows you are His precious lamb. He says to you, I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. His is not a passing acquaintance. His knowledge of you took Him to the cross, where He bled and died for your sin and rose again for your justification. That’s how intimately Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows you.

Jesus also feeds you. Consider what is perhaps the best loved and most well-known of all the Psalms. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.… You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Shepherds do whatever it takes to make sure their flock is well tended. Think about that last phrase I just quoted from Psalm 23. What shepherd would think of preparing a banquet table while your enemies gaze upon you? Only the Good Shepherd does this for you. He gives you His Word. He cleanses you from all sin in Baptism. He feeds you with forgiveness of sins and life in the Supper. That’s how much the Good Shepherd cares for you.

He protects His sheep not just from enemies, but also from the fear of our enemies. What a marvelous word picture that phrase paints. Jesus defends us from the fear of our enemies in order that we might live in peace and quietness, grazing in the meadow of His Word. Jesus defends us from the fear of our enemies by facing that fear head on in His glorious Passion on our behalf. You have nothing to fear when you are Christ’s lamb. He has destroyed death and put to flight every evil plan and purpose of Satan.

He also guides His sheep through this world into the pasture of eternal life. Psalm 23 says, He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me…. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. He guides you to His house to hear the Word and receive this Word in sermon, song, and sacrament. He guides you into the world to love and serve your neighbor, giving witness to your trust in Almighty God. He will guide you through this life into life everlasting. Death is only falling asleep. When next you open your eyes, you will see Jesus face-to-face. You will be a new creation living forever in the presence of the heavenly Father.

No wonder so many Christians through the years have found so much comfort in being His little lambs, totally dependent upon the Shepherd for all their needs. The most important thing you depend upon the Good Shepherd to provide is righteousness. He bestows His righteousness to you through shepherds sent to tell you that you are people of His pasture and sheep of His hand. From His hand, you receive every blessing from the Chief Shepherd, who knows you and protects you in this life and unto life everlasting.

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

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