4th Easter Sunday
May 7, 201
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
“I am the Good Shepherd”
1) Following My Father’s Command to Lay Down My Life for the Sheep
2) Calling All My Faithful Sheep Into One Flock Following One Shepherd
Dear faithful sheep of the Good Shepherd, Jesus,
God promised his people – people of Jerusalem too often turning away from our Lord’s Word to follow their own fancy, people about to be carried into captivity in Babylon; people the Lord would not allow to be lost forever — God promises us, who too often let our personal desires become more important than the Lord’s will for our life – God promised through prophet Ezekiel, ‘I will save my flock…I will place over you one shepherd, my servant David; he will tend you…I the Lord will be your God…my servant David will be a prince among you…I will make a covenant of peace with you.’[EZEK 34]
David we remember, a shepherd putting his life on the line for his sheep! ‘When a lion or a bear carried off a sheep from David’s flock, he pursued & rescued the sheep from a predator’s mouth by seizing the lion’s hair; striking & killing the bear.’[1 SAM 17] Trusting the Lord to also give him victory over an uncircumsized Philistine, shepherd-boy David brings giant Goliath down with one God-guided stone from his sling. Who would not want David shepherding our souls? One problem: As Ezekiel pens God’s promise, David the shepherd who became king in Israel is dead & buried several hundred years. Today, will we be shepherded by dust in David’s three-thousand year old tomb? Good news for Israel – God’s answer for us! Shepherd/King David was promised one of his descendants will rule our Lord’s people forever — writing Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ – David is a picture, a lesser preview of his greater descendant Jesus who fulfils God’s promise to protect & to preserve his people, declaring, ‘I am the Good Shepherd…I will save you…I will give you peace.’
How will our Good Shepherd save us? David fought off a lion & bear, risking his life, but ‘Good Shepherd Jesus lays down his life for the sheep’ because he is much more than a ‘hired hand’ who would ‘abandon the sheep & run away when he sees a wolf coming.’ Note how Jesus stresses his role as the Son of God, sent by his Father to defeat sin, death & the Devil for us. Far more dangerous than any earthly enemy who might, at most, end our earthly life, sin & Satan will kill our soul, will separate us from God forever; will deliver eternal death in hell. It might seem innocuous at first. Telling a little lie to supposedly keep myself out of trouble, telling myself no one can preach or teach as well as I can; telling the Lord (never out loud, of course) pursuing my personal pleasure is more important than working, often anonymously, to bring God’s blessings to other souls. Fill in sin’s details from your own diary, please. You know better than any other human being how often your attitude & your actions displease the Lord. While my sin may often seem insignificant – Satan seldom asks us to take a running leap off a spiritual cliff – every sin, every thought, word or action disobeying God’s commands slides us a little closer to the edge of hell.
Originally unable to resist any temptation to sin; born into this world as a spiritual slave of Satan, we helpless souls needed a Savior who could rescue us from our wicked world; rescue us from our own evil selves. We spiritual sheep who are still too weak to resist every temptation need a shepherd who defeats the Devil & destroys sin’s death to give us life; to guard our life. Into this world — conceived in the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, born in Bethlehem — into our personal life– walking in through his Word, with the waters of baptism – in steps Jesus! A perfectly faithful servant of his Father who obeys every order God gives – a peerless spiritual warrior who overpowers the Devil, who refuses to be deceived by any tempting way Satan would twist the Scriptures – Jesus willingly lays down his innocent life Good Friday as the one payment God his Father can accept to completely cover our sins’ cost.
The third day – Easter Sunday – doing what merely human shepherds like David could never do – Jesus ‘takes his life up again, as authorized by God his Father; as commanded by his Father.’ Declaring us ‘forgiven,’ proclaiming God is at peace with us, the Good Shepherd whose absolutely total obedience is credited to our account in God’s ledger, credited as ‘our’ righteousness – the Good Shepherd whose death absorbed & erased our sin’s guilt – the Good Shepherd whose resurrection destroys death’s ability to ever hold us in our body’s grave – the Good Shepherd Jesus not only defends our life (like David defending his sheep), the Good Shepherd first brings our soul to life. Calling us, through his Word, calling us personally as he called Peter, Andrew, James & John to ‘Come, follow me’[MT 4] – with his Spirit giving us faith that hears our Savior calling; faith that joyfully receives our Lord’s invitation to ‘believe in the Lord Jesus;’ to ‘be saved’[ACTS 16] – our Good Shepherd gives us; guarantees us eternal life. Read it in God’s Word; read it on the wall in our gym: ‘I, the Good Shepherd, know my sheep; my sheep know me’…‘my sheep listen to my voice; I know them; they follow me. I give them eternal life; they shall never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.’[JN 10]
Who would not want Jesus shepherding my soul? Who would not want Jesus shepherding my friend’s soul? Notice how Jesus not only assures us his personal protection & direction for this eternal life he won for us by laying down his life as our sinless sacrifice, only to rise from death to life as our undeniable Redeemer – Jesus invites us to share the Good News of our Good Shepherd with friends & family, with acquaintances & strangers who do not faithfully follow Jesus today. Announcing, ‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock & one shepherd,’ Jesus makes it clear: not every soul he will place on his right when he returns the last day as an eternal judge separating the sheep from the goats by looking into every heart to see who ‘believes in the one & only Son God lovingly sent into the world;’ to see ‘whoever does not believe in the name of God’s one & only Son’[JN 3] – not every soul who will be invited as time ends to ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance – take the heavenly kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’[MT 25] – not every individual who will forever belong to that ‘one flock’ following ‘one Shepherd’ is identified as one of Jesus’ sheep today.
Question: How can one of today’s lost souls become a sheep of the Good Shepherd? Jesus, face-to-face, called the tax collector Matthew, called the fishermen – Jesus called a disciple asking to first bury his father – Jesus called a rich young man wondering what he must do to inherit heaven – Jesus, face to face, called Philip to ‘follow me.’ Today, Jesus, speaking through his written Word, calls you, calls me; Jesus calls every soul reading the Bible to ‘Come, follow me.’ More than this, Jesus calls people to follow him as faithful sheep by speaking through believers repeating Scripture’s truths.
How can unbelieving friends who are walking or running along sin’s path to hell be effectively called & convinced to follow Jesus into heaven? Please, let the Holy Spirit take care of the convincing, for there is no way you or I can possibly persuade another soul to trust Jesus’ full & free forgiveness instead of relying upon their efforts to earn God’s glory. At the same time, please extend our Lord’s invitation to follow Jesus. Please, do not say nothing; do not assume silence will ever effectively turn a goat into a sheep – turn an unbeliever into a redeemed disciple of Christ. Remember Paul asking, ‘How can they believe in one of whom they have not heard? How can they hear without someone speaking to them?’[ROM 8] Please, letting the Holy Spirit work faith through the message of Christ, please tell friends, tell family members what we have learned about Jesus living & dying as our Substitute, exchanging his holiness for our guilt – please tell co-workers, tell acquaintances the Good News about our Good Shepherd: Jesus laid down his life to give us eternal life, Good Friday Jesus victoriously overpowered sin & Satan – then, the third day, Jesus took up his life again, Easter Sunday Jesus’ triumphant resurrection destroyed death & the devil.
Who knows what will happen when we share Jesus’ good news with souls around us in this world? Jesus knows: ‘His sheep will listen to his voice…will follow him…will enjoy eternal life’ with us; with all our Lord’s other faithful sheep when he calls us home to heaven.
Until that time, listen to your Good Shepherd forgiving, guarding; guiding you. Hear your Shepherd speaking as you personally read the Bible. Also hear Jesus your Shepherd speaking to you through Christian parents, faithful pastors; godly teachers – through people our Lord puts in our life to guide us with his Word. Today, especially, I urge you to listen to Jesus guarding & guiding you through Principal Markgraf. Regularly seeing Peter with babies in his arms, a smile on his face – often watching Peter patiently nurture young students who need a little correction — hearing Peter persistently but lovingly redirect parents & teachers, it is easy, in Peter, to see Jesus the Good Shepherd protecting & directing his sheep.
May God open your eyes to see Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laying down his life to give us eternal life! May God open your ears to hear Shepherd Jesus directing your life so that others may see our Lord in your life!