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Your Good Shepherd Nurtures You

John 10:11–16 (CSB)

11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, beloved of our Good Shepherd:  This third Sunday of Easter is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. The title “Misericordias Domini” means “The Goodness of the Lord,” and tells us something about our Good Shepherd.

The image of “shepherd” is of the defender of the sheep as wolves scatter and snatch them. The Shepherd stands between the wolves and the sheep. He gathers the sheep together again, and all at the risk of death.

But having died for His sheep, Jesus has rescued them!  How right we are to call Him our Good Shepherd! But there are other shepherds too, who are not Good Shepherds, and also there are wolves, who are forever the enemies of this Christ.  The important thing about the Good Shepherd is that at whatever cost …

YOUR GOOD SHEPHERD NURTURES YOU

  1. With His Words of Truth
  2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace
  1. With His Words of Truth

It’s hard to pick a word to say what our Good Shepherd does for us. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolf. He doesn’t let us scatter this way and that. He does care about us. He does gather us together in safety. He not only seeks us, but the many souls who are lost and wandering.

The wolf, that is to say, the Devil, uses events like these last few weeks to scatter people and separate them from our Good Shepherd. Others have been scattered through the various voices seeking our attention.

Now understand what “scattered” means, it means separated from the safety of the flock and of the Good Shepherd, easily separated and snatched. It means set up to be killed spiritually. You’ve probably seen it on TV, where the wolves or coyotes or hyenas or lions or whatever, cut an animal off from the heard, run it down and kill it. The same happens when people are separated from the word of Christ, which creates and nourishes our spiritual life.

For Christ’s words and no others really reveal a salvation that can bring comfort to the likes of you and me – to sinners.

As Peter preached in his second sermon in Acts, there is only one Savior:  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, CSB)

People are consumed by the dangers of this virus, who caused it, who can make us safe, and how we can avoid dying. It goes beyond mere prudence; it becomes an expectation of eternal life. Maybe I’m the one who has to tell you: most people my age won’t make it 20 years. In the last two years I have had plenty of funerals. There will be more, virus or no virus.

“Gather ‘round,” Jesus says, “and listen to me.” I have killed death. I have brought eternal life back to humanity. I have healed the wounds of alienation, resentment, blame, guilt, condemnation, and disapproval among people and with God.

This is the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He knows your troubles, sorrows, and grief. He knows your sins and shortcomings, your guilt, and your struggles with your weaknesses. He wipes your slate clean and fills it instead with His righteousness.

Against this are the wolves, who murder with their lies. Do you suppose Eve thought the devil was helpful? No doubt, for starters. How often do I have to  warn people that the unchristian teachers – Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Materialists, Humanists, etc. are not just people of another opinion, but wolves dressed like sheep.

The Mormons and Muslims deny the true Triune God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, the materialists and humanists believe that matter and energy is all there is, and deny any true love, true good, or even the human soul.

If you believe them, then you cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, and are lost to Him.

But Christ nurtures and blesses you with His words of truth. Truly you are a sinner, no excuses, but truly are you forgiven for the sake of Christ, not with excuses but with Jesus’ true satisfaction of the righteousness of God.

But not only are there wolves, there are also hired hands, those who will not stand with Christ, but will compromise and make allowances, so that the faithful are without true shepherds. Many preach the doctrine of toleration and universalism, rather than the Christian gospel, even though they are found within the church. If you go to many such churches, you will never hear about hell. It will seem as though nobody is ever damned. They will bury the most blatant unbeliever “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead.”  Any vague religiosity is considered to be the same as saving faith. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as atonement for our sins aren’t even proclaimed.

Sometimes these are called liberals or moderates or modernists – whatever is socially acceptable this season.

While such teachers may call themselves Christians, they are just as damned as the people they mislead. For they effectively deny Christ as the one and only Savior. Jesus warned against them when he also said,  ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, CSB)

Often while they may take the name “Christian” and “shepherd,” in fact, they hound people with the law, and so seek to make them good and either eligible for heaven or citizens of a brave new world.

And how prone we are to catch hold of this message!  For we easily think that if we can just “Be Good” and make others “be good’ that we and they can be sure of heaven. After all, we think, do “bad people” go to heaven?

Luther says, “They who are not good shepherds, however expect to make people good by hatefully scolding and driving them, whereas they are thereby only making matters worse.  For when we are exhorted to goodness we so quickly rebel, or despair of being the kind of person we should be.”

And the deceitfulness of this message is all the greater because it resembles the truth in so many ways.  There is no question that we MUST speak out on the moral issues of our day.

           2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace

But the Good Shepherd did not, does not, suppose that He can lead us poor sheep to save ourselves. The Good shepherd did the only thing that could save us. He laid down His life for the sheep. It is HE who has reconciled us to Himself.  He laid down His life in a perfect life on our behalf. He laid down His life to pay the price of our iniquities. 11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. He calls us to our salvation with His own voice.

And with this salvation comes true comfort, joy, and peace. With a good shepherd, sheep are safe, healthy, well-fed, well-watered, clean, and together. This is a metaphor. The comfort, joy, and peace we enjoy is not green grass and good water. It is to be healthy in our bodies, young and vigorous. It is to be loved, and to love. It is to see and hear the beautiful. It is to live without fear, without death, to be close to loved ones, and in harmony with them. It is to live without reproach from God or from anyone else, to be liked and appreciated even by the Holy God: That is to be at peace.

And it is to have a future.

One of our good Lutheran writers wrote recently about the horizon of hope[1]. If we were cursed with the religion of this world, we would be truly cursed, for I am past the horizon of being young or vigorous, or of being with my parents. For them any good must come soon or be lost forever.

But as children of the King of Kings, our horizon of hope is eternal. It is beyond old age, beyond death, beyond the grave, and it is for certain, for the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

And because He is risen, He says in all truth, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

[1] https://wolfmueller.co/the-horizon-of-hope/