The Good Shepherd
John 10:11-16, 27-28 - 2nd Sunday after Easter - May 4, 2014

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We are His sheep.

I don’t know if it’s the most complimentary thing in the world, to say to someone, “You are a sheep, or a lamb. You need a Shepherd. You cannot make it on your own. You have to be led. You have to be guided. You have to be fed.”

Not the most flattering thing because we all want to be the masters of our own destiny, going our own way, creating our own path. And that’s our pride speaking.

Yet the Scriptures are clear. We are the sheep. He is the Shepherd. It’s not always the most flattering fact, yet Jesus isn’t here to build our ego. He’s here to increase our faith.

In fact, this is one of the most comforting things in the whole world. This is for your assurance. This is for the strengthening of your faith. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. In His arms, under His protection, we are safe and secure.

It’s not a question of our own strength. Sheep are not strong, they’re weak. Just think of a sheep going up against a lion. It wouldn’t stand a chance. Us going up against the devil, the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, we don’t stand a chance.

Yet, our comfort, our strength, is that our Leader, our Guide, our Shepherd, is strong.

He has us in His sight. He isn’t going to lose us. He has us in His hand. He isn’t going to let us go, especially when danger comes knocking.

Especially in our time of need, He says “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Because He is not a hireling. He is the Good Shepherd who gave His all, so that His sheep would not perish. So that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

No matter how great the storm, He will be our shelter. No matter how great the danger, He will be our protector. Even when we ourselves are the danger, being tempted to follow our own sinful desires, and straying from the fold, He remains strong and faithful.

In His fold, we have all that we need, and we lack absolutely nothing. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want”, or lack, anything.

Yet, how does He shepherd us? How does He guide us? He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”

The voice of the Good Shepherd is key. Earlier in this same chapter of John, Jesus explained, “the sheep follow Him [the Good Shepherd]: for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”

What’s interesting is that experiments have been conducted to test just how depended a sheep is on the voice of it’s shepherd. Expermients where the real shepherd’s entire set of clothing, from head to toe, is worn by someone else. Yet, they won’t follow that someone else, because they don’t recognize his voice.

By grace, as sheep who know the voice of our Shepherd, our ears perk up when He speaks. When He says things like, “Behold, I make all things new”, we know He’s talking about making us anew, by going to the cross for us, making all things right between us and God.

Or when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”, the ears of our heart listen, and we do find rest and peace in our soul.

And He clearly lays it out for us today. His ultimate message for us today, is this: “the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”

We have no reason to fear. There is absolutely nothing to fear. Because the Good Shepherd does what is necessary. He lays down His life for the sheep. He makes us acceptable to the Father.

Sheep wander. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way”, yet, “The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This is the great love of the Good Shepherd: there is no sin of ours that He has not already taken upon Himself and forgiven. This is how He guides and leads us. He forgives us.

Even after being comforted in the forgiveness of sins, it’s a hard truth to face, that we still find ourselves wandering like sheep. How discouraging.

Yet, the Good Shepherd knows what to do. He knows how to handle us. He knows that oftentimes, just like sheep, we don’t even realize or understand what we’re doing wrong, at least not immediately, and by the time we do, we’ve already done damage. And then oftentimes, we find we’re not able to pull ourselves out of the trouble into which we caused, like a sheep that finds itself on its back, unable to get up without help, “cast down.”

The Good Shepherd knows what to do. He knows exactly how to lead us out of that danger. He gave His life for all. No matter what trouble in which we find ourselves, that is what gets us out. Because this is what sends the devil away, and drives out all doubt regarding our salvation. Since He died, and rose again, for all, it must be for me.

We learn this in the green pastures of His Word, and the still waters of His Sacraments, “He restoreth my soul.”

Following Him, believing in Him, trusting in Him, and hearing His Word often, is key. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”

No man shall pluck us out of Christ’s hand. Because we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

“I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Unfortunately, there are many hirelings, false shepherds. They have their own plans. They care not for the souls of men. They care for themselves. They use sheep for their own gain. And so, of course they flee at the first sign of danger. When the wolf comes knocking, that is, when temptation, the devil, sin, the false teaching of works righteousness, come knocking, they abandon the flock by abandoning God’s Word.

Yet, the Good Shepherd promises to always remain with us. He will keep us, guide us, and protect us. He has the words of eternal life, words of comfort and forgiveness. He saves our soul.

“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young... He will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.”

The Good Shepherd continues to feed us with these words of life and comfort. And He gives rest unto our souls, with the peace of sins forgiven, with the freedom of a clear conscience, with the assurance of everlasting life, with the Holy Ghost confirming all these things to us through the Word and Sacraments.

Jesus Christ was dead, but now He lives to grant us comfort and strength in the forgiveness of sins, through the green pasture of His Word, the still waters of the Sacraments. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We are safe in His arms. We are protected in His fold. We are sheep, which means, daily, we wander. But knowing His voice makes all the difference. He is able to lead us, and keep us, in the true faith. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” In Christ’s name. Amen.