SERMON EASTER 2017
Text: John 10:14-18 “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. 16 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. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 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.”
Why do Christians love the picture of Jesus as their Shepherd? Why is the thought of Jesus as our Shepherd so comforting? One reason is that a picture of our Lord is presented to us from little on. Some of you certainly remember learning and singing, “I am Jesus little lamb, oh how glad at heart I am”. Psalm 23 is the number one Psalm for us because this Psalm pictures that in Jesus we lack nothing that is necessary. It also pictures for us how blessed we are in life and death because of the good Shepherd. You know this by experience right here in this house of your loving Lord! Here he has blessed you again and again, especially through his Word and the Sacraments.
Because of this you have a beneficial relationship with Jesus. In our text he says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” We do know Jesus, we love him as our dear Savior. Yet we at times forget much that we should remember about him. For instance, Jesus is no ordinary shepherd, but the very Son of God in shepherd dress. This means that Jesus has far greater authority and power than an ordinary shepherd. In fact, this is what our text today emphasizes. The chief thought of our text is The Authority of Your Good Shepherd. Let us study and learn about this so that we might better know our good Shepherd. First, let us understand the authority Jesus has and uses as the Good Shepherd. Second, let us learn how we are Jesus’ blessed sheep.
We see the authority of Jesus already with his first words, “I am the Good Shepherd.” His words, “I am” state a fact. This is a fact that no one can challenge. Next he says, “I am THE good Shepherd. He is not a shepherd, just one of many. He the one great Shepherd! There is no other. (We pastors are just underlings, servants of the great Shepherd.)
Jesus also is a King in Shepherd’s dress. He has the authority of a king. When Jesus appeared before Pilot, he asked Jesus, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “I am a king”. My kingdom is not of this world.” So the gentle, loving Shepherd you see pictured is a person of authority. In fact, as you know from the book of Revelations, “He is the King of kings, and the Lord of Lords”. Isn’t that something, our good Shepherd is THE King and Lord of all.
As the King Shepherd he can do what he wants. Yet he doesn’t decide his actions alone. He delights to carry out his Father’s wishes. So, Jesus came to this world because of his Father’s good and gracious will. “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son.” Yet regarding his suffering and death, he used his own authority. He says, “I lay down my life for the sheep”; likewise he says regarding his resurrection, “I take up again my life.” He also says, “No one takes it from me.” He is saying he allowed himself to be arrested and crucified; his enemies could not have arrested and crucified him by their own power or authority. Jesus in himself had the authority and power to lay down and take up again his life. God the Father himself had given him that authority. Jesus says, “I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” So, Jesus died on Good Friday for you because this was God’s plan for your salvation.
Now let us note how Jesus is the GOOD Shepherd. This again is a fact. First, he is perfect, holy and the loving Son of the Father. Jesus, the person, is good in every sense. Secondly, He is good for he is the perfect Shepherd in every sense. Jesus is not a hired hand; they run fleeing when the roaring lion attacks. Jesus stepped in front of the sheep taking on the enemy. He fought to the death so the sheep could be saved. [Think of Thursday night in the garden; Jesus said, “I told you I am he; if you are looking for me, then let these men go”.] The same is true for you and me; Luther wrote and sang: “But for us fights the valiant one, whom God himself elected.” So the good Shepherd laid down his life for us. If he didn’t do that, we would not have a single spiritual blessing; we would still be lost, hopeless, and helpless. But that is only part of it. He took up his life again. He not only died in his great battle with the ravenous wolf, Satan. He killed the wolf. Then he took up his life again for he had undone the destruction caused by that evil, fallen angel. As a result, Jesus replaced your sins with his holiness; he changed death to a sleep for your body; he opens the gates of heaven to you. His resurrection proves this, death could not hold him in the tomb. And since he raised others such as Lazarus, you know Jesus can raise you from the dead. You see the authority and power Jesus has?
Further, he rose again so that he again can shepherd his sheep. He still watches over and protects you. He hears and answers your prayers. This mighty God is your Shepherd. But most amazing is this; this powerful Lord rules totally in your interest, for your benefit. What other king does that?
But now we ask, how is it that we can say, we are Jesus sheep? How can we say that Jesus is our Shepherd? Jesus says: “; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father”. Note here how you are tied to your Shepherd Jesus. The Father and the Son have a special unique relationship. Jesus says he and his Father are one. Jesus also wants you to be one with him and the Father. In John 17, he prayed, “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,… may they also be in us.” Jesus further shows his knowledge of his sheep when he says in our text, “ I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.”
How did this come about? You and I did not do this. Jesus says: “My Father…has given them to me.” You and I are terrible sinners. Yet God has chosen you to be a precious possession of Jesus. Jesus says: “I know my sheep”. How did the Father select you? Through his WORD. God through his word has overcame your hostility toward him. When you fought against God, he showed you how fruitless that was. It brought you nothing but trouble in one way or another. Then when you had no place to turn, he showed you his love; he offered complete forgiveness. And that won you over. So, Jesus says: “My sheep LISTEN to my voice; …they follow me.” And that is what you and I do; that’s why you are here this morning; that’s why you came to the special festival services. You love hearing your Shepherd’s voice. You want to know more about him, to be ever closer to him.
Now, what are the blessings we have because of this relationship? David wrote in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters.” In America, it is hard for Christians like you and me to understand, everything we are and have is due to the Lord. We don’t understand we don’t deserve to possess one piece of clothing, nor any food in the home and store, nor our doctors and medicine, nor one piece of furniture. And then we complain when we don’t have something that someone else has! Physically, you are not lacking. Your good Shepherd has given you what is necessary for you in your life.
Spiritually, you also do not lack. Since Jesus lived, died and rose again, you have forgiveness of all your sins. Consider your hands, just your hands. How many sins have you committed with your hands? How many times have those hands failed to do what is good? If we had to pay for just one of those sins, we would fear and tremble, for certainly we would have to go to hell and pay up. But you possess the very holiness of God; just think, Jesus took your sins and gave you his holiness. So now as sheep followers of Jesus, you have been given and wear the title, Children of God. The Scriptures even go so far as to tell you, you will reign in heaven with Jesus. ---Finally, you have peace with God. This is a peace that the world does not have nor can it give such peace. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In life and death, you as Jesus’ sheep you experience this. It is like being near calm, untroubled waters.
Always keep a picture of Jesus your Shepherd in your mind and heart. Remember and ponder that this Shepherd is your very Good Shepherd. Remember he has all authority in heaven and on earth! Remember that as he lives and reigns he does so for the benefit of you his sheep! Amen