Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday of Easter (May 4, 2014)

JOHN 10:11-16

In the name + of Jesus.

Pastor:                          Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Congregation:            He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     A good shepherd suffers all things for his sheep.  It is a strange, practically backwards relationship that the shepherd has with his sheep.  There is no doubt that the shepherd is greater than the sheep.  For, people are more important than animals.  What is more, the sheep are not often very alert or careful.  The sheep go about grazing, keeping their faces to the tufts of grass that will feed them.  They do not look for predators, and they can easily wander off into dangerous territory.  If they become prey, there is little the sheep can do to defend themselves.  Sheep don’t run fast, and they don’t fight well.  They are more fleece than fangs.  I am sure that many shepherds have figured that some sheep are just more trouble than they are worth.
     A hired hand will certainly think so.  A hired hand will not risk his time, his energy, and much less his life for the protection of the flock.  The hired hand will see the sheep wander off into the enemy’s clutches, and he will curse the sheep as he watches it get devoured by the wolf.  He doesn’t care.  It was not his sheep.
     But a good shepherd will suffer all things for his sheep.  Yes, a sheep will wander; but a good shepherd will go after it.  Yes, the sheep will be marked as prey by the wolf, but a good shepherd will stand between his sheep and the predator.  He will fight and he will defend a sheep, even if it costs him wounds—or worse.  A good shepherd will always care for his sheep; for they are his sheep.  And though he is greater than they, a good shepherd lives as though the sheep were greater than he.  A good shepherd will suffer all things for his sheep.
     Isaiah has taught us to confess, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)  We are sheep who have cared about only that which is right before our eyes.  We do not give thought to the enemies who would lure us away from Christ and his Church.  We focus on our pleasures, our obligations, our needs, and our interests.  Satan seeks to distract, deceive, and then to devour you.  He wants to draw you away from Jesus by making anything more important.  Sheep are not evil because they look for grass to graze upon.  But they are foolish for not being aware of the dangers around them.  And so it is with you.  Sure, your job, your children, and your schedules are important.  But if that is all that matters, Satan will seize you.  You will be drawn away from Jesus because other things are claiming priority.  Sheep do not flee from their shepherd, but they are drawn away.  Beware that you are not also drawn away.  Danger and death will seize you if you do.
     All we like sheep have gone astray…. (Isaiah 53:6)  This is what sheep are like.  For this reason, it would not be a surprise if the Lord would despise you.  It would not be a surprise if Jesus would declare that you are more trouble than you are worth.  You could imagine Jesus issuing his curse as you head toward a cursed death.  But he doesn’t.  If fact, it is the opposite.  Jesus declares that you are worth all the trouble he had to endure.  Jesus is not just “a” good shepherd.  Jesus is THE Good Shepherd.  And the Good Shepherd suffers all things for his sheep.
     Jesus said, I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)  Jesus suffered and died for you.  Though he is true God and worthy of all glory and honor, he chose to endure hardship and shame and slander and pain and even bloody crucifixion and a cursed death under God’s wrath for you.  Jesus stood between you and the wolves which would have devoured you.  He fought for you and suffered wounds—and worse—for you.  Satan got a taste of Jesus’ blood, hoping to devour him.  But it was Jesus’ blood that overcame Satan.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus overcame the grave and Satan and every enemy that would try to drag you into death and hell.  Jesus suffers all things for his sheep.
     Jesus lives and reigns to continue to lead you, to console you, to protect you, and to save you.  He gives you his body and blood to feed upon for your salvation.  By these, he nourishes his sheep so that you are sustained on your journey heavenward.  By these, he fends off your enemies so that sin, death, and the devil cannot touch you.  He speaks tenderly to you to direct you, to comfort you, and to encourage you.  He continues to speak to you so that you will not be led astray by a strange or seductive voice on your journey heavenward. 
     Jesus lives and reigns for you.  He loves you dearly.  He has shed his blood for you and laid down his life for you.  He has destroyed the enemy for you and has risen to keep you safe and secure.  You are his sheep.  And he will never forsake you; for he is the Good Shepherd. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.