YOU ARE SAFE IN THE HANDS
OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
M: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Cong: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name + of Jesus.
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, commented on this: “God's good and gracious will is certainly done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.” Luther's comment may seem like nonsense to you since you see evidence daily of a world which is cruel, wicked, and defective. If the world is like this, how can we say that God's good and gracious will is certainly done?
Our misunderstanding is that we are confusing heaven and earth. The perfection you long for—we all do, and no one can blame you for that—is in the heavenly, glorious kingdom that Jesus promises to you. Anyone who tells you that you can have your best life now is directing you to worldly glory and pleasure, and is no servant of Jesus. Jesus does not promise you that, so to say that Jesus is not true to his promises is wrong. You can't hold Jesus accountable for promises you wish he had made. This world is corrupt, and for that reason it is dying. Until it dies, deadly and destructive things happen in it. This corrupt world will be destroyed by fire on the Last Day, and our Lord will make a new heaven and earth for his saints. That is the home you long for. That is the best life, but it is not now. It is then; and then, it will be uninterrupted and unending peace, joy, and glory.
But Martin Luther's comment on the petition, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is true. So, what is God's good and gracious will? How is it done among us? Luther continues: “God's will is done when he breaks and defeats every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, which try to prevent us from keeping God's name holy and letting his kingdom come. And God's will is done when he strengthens and keeps us firm in his word and in the faith as long as we live. This is his good and gracious will.” So, the Lord's promise is not that he will make this world perfect, nor will he make your life in this world perfect. His promise is that he will set you apart from this corrupt, dying world, that he will strengthen and keep you from all that would destroy your salvation, and that he will finally deliver you into the glorious kingdom to come. This is God's good and gracious will, and this is what we pray our Father in heaven will do for us.
Dear Christians, I bring you good news of great joy: God the Father answers your prayer through Jesus. You are safe in the hands of the Good Shepherd. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” (John 10:27-29) If you are praying that God's will would be done in your life, Jesus assures you that, through him, God's will is guaranteed to be done for you. He has redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. Therefore, Jesus gives you eternal life, and he keeps you secure in the one true faith unto life everlasting. You are safe in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
He does all this through his voice, that is, through his word. For, the Good Shepherd speaks to his sheep. He attached his word to water so that in holy baptism, you are cleansed of all sin and born anew into God's family. He attached his word to bread and wine so that in holy communion he keeps you fed and nourished as you make your way heavenward. He gives you his word in holy absolution so that, when you confess your sins, he assures you that his blood has paid the price for you, and therefore, he forgives you of every misdeed, even the ones you can't remember. And he gives you his word through the preaching of the minister he has sent to you so that, by this office, you are comforted, encouraged, admonished, and equipped for all good things. By these things, you are safe in the hands of your Good Shepherd.
The promise of your Good Shepherd is necessary, because the enemies of the sheep do not go away. As sheep, we continue to be what we are—sheep that are defenseless and prone to wandering away. The prophet Isaiah says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6) This is the nature of sheep. We are absorbed by our own appetites. We put our attention is whatever gives us instant gratification. We don't think of the dangers, so we don't keep watch as we ought. Often, we don't care. And this is why we need a shepherd.
The sheep need a shepherd because the dangers are real, because the enemies are out for blood, and because they play for keeps. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) When the Bible describes your enemy that way, it is not exaggerating. The devil wants to destroy you. He wants you to be damned. He wants to sink his claws and teeth into you and to tear you apart. What chance does a sheep have against a lion? The devil knows that we are outmatched. He seduces. He deceives. He entices. He tries to draw you away from Jesus by appealing to your fleshly appetite. He convinces you that he has better delicacies than your Good Shepherd. He promises you more pleasure, more happiness, and more benefits from doing things his way. And like sheep, we go astray. We follow his voice. We feed on his temptations, and we crave more and more. Repent. For the devil seeks only to devour you, and you cannot save yourself from him.
This is why you need a shepherd. And this is why your Father in heaven sent you the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, has snatched you out of the lion's mouth. He threw himself into the lion's mouth for you. Jesus was mauled, bloodied, and killed in order to rescue you. The Good Shepherd has laid down his life to save you. But now Jesus is risen. The Good Shepherd lives to guard and keep you so that the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh will not overtake you. He tends and feeds you so that you will be kept strong in God's word and in the faith as long as you live. The Lord Jesus will even nudge you with his staff to bring you back. While it feels like a mean stroke, it is a loving shepherd who keeps you from straying away from the safety of his care. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” (John 10:27-29) You are safe in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
“God's good and gracious will is certainly done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.” Through Jesus, God's will is done in our lives. He saves sinners. He guards and keeps us so that we remain in the true faith until life everlasting. Nothing can rip you away from him—not sin, not death, not even the devil. The devil has been conquered. Sins have been taken away. And death must give you up for the resurrection to life everlasting. You are safe in the hands of your Good Shepherd. He strengthens you through his word—whether it is proclaimed or added to the sacraments. His voice continues to comfort you in your fears, to warn you against your enemies, to encourage you to walk faithfully with him, and to console you in times of hardship and pain. As long as your are listening to your Shepherd's voice, you are safe in the Good Shepherd's care.
Finally, our Good Shepherd's voice will call us into our heavenly home. There, we will lie down in green pastures—never again to be concerned about enemies. There, we will sit beside still waters—forever at rest from all our labors. There, we will be restored to perfection in body, mind, and spirit. There, the new heaven and earth will be perfect, and our lives will be perfect in it. There, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is what Jesus accomplished when he came to do the will of his Father. God's will was certainly done, even without our prayer. By God's grace, his will has been done among us also. For, we are safe in the hands of our Good Shepherd. This is his good and gracious will.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.