Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)
Good Shepherd Sunday
May 3, 2009
Text: John 10:11-18

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has laid down His life for the sheep, for you and for me, for our salvation, and He has taken it up again. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16; ESV). It is the mark of a good shepherd that he be willing to suffer all, even death, for the sake of his sheep. A good shepherd will throw himself to the wolves in order to spare the sheep. This our Lord Jesus has done for us. In order to save us from sin, death, and the devil, He gave Himself into death, for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. And God has raised Him from the dead. He continues to shepherd us. He sits at God’s right hand, lives and reigns to all eternity, and He shepherds His sheep, the holy Christian Church, with His Word and with His Sacraments. The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd. We shall not be in want. We shall lack no good thing.

Sheep are stupid animals. That is why they need a shepherd. Left to themselves, sheep will wander off and get into all sorts of trouble. They will eat poisonous weeds. They will drink stagnant water. They will wander right into the clutches of a wolf. We get warm and fuzzy feelings when we think of ourselves as Jesus’ little lamb, but think about the image for just a moment. It’s not complementary. When we sing, “I am Jesus’ little lamb,” we’re actually confessing our sins. We are confessing our need for a Good Shepherd. We’re confessing that if we don’t have a good and faithful shepherd, we will wander off and get into all sorts of trouble. We will eat the poisonous weeds of sin and false doctrine. We will drink the stagnant water of pop-Christian drivel. We’ll follow any and every false teacher who scratches our itching ears, and even worse, we’ll wander right into the clutches of the devil.

Since this is the case, thanks be to God that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He leads us away from the poisonous weeds and stagnant waters and makes us to lie down in the green pastures of His holy Church that we might feed on His Word and Sacraments. He leads us to pure and fresh water, the water of Holy Baptism. He restores our souls. He gives us His healing medicine to restore us who have been poisoned and attacked by wolves. He lead us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake, namely, through His Word, through preaching, by His Spirit. He banishes fear by forgiving our sins. Though evil betide, though this life be a vale of tears, though we have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear it, for our Good Shepherd leads us even here. He is ever with us, comforting us with His rod and staff, with His holy Word. And He prepares a Table for us, even in the midst of our enemies, even in the midst of sin and death and hell and Satan, even before all those who hate us and persecute us, He prepares a Table, the Table of His body and blood. He anoints our heads with oil, pouring out His Spirit upon us. The cup of His grace overflows. Since this is true, even in the midst of evil, goodness and mercy never cease to flow to us all the days of our earthly lives and on into eternity, in heaven and the resurrection, because Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Sheep of the Good Shepherd, all who are united to Christ Jesus by Baptism and faith, the holy Christian Church of God, shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Behold your Good Shepherd on the cross. Behold the wounds. Behold the blood shed for you. Yet He is risen and continues to shepherd you. Notice the difference between Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and those who are simply hired hands. Jesus dies for His sheep. A hired hand runs away at the first sign of danger. Jesus sacrifices Himself for His sheep. A hired hand sacrifices the sheep for his own safety and perhaps for his own profit. Jesus loves His sheep and knows every one of them, every one of you, by name. He knows everything about you. He is consumed with passion for you. A hired hand could care less about you. He does not know you and does not love you. He wants your adoration and your money. For him, shepherding is just another job.

So who are these hired hands? They are the false teachers and unfaithful pastors. The word “pastor” is Latin for “shepherd.” Hired hands are really not shepherds, though, even if they bear the title. They, sometimes unknowingly, but oftentimes knowingly, lead the sheep away from the green pastures of the holy Church and the still waters of Holy Baptism, allowing the sheep to graze on poisonous weeds and drink from stagnant water. They, sometimes unknowingly, but oftentimes knowingly, lead the sheep to sin and forsake the paths of righteousness, bidding us look for righteousness in something other than the blood of Jesus Christ. In place of the Table of the Lord they prepare a table with nothing but bread and wine, or worse, a table of seeming health, wealth, and prosperity dedicated to the god of mammon. These hired hands are no help at all when you have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. They will not allay your fears, at least not permanently. They will not anoint your head with the Holy Spirit. While claiming to possess the Spirit of God, in truth, they have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, but with a spirit who only parades himself as holy, and is instead a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’m speaking, of course, of the devil and his demons. Therefore these false teachers cannot deliver goodness and mercy, nor can they deliver you to the house of the Lord. They are false prophets sent by the father of lies. They do not have your eternal welfare in mind, but their own interests. Therefore watch. Be careful. Let it be known to you, beloved, that not everything or everyone who claims to be religious is Christian. Let it be known to you, beloved, that not everything or everyone who claims to be Christian is Christian. Hired hands can appear to be shepherds. Poisonous plants often appear to be good for food. Wolves disguise themselves as sheep. Not everything with the Christian, religious, or spiritual brand-name is of the Holy Spirit. So-called Christian television is often anything but. Most of the books you find in the Christian bookstore are filled with false doctrine dressed up as the Word of God. Don’t follow these hired hands. Instead, follow the Good Shepherd. You know His voice. Listen to Him. The hired hands will throw you to the wolves. Your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, throws Himself to the wolves to protect you.

That you might hear His voice in preaching, our crucified and risen Good Shepherd, Jesus, has established the Office of the Holy Ministry. He has given His Church pastors, undershepherds. There is only one way you can distinguish a legitimate pastor from a hired hand: When he speaks, do you hear the voice of Christ? You must compare your pastor’s teaching with the Holy Scriptures. If my teaching and preaching and administration of the Sacraments is faithful to the Word of God, you have a legitimate pastor. If my teaching and preaching and administration of the Sacraments is unfaithful to the Word of God, even if you like what I teach and preach and the way I administer the Sacraments, I am nothing but a hired hand out for my own interests, and you must cast me out of office and flee my teaching. May this never be the case with my ministry, or any other pastor’s ministry among you! God spare us! The Office of the Ministry, the Preaching Office, has been established by our Lord Jesus for a reason. It is the means by which Christ Himself shepherds you by the rod and staff of His Word, leads you to those green pastures and baptizes you in those still waters, prepares that Table before you. It is the means by which you hear the very voice of the Good Shepherd calling you to be His own, pronouncing you righteous, and leading you away from the bad, leading you to what is supremely good. He calls you, along with all Christians from all nations, from all times, to be one flock under one shepherd, “one body and one Spirit… one hope… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:4-6). This is the glorious reality of the holy Christian Church.

Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep. He laid down His life for you. He laid it down on the cross, only to take it up again that first Easter. He laid it down freely, of His own accord. He has authority from the Father to lay it down and to take it up again in the resurrection. And so, beloved, He has authority to be your Shepherd and carry you forever. He has authority to guide and comfort you with the rod and staff of His Word. He has authority to lead you through the valley of the shadow of death into eternal life and the resurrection. He has authority to take your life up again and raise you from the dead. Such is our Good Shepherd. Therefore surely goodness and mercy will indeed follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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