Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday (C)
April 25, 2010
Text: John 10:22-30

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

O Lord Jesus Christ, faithful Shepherd of your flock, gather us into the sheepfold of Your holy Christian Church. Shepherd us, O Lord, for we are a fallen mess, and have made a mess of everything. By Your holy, precious blood You have redeemed us from sin, death, the devil, and hell, yet our fallen nature still clings to us, and so we are still stupid sheep who wander off, eating the poisonous weeds of false doctrine, ignorantly meandering into the clutches of wolves and robbers, the enemies from which You have freed us, carried away by every wind of the world, slipping back into sin, giving in to the temptations of the evil one. O Lord, have mercy upon us. Deliver us from ourselves! Deliver us from all harm and danger to body and soul. Find us when we are lost. Snag us with Your Shepherd’s crook. Take us into Your loving arms, in spite of our kicking and bleating and biting, and restore us to Your flock. We are helpless on our own. But with You as our Shepherd, we have no want. You will lead us away from poisonous weeds to green pastures where we may feed on Your Word, beside the still waters of our holy Baptism into Your death and resurrection. You will restore our soul and lead us in the paths of Your righteousness, that we may love and serve You and our fellow sheep. You are the only Shepherd who can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, for You died, and behold, You are alive, risen from the dead, the firstfuits of them that sleep. And so we fear no evil, for You are with us, guiding and comforting us with Your rod and staff. And You prepare a Table for us, the altar upon which, by Your Word, is Your true body and blood under bread and wine, given and shed for us and distributed to us for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. Indeed, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, for we will dwell in Your House, in Your Sheepfold, forever. All glory be to You, O Lord, and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must confess in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, that “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Is. 53:6; ESV). It is not a compliment when our Lord calls us sheep. Sheep are unintelligent, helpless creatures prone to wandering right into the midst of danger. Sheep cannot survive without a shepherd. With great compassion for us, our Lord Christ comes among us as our Good Shepherd. He knows us each by name, for He has given us our name, His Name, in Holy Baptism, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And on account of that same Baptism, we know our Shepherd’s voice. One thing sheep have going for them is that they know the voice of their shepherd, and they will not follow a strange voice. They only follow the voice they know and trust. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, gathers and keeps us safely in His flock by His voice, which is to say, by His Word. We follow Him by listening for His voice and hearing and doing His Word. But not all to whom our Lord speaks listen to His voice. Thus the Jews in our text. Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, which is to say, Hanukkah. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon, the last standing remnant of Solomon’s great temple, around which the new temple was built. Rabbis often gathered here with their disciples and taught under the shelter of the colonnade. But this time, the unbelieving Jews gathered around Rabbi Jesus, refusing to be taught. “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (v. 24). But Jesus had told them. He had told them plainly in all His preaching and teaching. And His works… His works testify to His identity. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The Jews, and especially those at the temple, the Jewish religious elite, should have recognized from the Words and the works that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. He fulfills the whole Old Testament. But they do not listen. They do not listen because they do not believe. They do not believe because they are not part of Jesus’ flock. They are not part of Jesus’ flock because they have separated themselves from the sheepfold. Israel was the chosen people of God, to whom the promise of the Messiah was first given. Jesus Himself was a Jew, of the house and lineage of King David, the promised Son of David who would eternally sit on the throne of His father. To the Jews the Scriptures had been given, Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, the Scriptures in which there is eternal life, because these testify to Jesus. The point is that Israel was God’s flock. But they turned aside. They did not heed the Shepherd’s voice. They went their own way. They were lost. They rejected Jesus as their Good Shepherd. And the consequence of this is, when they have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there will be no shepherd to lead them. Jesus is the only Shepherd who can lead you through that valley to the other side ALIVE! God grant the conversion of the Jews (as indeed many already have been converted!), that they may recognize and believe in their Messiah, Jesus Christ, and so have eternal life.

And the point is this: Take heed to the voice of the Good Shepherd! If the Jews who were God’s chosen people could wander away and be lost, by no fault of the Good Shepherd, but by their own stubborn refusal to hear His voice, you can be lost too. Do not wander off on your own way. Do not heed the voice of strangers, who want to rob you and kill you. Follow only the voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is so important that you heed the Shepherd’s voice. And you do that by hearing the Word. Hear the Word. Read the Word. Pay attention to the Word. Live by the Word. It is life to you. Any other way is death. Any other way leads to poisonous weeds, robbers and wolves, and finally, death and hell. You know your Shepherd’s voice. You have come to know your Shepherd, even as He knows you each by name. You have come to know Him intimately through preaching and His Word. He calls to you. He gathers you into the Church. He waters you and feeds you and tends you and protects you. Under His care, no harm can come your way. He has chosen you to be His own. And here is what He gives you: Eternal life! “I give them [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (v. 28). Only you can separate yourself from the love of God. Otherwise, as Paul says, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). And because you are united to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, this is what your Good Shepherd will do for you in heaven and in the resurrection: You will stand before the throne of God day and night to serve Him in His heavenly Temple. You will eternally be in His presence. He will shelter you so that no scorching heat will strike you. Never again will you hunger or thirst. Jesus will shepherd you, and lead you to springs of living water. All the evil, all the sin, all the sadness, all the pain will be at an end. No enemy can hurt you anymore. And God will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev. 7:15-17).

Why does the Shepherd do all this for us? Because He loves us. He loves us and gives His life for us. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14, 15b). He lays down His life for us. The Shepherd becomes a Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Lamb led to slaughter in our place, for our iniquities, to pay our debt to God in full. The Lamb is slain, but behold, He lives. He who lays down His life also takes it up again. Christ is risen, and we are free, forgiven, restored. The lost sheep have been found, washed, nursed, fed, and delivered back into the sheepfold. And the angels rejoice. And if this Good Shepherd lives, as indeed, He does, then we also will live! It is the Father Himself who has delivered us into the pierced hand of the Good Shepherd. And no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. The Father loves us, as Christ loves us, for Jesus and the Father are one, and they impart their Spirit to us, to keep us with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, in the one true faith. The Spirit gives us ears to hear the voice of the Shepherd, and to follow Him.

Let us pray: O You who know us each by name, even our Lord Jesus Christ; shepherd us and lead us, that hearing Your voice, we follow You, even through the valley of the shadow of death, to the place where You will give us eternal life; for You died, and You have risen from the dead, and live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

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