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 26, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)

April 26, 2015
Text: John 10:11-18

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            Does God actually care about the nitty-gritty details of my life?  Or, in the grand scheme of things, am I so insignificant that God cannot be bothered in the midst of all His running of the universe to help me find my keys, give me the strength to endure another day at my lackluster job, and relieve the pain in my joints?  Should I even pray about these things?  What about the things I consider to be larger concerns?  Cancer?  A struggling marriage?  Rebellious children?  Are these things worth my bothering God?  The devil would like you to believe that God doesn’t care about any of that.  The world can’t even agree if there is a god somewhere out there, much less if he or she or it cares about you.  And your flesh?  You have an extraordinary handicap when it comes to faith.  Apart from the Holy Spirit, you are incapable of believing in Christ.  You can’t even make a beginning.  What do we confess in the Catechism?  I believe that I cannot believe… “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.”  It is a miracle of the Spirit that I even believe in Christ.  So it must be just as miraculous if I am to believe the God who became a Man, Jesus Christ, cares for my daily struggles and heartaches, my joys and sorrows, or that He even takes notice. 
            Here is what the Gospel says, the Gospel by which the Holy Spirit calls you to believe: “I am the good shepherd,” says Jesus.  “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15; ESV).  He knows you by name!  What does that say about His care for you?  Every individual sheep in His fold is of immediate concern to Him.  This is why Jesus chooses the shepherd/sheep imagery to describe His relationship to His Church and to each of His sheep individually.  A good shepherd always knows each one of his sheep intimately.  He knows their characteristics and their eccentricities.  He knows when his sheep are sick or injured.  And he knows the dangers that face his sheep.  Hired hands, shepherding assistants who are only doing a job, don’t consider the nitty-gritty details of the sheep and flock to be all that important.  They don’t love the sheep, like the shepherd does.  In fact, when danger comes upon the flock, the hired hand flees.  Better to lose your job than your life.  But for the shepherd, shepherding is his life.  The sheep are his life.  A threat to his sheep is a threat to him.  He loves his sheep.  He cares for his sheep.  He doesn’t just have a general knowledge of their needs or a general care for their welfare.  He knows them, each one.  He cares for them, each one.  When a sheep is lost, he goes and finds it.  When a sheep is injured, he binds its wounds.  When a predator is loose among the flock, a good shepherd will face even mortal danger to defend his sheep.  Remember King David when he was a boy out shepherding the flock, how he wrestled with lions and bears to save his sheep, preparing him for battle with Goliath and his work of shepherding the sheep of Israel.  “I am the good shepherd,” says Jesus.  First of all, note that He says “I AM.”  This is one of the “I AM” sayings in John.  Jesus is YHWH.  He is Almighty God, the God who runs the universe.  But then He immediately states what He is for us.  “I am the Good Shepherd, the One who knows His sheep by name, the One who cares intimately for His sheep, indeed, the One who lays down His life for the sheep.” 
            David’s Son follows in His father’s footsteps.  Jesus does mortal battle with the predators that threaten His sheep.  Not just lions and wolves and bears.  Not just robbers or even the stupidity of the sheep that we’ve talked about before: the sheep who don’t even know to run away when danger approaches, but lay down helpless; the sheep who soak up water into their wool as they drink and fall into the stream and drown; the sheep who will eat anything, even it it’s poison.  A shepherd has his job cut out for Him.  Much more so Jesus.  He defends us against giant predators like death, the devil and his demons, and the yawning jaws of hell.  He saves us from our own stupidity, our willing surrender to our enemies, our coming too close to the sins that drown us, our feeding on the poisonous weeds of hatred, lust, covetousness, selfishness.  He defends us against these, as He says, by laying down His life.  He defeats our enemies by submitting to them.  He is no hired hand.  He does not flee.  He confronts the danger head on.  Satan throws his worst at Him.  Hell claims Him for its own.  He embraces the death of the cross.  His feet trod the Calvary road.  He holds the spikes in the palms of His hands.  It all happens according to His will, according to His love for the sheep, for you.  He lays down His life.  He gives up the Ghost, the Holy One, who calls you by the Gospel. 
            And then He takes His life up again, just as He said He would. The enemies thought they won.  They gathered to feast on the sheep and little lambs of the Lord’s flock, now that Jesus had been safely neutralized.  There was one thing they didn’t count on.  When death swallowed the Lord, Jesus punched a hole right through the other side.  He walked through the valley of the shadow and came out of it alive.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He won.  The enemies are defeated.  Satan is His captive.  Hell has no power over Him.  And it has no power over you.  And just as He came through death alive, so will you.  Because He will make it so.  The risen Christ will raise you from the dead.
            Jesus died, but Jesus lives, and He is still your Good Shepherd.  He gathers His sheep into the sheepfold of His Church, and here He tends them.  He gathers other lost lambs into His fold.  That is what He means by the “other sheep” He must bring, so that they listen to His voice (v. 16).  He means the Gentiles.  The Church is for Jews and Gentiles.  The Church is for all nations.  He makes of them, of us, one flock, and He is our one Shepherd.  And here in the Church He does for us all the wonderful things He describes in the 23rd Psalm.  He provides for your every need of body and soul, so that you are never in want.  He makes you lie down in the green pastures of His holy Word.  He leads you beside the quiet baptismal waters and restores your soul.  He leads you in the paths of righteousness: His righteousness given to you as a gift, your justification; for His Name’s sake, because He placed His Name on you in Baptism.  And you need not fear death, for you know that He is with you and will lead you through the valley of the shadow to Himself in heaven, and He will raise you on the Last Day.  He comforts you with His rod and staff: His Word, His cross, His pastors sent to distribute these things to you in His Name.  He prepares a Table before you, even here in the presence of your enemies, the Table of His true Body and Blood.  He anoints you with His Spirit.  Your cup overflows with the good things your Good Shepherd bestows upon you.  And, of course, the promise is that He will do this forever.  He will forever pour out upon you His goodness and mercy.  Because this fold, this flock, this Holy Christian Church, is your home.  This is where you gather with your brother and sister sheep, under the loving eye of your Good Shepherd, in the Kingdom of your Father who art in heaven.

            And since that is the case, don’t you think it’s true that your Good Shepherd cares for all the other things that concern you: Your health, your marriage, your kids?  Your family, your job, and even those elusive car keys?  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).  Don’t you know that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30)?  The Lord cares.  Your Good Shepherd loves you.  He wants you to pour out these things to Him in prayer.  He hears.  He will answer.  He will deliver you.  In His way, of course, in His time, according to His wisdom and will.  But even the suffering He gives you to endure is for your good.  Fear not.  Jesus never abandons His sheep.  He died for you.  He lives for you.  He tends you.  Jesus cares for you.  This is the charge He received from the Father (John 10:18), to be the Good Shepherd of His sheep.  He is faithful.  He will do it.  He does it all for you.  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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