Good Shepherd Sunday - John 10:11-16
[John 10:11–16] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. 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. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Jesus, Your Good Shepherd
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. [1 Peter 2:21-25]
You had no excuse – “For you were straying like sheep.” You were straying. You have no excuse. Reasons, yes. Excuses, no. For it is by your own sin that your nature clings to sin instead of clinging to God in trust. Straying like untrusting sheep.
No excuses. For it is by unbelief still setting in your heart that you can’t find security in God’s promises. So you scratch and claw for a string promised you by worldly voices. Worldly security trumps God’s promise to care for you. You’ll even disobey His Word, or disbelieve His Word, for the sake of earthly security, or for acceptance and belonging in a sin-corrupt world.
You know where the voice of the Shepherd is. Yet, in your belief that you can find greener grass by your own reason and strength, you stray to where the wolves are.
You and I have no excuse for our past. We have no excuse for our present. We have no excuse for our future, which we are shaping right now. The strayed sheep has himself to blame for where he finds himself tomorrow.
Yet, each strayed sheep also has a Savior – the Good Shepherd who seeks and saves the lost, wherever they have ended up – even when it’s their own fault. He forgives you and restores you to Himself, even when it’s your own fault – even when there’s no excuse.
Seven times a day – seventy times seven times – He remains your Good Shepherd who puts you on His shoulders to carry you home. Seventy times seven times a day, He forgives your unbelief and the depravity of your flesh – He plucks you up quickly and unbegrudgingly out of the darkness you entered – He takes you back up into His arms.
So let’s give up on making excuses. Let’s give up on justifying what we’ve done and why we did it, or what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Let’s quickly turn – let’s quickly repent to Jesus – call our sin what it is – and be forgiven instead of excused. Being excused won’t work between you and God. He saves by forgiving your sin.
“So will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered” [Ezekiel 34:11-16]. Scattered by unbelief and sin. And, yes, there is also another way of being scattered – scattered by the evil actions of another human being. Nevertheless, it is the reaction either of faith or unbelief to either flee to the Good Shepherd or be driven further into sin.
Let’s flee to the Good Shepherd in every circumstance. He has carried our sin and the sin of the world in His own body on the tree. He can remedy it. And let’s listen to His voice, His Word.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees – every other voice in this world in which you trust leaves your soul dry – and the wolf snatches you and scatters you.”
Only Jesus is the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” With Jesus you have found a love that is the same love as between Him and the Father. Eternal. Unbreakable. This feeds you.
“And I lay down my life for the sheep.” The world loves you only when you are good to the world, when you obey its voice sufficiently. The Good Shepherd, however, has loved you when you were not good at all: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]
Scattered, but gathered back to One. The Shepherd is sacrificed for the sheep – for the sinners and the ungodly. By no means leaving you in your darkness, but never waning in love when you do stray.
These scattered sheep, gathered to their Good-Self-Sacrificing-Shepherd, are now one flock in Him. Jesus, at the time He spoke the words of today’s Gospel, had, as of then, only been sent to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [Matthew 15:24]
But then Jesus says in today’s reading, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” Contrary to some false teachings, the “other sheep” are not the other religions of this world. Jesus is not calling all religions “one flock”.
Instead, it’s quite the opposite. Jesus is promising to gather His whole flock, all His sheep – all who will hear and know His voice – from all the nations, out of the many religions of this world, and into His one flock – His one true Church. One Church under one Shepherd hearing One voice – His written Word. “They will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
The one flock of our Lord is His one, true Church – all those who hear and believe the Word of God as it is – “the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice” [John 10:4]. This true Church, in its own way, is increasingly scattered – increasingly confined to the edges and crevices and cracks of society – even being despised by that which outwardly is called the Church – scattered by those who hate God’s Word.
This true Church which hears and believes the Word of its Shepherd, even in its small crevices and cracks where it now resides, even at its smallest, nevertheless is at its greatest and has the best of all homes, as it resides in the green grass and cool water of unchanging truth.
This Sunday is, in fact, a Sunday which is a memorial, an anniversary, of a time when this true Church was further scattered – not by its sins – but by other’s hatred for the Word of God. This day, 500 years ago, April 18, 1521, is the day Martin Luther stood before the emperor and the pope’s entourage at the Diet of Worms. There Martin Luther refused to recant that word which he preached – precisely because the word he preached was the Word he received from the written Bible, which is the voice of our Good Shepherd.
Martin Luther said to the world’s two greatest powers: “I am bound to the Scriptures… my conscience is captive to the Word of God… I cannot do otherwise.” We truly cannot do otherwise. Sheep of the Shepherd listen to the Shepherd’s voice. We are captive to the Word of God, no matter the results.
What a shame it would be to have a Shepherd, Jesus, who laid down His life for you, and then to put His Word and commands at arm’s-length for the benefit of security or acceptance in this world. No, we never do that. Instead, our conscience remains bound to Holy Scripture.
Scattered by this broken world for the sake of His Word – He remains your Good Shepherd; He cares for you. Scattered by your own sin, by your own fault – He remains your Good Shepherd; He cares for you. You are forgiven. You are cared for. You are loved. Hear His Word and believe it. Amen.