[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.
The Good Shepherd Calls His Sheep
It’s Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone is there! Mom, dad. Grandma and grandpa. And all the siblings came. Nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles – cousins and their wives and husbands. No matter how big or small that crowd is – twelve, thirty, a half dozen – it doesn’t matter. When everyone is there, it’s huge.
Nobody, at grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner, moans or complains that only fifteen people out of the 7.5 billion in the world came, so really it’s kind of a small gathering. No. The whole family is there – and that is huge.
On the Last Day, we will enter the banquet feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. Who is the whole family who will be there? Will it be big to us? The disciples once asked, “Lord, will many or few be saved?”
Will all 7.5 billion in the world today be there then? The answer to that is no. Scripture warns often that many will not believe in Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” [John 1:10-11].
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” [Matthew 7:13-14]
What is the reason so many go to destruction? Is it God’s will? No. God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” [Ezekiel 33:11]. God has no desire that any would perish, but desires that all would believe and so be saved.
Is it because Jesus only died for a few – only some – so only some are saved? Not at all. “He is the propitiation – the atoning sacrifice – for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:2]. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son…” [John 3:16]. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29].
There is no lack of willingness in God our Savior to give the gifts of repentance and faith to all people – so much so that He has given His Son to die on the cross even for those who will always resist and will refuse salvation. Salvation is always all God’s work – He is willing and has done it. Damnation is always all man’s work – the unbeliever resists and refuses.
That big question, “Why some and not others?” – the answer to that question is not given to us. Only God knows. Trying to figure it out leads to false answers. Our comfort, our peace, is not found in knowing how and why but in trusting God to be the one who knows.
What certainty do you have? What do you know for sure about that banquet feast – that heavenly feast of thanks – on the Last Day? That the whole flock of the Good Shepherd will be there. All of the Shepherd’s sheep. And “there will be one flock, one Shepherd.” The Shepherd gets His family to the table.
In the face of sin, death, hell, and the devil – in the face of all that would take His sheep away, Jesus did not flee, run, or abandon any one of them. “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.”
Jesus laid down His life for sheep that did and do wander. From your sins and unbelief, He has gathered you in. For your sins and doubts, He has died in your place. He is the Shepherd who became one of the sheep to die for the rest.
He laid down His life. He took it up again. And the Good Shepherd of the sheep says that He will lose none. He does not lie and cannot lie. Our peace is in His promise, not in our understanding.
Here is His promise: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… and they will listen to my voice” [John 10:11-16]. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” [John 10:3-5]
“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]
The Good Shepherd calls with His voice – His Gospel – and all who are His hear and know His voice. He calls them by name. They gather to Him. And He will lose none the Father has given Him.
This Good Shepherd who calls His own is also the one who goes and seeks the ones who stray. He is the one who said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” [Luke 15:4-5]
And it is about this Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, that our Old Testament reading this morning from Ezekiel 34:11-16 speaks: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered… I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.”
This Good Shepherd Jesus Christ is “the Shepherd and Overseer – the Pastor and Bishop – of our souls.” He will not fail. He succeeds. He prevails. He brings His whole flock home for dinner.
No one can promise that everyone you are related to biologically, according to the flesh – or that everyone you care about in this life – will be found among His flock. Many will not believe. Our forever-family is not defined by birth and family name but by Baptism into God’s Name. [Matthew 28:19-20; John 3:3-6].
Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe – and “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.” And the Apostle Paul lived in great distress that his own kinsmen did not believe [Romans 9:1-3]. As it was with the Lord and the Apostles, so it is with us sometimes.
We remember that Jesus said, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And looking around Him, at those hearing His Word, He said, “My mother and my brothers and my sisters are those who hear the Word of God and do it” [Luke 8:19-21]. And this whole family of His will be gathered.
We don’t have peace by the promises we wish God would give but by the promises He does give. God has given you the Good Shepherd. He will lose none of His flock. They will hear His voice.
Don’t doubt. Don’t lose peace over the “why’s” and “how’s”. Leave your unanswerable questions in the pierced-hands of the Good Shepherd. That feast on the Last Day will be a feast of Thanksgiving.
On that Day – though we don’t understand it now – on that Day then, we will look around in wonder and joy – looking at all the sheep of the Good Shepherd – and we will be saying, “Look! Everyone is here. The whole flock. The whole family. All that are His. And, therefore, all that are mine.” And it will be a huge feast, the biggest dinner. Amen.