Third Sunday of Easter
[Read John 10:11-16]
Jesus, Alive and Shepherding You
Jesus, whom the Apostle Peter calls the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” in today’s second reading, is risen and is alive. Jesus Christ is alive and is presently and forever shepherding you. You are not alone. You are not self-dependent. You have a living, present Shepherd and Overseer of your soul.
A sheep does not depend upon itself for anything. Its shepherd guides it to the water to drink. Its shepherd guides it to the grazing land to eat. Its shepherd guides it to shade. The sheep’s shepherd determines when it will walk along and when it will stop and rest. Jesus, risen on Easter morning, lives to be your shepherd.
A sheep does not protect itself. A sheep does not have claws or fangs. It can’t outrun much. The shepherd of the sheep is the sheep’s protector. The shepherd protects the sheep from the predators, from the terrain, and from the weather. The sheep doesn’t always even know it’s being protected. Jesus lives today and shepherds you.
A shepherd uses tools to shepherd and protect his sheep – he uses his staff, he uses his voice, and he uses his servants – his dogs, the sheepdogs.
Jesus is living and is present – closer to you than you are to yourself - truly living, yet unseen. Jesus shepherds and protects you by his Word, the Scriptures. He feeds you His Word when you hear it. He guides you in what is right and what is wrong when you listen to it.
Jesus calls you by your name with His voice in Baptism. Jesus feeds you with His Supper of His body and His blood. Jesus uses both the commands of His Law and the forgiveness of His Gospel to fend off the devil and devil’s accusations.
Jesus uses His almighty rule over all things to determine when you’ll have to walk and when you’ll get to rest, when you’ll be in the hot sun and when you’ll cool off in the shade. He reigns over the circumstances of your life and is in control of both the turmoil and the rest for your soul – and of the turmoil and the rest for your body. Jesus is risen and lives to shepherd you.
Jesus is present, yet unseen – He shepherds you by His servants, His dogs – your pastor, the elders in your congregation, and mature Christians in your home or life. Christ’s sheepdogs.
Jesus is alive and is shepherding you – and He is a shepherd like no other. Jesus shepherds His sheep for the life of the sheep – not for His profit or His wage. Jesus said of Himself today, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” [John 10:11]
In the ancient near-east – in the time and place of Jesus – shepherding sheep was a staple of the economy. Actually, shepherding both sheep and goats was a staple of the economy and I’m sure still is in some parts of the world and even parts of our country today.
Sheep were raised and tended by shepherds for what? For their meat and for their wool and for their hides. Shepherds sheared their sheep. And shepherds slaughtered – killed – their sheep. Sheep were raised and tended by shepherds for the profit they brought to the shepherd or the owner.
This wasn’t a bad thing – this was a good thing. Profit is the same hope that your local farmer works for in raising and slaughtering his cows and livestock. And we are all thankful for the meat we buy which nourishes our bodies and our family’s health. In our world, flocks and herds are for the benefit of the shepherd, the rancher, and the buyer. The lamb, with its lambchops, and the cow, with its hamburger and milk, give their lives for the owner.
Jesus Christ is the owner, the Good Shepherd – and the Odd Shepherd – who gives His life for the flock. The farmers and ranchers and keepers of sheep, I’m sure, generally care for their animals and have the reasonable compassion we all have for animal life. But the rancher doesn’t lay down his life for the cow.
Jesus, however, has made a flock of Mankind for which He gives His life. Sheep in Jesus’ day were shorn for wool, slaughtered for meat, and were slain as sacrifices in the Temple of God. Jesus, the Shepherd, has made Himself the Lamb, the Sacrifice. He is Shepherd, and He is Lamb-Slain for the life of the flock.
In fact, Jesus is a Shepherd who does not clothe Himself with the sheep’s wool but has instead provided the clothing for them. Jesus’ own righteousness is now the wool garment laid over the sheep to cover its yellow-stained coat. And Jesus is not a Shepherd who feeds off the meat of His sheep – but He has given His body as food for the flock.
Jesus, risen on Easter, lives and is alive to shepherd you – and He is a Shepherd like no other. He is indeed “the Good Shepherd [who] lays down His life for the sheep.”
Brothers and sisters, since you have this great Crucified-For-You and Now Risen and Living Jesus Christ as your Shepherd and Overseer, why do you live as if you do not have Him? Why do you live as if He is not your Shepherd?
Why do you live with your own reason and with your own opinions as your guide instead of holding His commandments as your guide? Why are you guided by your own way of thinking instead of being shepherded by God’s Word in the Scriptures? (which is the voice of your Shepherd)
Since you have Jesus who laid down His life for you as your Good Shepherd, why do you seek to be shepherded by the profit-makers in the self-help aisle of the bookstore? Why are you so guided by the many gurus of opinion on television and radio? Why is your neighbor’s opinion so much your guide? You have the living, present Shepherd, Jesus, who speaks by His Word, who has commands, and whose Word is Truth. Trust His commands to shepherd you.
Since Jesus lives as your Shepherd, why do you live in fear? Why do you live in anxiety? The one who gave His body on the tree now lives as the Shepherd of your body. Why do you fear what will happen to your body? Why do you worry about when or if your trouble will end? Why do you fret about every lost penny or every wasted dollar? Do you not believe that your Shepherd will feed you and clothe you and shelter you? When you worry about your life, do you ever even take into consideration the fact that your life has a Shepherd? Let’s not forget about the living Jesus in the equation of our life.
And do not fear to the point of endless worry for every person who has strayed away from the flock. Don’t you believe that Jesus, as He said, is the living Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine on the mountain and seeks after the one lost sheep who has strayed? Believe that He is, and do not be afraid.
Jesus said, “I know my own and my own know me” – “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” [John 10:14]. And He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” [John 10:27]. All of Jesus’ flock will be gathered in; none of His own will slip out of His hands [John 10:28-29].
Indeed, Christ will gather His flock out from many nations and out from many families – all those who will listen to His voice – and “there will be one flock, one Shepherd” [John 10:16].
Brothers and sisters, once again, you are not alone. You are not self-dependent. You have a living, present Shepherd and Overseer of your soul. He is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for your life. He is the Lamb Slain to forgive all your sin. Do not fear, but give thanks - give thanks to God that your life now has a risen, living Shepherd. Amen.