“The Good Shepherd and His Flock” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2022

“The Good Shepherd and His Flock” (John 10:22-30; Acts 20:17-35; Revelation 7:9-17)

Today is the Sunday in the church year known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” You’ll notice that on this day all of the readings, the psalm, the hymns–all carry the theme of the shepherd and his flock, the sheep. And this will strengthen our faith today and give us life and hope for the future, as we see what God’s word says about “The Good Shepherd and His Flock.”

The first thing we need to do is to identify who this shepherd is and who are his flock. The shepherd, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ. “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says about himself. And when he says that, Jesus is identifying himself as the Messiah, the heaven-sent shepherd who would come and lead God’s people. Jesus claims to have a unique relationship with the heavenly Father: “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” In his ministry, Jesus demonstrated works that showed he came from God, works full of divine mercy and power.

OK, so Jesus is the shepherd. Then who are the sheep, his flock? Jesus tells us: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The flock consists of all those who listen to Jesus, who are known by him, and who follow him in faith. In other words, it’s people like you! “My sheep hear my voice.” You are here today to hear Christ’s voice. You recognize his voice, how he speaks, the things he says. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them.” Jesus, your shepherd, knows you. He called you by name in your baptism. Do you think that God has forgotten you? No way! The good shepherd knows each one of his sheep. You are dear to him. “And they follow me,” Jesus says. Being a sheep in Christ’s flock is not a one-time thing. No, we follow our shepherd on a daily basis, week after week, year after year, throughout our entire life.

What has your shepherd done for you, that you follow him? “I am the good shepherd,” Christ says, “I know my own and my own know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Friends, the good shepherd is so good that he sacrifices his own life in order to save yours. Jesus laid down his life by being lifted up on the cross. You would still be dead in your trespasses and sins if he had not done that. Your sins would kill you. They would condemn you to death. But Christ took our death and our punishment on himself. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” That’s what Jesus did by shedding his blood for us on the cross. The good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep.

Now your sins are washed away, forgiven! Our robes have been washed clean in Christ’s blood. And so, Christ the good shepherd has gotten himself a flock. Now we are the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. He has purchased and won us, to be his own and live under him in his kingdom. Otherwise, we would be like sheep without a shepherd, lost and vulnerable, and that’s a dangerous place to be.

Our good shepherd laid down his life only to take it up again. His resurrection shows the victory he won over sin, death, and the grave, a victory he shares with all of us. “I give them eternal life,” Jesus says of his sheep. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Dear Christian, this is your shepherd’s promise to you. It is the promise of a new life that lasts forever. It’s the promise that the grave will not keep you, that hell has no hold on you. It is Christ’s promise that no one or no thing–no devil, no disease, no despair, no trouble or temptation–no one can snatch you out of our Lord’s mighty, nail-pierced hand.

This is the salvation that Christ freely gives you. Salvation is the rescue out of danger that would otherwise kill you, from which you could not save yourself. Salvation is that rescue, plus the resulting state of safety thereafter. You are secure in the protection of your loving shepherd. This is assurance you can rely on. Why? Because it comes from God and not from you. Your eternal salvation is as strong as Christ’s promise, and that’s as strong as it gets. “No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Not only can no one snatch you out of his hand, Christ also strengthens you in your faith your whole life long. Your good shepherd does that by sending you his undershepherds, pastors, to preach the word to you and build you up in the Christian life and hope. Look at how the apostle Paul emphasizes this in his address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 (“elders,” meaning what we would call “pastors”).

Paul himself is both an example of how to shepherd the flock and he gives instruction to those pastors on how to do it. Paul says he has testified to all “of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He says that his ministry was “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” He says that he did not shrink from declaring to them “the whole counsel of God.” And besides expecting these pastors to follow his example, Paul also instructs them to guard the flock against “fierce wolves” who will come in and try to draw away disciples for themselves “by speaking twisted things.” These aspects of the pastoral ministry spoken of here in Acts 20–these are the same things that Christ’s undershepherds today are to continue to do for you, the flock.

And so I testify to you of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Is sin pulling at you, tugging at you, alluring and enticing you to go astray, to wander away from your shepherd? Have you been thinking and acting and speaking in ways that go against God’s commandments, self-chosen ways that you know are wrong? Repent of those sins. Confess them, whatever they are: lust, anger, unforgiveness, selfishness, not paying attention to God’s word, absenting yourself from God’s house. These are damnable sins, and you need to repent.

Then find forgiveness for your sins in the holy wounds of Christ. Believe Christ’s promise that he washes away all your sins. He cleanses you, gives you a clean slate and a fresh start. Find forgiveness here at this altar in the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Faith in Christ takes hold of his promises. Faith listens to his voice and follows where he leads. This is the gospel of the grace of God, the good news that God is gracious to you, freely giving you his gifts, not because you deserve it but because he is kind and merciful to you for the sake of Christ.

As Christ’s undershepherd, I will not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. This means delving into God’s word together, attending to the preaching and the hearing of the word. My job is to preach the truth. Your job–and your joy–is to listen to the truth. Together we attend to the teaching and the study of the Scriptures. In the various classes we have here every week, you will get the whole counsel of God. I am called to teach you what God wants you to know. This is what Christ your shepherd does for you, by giving you a pastor who declares to you the whole counsel of God. God does this in order to build you up in the faith and to strengthen you in your life of Christian love and service.

That means I also need to warn you against the wolves, the false teachers that are out there, those who twist the Scriptures into knots, telling people what they want to hear. They’re all about style over substance, excitement and entertainment over God’s means of grace. When supposedly Christian teachers downplay and diminish the message of Christ crucified and make Christianity all about you and how to get what you want, they are speaking twisted things that would draw the flock away. So I need to guard you against that, by warning you and teaching you to distinguish truth from error.

See how much your good shepherd, Jesus Christ, loves you! He does everything for his flock, to guard and guide you, to lead and feed you. He has saved you by his blood, laying down his life for you, only to take it up again in resurrection victory. In him you have forgiveness, life, and salvation, new life now and the sure hope of an everlasting future. No one can snatch you out of his hands. Christ your shepherd knows you by name. You hear his voice and follow him in faith. Your good shepherd has brought you into his flock, the church, where his undershepherd leads you into the green pastures of God’s word.

And if that’s not all, all that the shepherd has already done for the flock and is doing, there is also what he will do for us in the future. For our good shepherd will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death and bring us out safe on the other side. Then will be fulfilled what is written of our life in the age to come: “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Dear friends, today is Good Shepherd Sunday, and we look forward to enjoying a Good Shepherd Forever!

Published in: on May 7, 2022 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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