“One of the Flock”
This is one of the most beautiful images in all the Bible. Jesus, the Good Shepherd. How many hymns to we have which confess this faith? I am Jesus’ Little Lamb. Have no Fear, Little Flock. Shepherd of Tender Youth. And that isn’t even counting all of our Psalm 23 hymns like The Lord’s My Shepherd Leading Me, or The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll not Want. The picture we get from so many of these hymns, which I love as well as you, is that of a kind shepherd, holding a little lamb over his back, bringing it to safety, leading the lamb beside the still waters, caring for it as if it was his own son or daughter.
But shepherding is not all quiet, pastoral scenes with gently braying lambs. Far from it. It doesn’t take much time around a flock of sheep to realize that they, well, they’re kind of loud and bossy. They want to eat when they’re hungry, and they won’t take no for an answer. They are going to go do their business whether it is a good place for it or not. And they are always, always getting lost. You would think that a sheep didn’t know what is best for him, far less a little lamb! But there they are, hungry, in need, not always the brightest, but always in need. And they look to the shepherd for all of this and more.
So what does it mean when Jesus says “I am the good shepherd”? What it means is that Jesus is going to step in and do the dirty work. Yes, he will carry the little lamb on his shoulders and bring it to safety. But He will also guard and protect the flock from ravenous wolves who want nothing more than a mutton sandwich. He will feed this flock, even if it means feeding the flock with His own flesh and blood. He will hear their sins, and He will forgive them. And what’s more, this Good Shepherd of ours will search out the sheep, near and far, lost and loud or cowing and hiding in silence. That is what a good shepherd does. He cares for the flock as his very own.
But this Good Shepherd, Jesus our Good Shepherd, He goes even farther. Jesus not only cares for you. He lays down His life for you. He does this purely out of love. Unlike the hireling who flees at the first sign of trouble, Jesus puts Himself squarely between the sheep and the wolf. He stands between you and all even. In fact, He made Himself from a shepherd into a Lamb so that you might live. By His wounds you have been healed. For when the shepherd turned Lamb lay down at the altar of the cross, He was sacrificed for all your sins, all of your needless bleating and braying. He was sacrificed for your straying and listen to false voices and the siren allurement of the wolves who would destroy you. He took all of it into Himself. When you and I would fight back, would retaliate or try to get even, He did not. In an amazing act of trust in His Father, Jesus stood His ground, the ground of Golgotha, and bore all of your suffering and sorrows to death itself.
He did this for you, because He is the Good Shepherd. He is the God Shepherd. The Lord says in Ezekiel:
“For thus says the Lord GOD: 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 on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 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, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” Ezekiel 34:11–16
This morning our Lord shows His love for two of His little lambs, who will be fed with His own body and blood for the first time this morning. Our Lord does this because He loves them with an everlasting love, and because He promises to feed them all the days of their lives. But this day is not about them. At least not them alone. It is about you. God loves you with an everlasting love, a love so strong that not even death itself could hold Him back from caring for you and forgiving your sins.
Come now into the fold of His Church, His flock. We are all sinners here, lost ones brought back to the fold by the voice of the One who died and rose again for us. “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Come and be fed along the waters once poured over you in Holy Baptism. Come and be fed in the good pasture of His own Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Come, for all things are ready. Come, return to the Lord, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Come, you are part of the fold. Come, you are one in the family.
In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Easter 3 – Misericordias Domini (May 8, 2011)
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