Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Easter 2 – Misericordias Domini (April 26, 2009 (2004, 2007))
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “A Shepherd in Sheep’s Clothing”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from St. John chapter 10, Jesus the Good Shepherd.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly. Jesus is the one who gives life. Jesus is the only one who gives life, for He is the one who died and rose again from the dead. That is who Jesus is, the life-giver. That is what He came to do, lay down His life for the sheep and raise it up so that they may rise up with Him on the Last Day.
We sheep are stubborn, though. We are often more like mules than sheep, refusing to hear His voice, stomping around, rejecting the very One who can lead us to the quiet waters. It is our nature. You don’t want to be led. You don’t want to be dependent on anyone or anything else. You want to be free to roam, free to live your life as you see fit, free to sin or not to sin. You don’t want to be penned in, but ready to graze, eat and drink what you want even though it may kill you, and do as you wish.
The problem is that the freedom which Satan and the world offers is no freedom at all, but slavery. Like the hirelings in our text who care not for the sheep, the wolves in shepherd’s clothing may appear to offer freedom, life, good food and drink, everything a body would need and plenty of room to grow. They do this to draw you away, to make you deaf to the voice of the true Shepherd, and to make you look at a promised land that is but a mirage.
And we follow. Oh how we follow after the folly of this false voice, this mirage that leads only to darkness and sorrow. Our so-called life really is just a foretaste of the eternal death which is to come apart from Christ. As Isaiah put it, All we like sheep have gone astray;we have turned every one to his own way (Is. 53:6). Apart from the Good Shepherd, we are all lost, alone, and face the eternal darkness of hell every day.
But we are not alone. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the one who gives life, and gives it abundantly. He is the one who lays down His life for yours, so that He may pick up your life for all eternity. So this Good Shepherd does the unthinkable, the unimaginable. He becomes a sheep. He is silent before the shearers. He is led like a lamb to slaughter. They take Him out to the mountain, where He is slaughtered for His beloved sheep.
Yet He is not dead forever, like we would be without Him. No, He rises again from the dead. After three days in the tomb He is alive again forever. The Good Shepherd has done the impossible. He has gone to death itself, and swallowed up death forever. He has declared His victory over all of the wolves, all of the powers of darkness that would rise up against us.
How can this be? How can this wondrous event be true? It is too good to be true. We cannot believe it alone. The mirage looks so inviting. The words of the serpent-wolf sound so easy, so believable. How can we believe this incredible news?
Only the voice of the Shepherd Himself can call you out of death into life. His voice is not just another voice amongst the prattle we hear every day. His voice is the one that called the world into being. His voice is the one that spoke from the burning bush, from the mountain, from the cloud, by the prophets, and through His Holy angels. This is not just another voice. This is the voice, the voice that creates life out of death, and that calls you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
This voice speaks to you even now. His Water, His Word, His preaching, His absolution, His Supper, through all of these means the voice of the Good Shepherd comes to you. How do you know His voice? Because He has taught it to you. Like a father and mother speak to their child even before it is born, so also the Good Shepherd has spoken to you since your Baptism, and maybe even before.
These gifts which Christ the Good Shepherd so freely gives are not false promises and hopes. The place which Christ leads you to, the still waters of His baptism and the Table of His body and blood, these are not mirages that will be here today and gone tomorrow. They are the medicine of immortality. They will preserve you no matter what the trial, the hardship, or the suffering which you will undergo in this earthly life.
For the path of the Good Shepherd is our path as well. We follow His voice, even unto death. Because His voice is true. We follow Him, suffer with Him, die with Him. Why? Because He promises that eternal life is on the other side of this death. We really died with Him in Baptism, so what fear can this earthly death hold over children of the promise, the sheep of His pasture?
Trust in the voice of the Good Shepherd. He comes to you clothed as a sheep, as one of us. He comes to you knowing your every sorrow, every pain, every sin you have committed or that has been done to you. He comes to you now, taking all of these into Himself, so that you do not bear them anymore. The hurt which they cause may last for a moment, but His voice will lead you to joy everlasting. In a few moments four of our young people will confess their faith in the voice of the Good Shepherd. Say Amen and confess with them, for He has brought you out of death into eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.