Jesus Lives to Be My Good Shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Jesus Lives to Be My Good Shepherd

John 10:1–10 (NIV84)
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Dear friends in Christ,

When Jesus' disciples could not catch fish, Jesus told them where to fish and they caught fish. When Jesus' disciples were scared because they were on the Sea of Galilee during a storm, Jesus calmed the storm. When the disciples could not drive a demon out of a boy, Jesus cast out the demon. When people asked hard questions, Jesus was there to answer. All the disciples had to do was follow Jesus. Then everything would be good. Every need would be covered. Jesus would take care of them. He was their Good Shepherd – guiding and protecting them from all evil.

But, then the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus was crucified and buried. Who would guard them from the forces of nature and the questions of the Jewish leaders? Who would take care of them now that Jesus had died? The answer is still Jesus because the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep also took up his life again. Jesus lives to be our Good Shepherd. He lives to protect his sheep. He lives to give his sheep a certain future.

The Good Shepherd Protects His Sheep

I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

The shepherds would gather their sheep in the evening into a sheep pen for protection. It would have walls around it high enough to keep the sheep in and the predators out. There is one planned way to get in and out of the sheep pen – through the gate. Every other way is a departure from the design and therefore a danger to the sheep.

All believers are the sheep in Jesus' sheep pen. But today, we especially think about five of Jesus' sheep. Brett, Conner, Jackie, Maleah and Zane – the five confirmands. These five young believers were brought into the sheep pen of the Good Shepherd by the washing of water and the word of Holy Baptism. The Holy Spirit has been at work in the lives of these five by building up protections around them. He put them into families that taught them the stories of Scripture, the stories of Jesus. He put them in families that made sure they were in church to hear and learn the word of God. In this protected environment, God has fed them with his word. Over the last two years, we have had over 50 hours of classroom instruction to learn the basics of the Bible. We covered God's commandments, God's work as Father, Son and Holy Spirit to save us, the sacraments of Baptism and Communion, the Lord's Prayer and more.

They have learned to know the voice of their Good Shepherd. They recognize the One who is the gate for the sheep pen. This is a great protection for us as believers because there are many in this world who want to destroy the faith of Jesus' sheep. Some of these people look like very religious people. They are devout and serious about what they believe. At Jesus' time they were the Pharisees. Jesus is addressing this teaching against the Pharisees. You see, they believed that obedience to the commands of God and some extra commands of men would make you worthy of heaven. They put a heavy burden on the people. Instead of entering the sheep pen through Jesus, they climb over the walls and yell at the sheep to be better. They say that the only way God will accept you is if you become a good person. The only way God will love you is if you become more like them.

That is not the voice of your Good Shepherd. Jesus does not burden you with rules and laws. Instead, the Good Shepherd took the burden of our sins on himself. He carried our sins to the cross and did away with the guilt of our sins when he laid down his life as the payment for all sin. The Good Shepherd protects us from sin by forgiving us. Listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd and not that of modern day Pharisees.

There are many other voices out there too. Voices that are not the voice of Jesus. When you enter high school, you will hear these voices. Some will tell you God does not exist or does not matter in our modern world. They will sound convincing. They will have data and reasonable arguments to back up there assertions. They will try to make you feel foolish for believing fairy tales about God becoming man to die for sins and then rising again. These are voices of the great predator, the roaring lion who is seeking to devour your faith. Don't listen to the voice of the devil. Remember what you have learned. You know the voice of Jesus. He really died for you and is really alive again!

As you get out more and more into this world, you will hear o even more voices. Those Buddhists seem so peaceful. I'd like to feel that peace. Maybe I should investigate their teachings. Those Mormons seem so nice. I'd like my family to act that way too. Maybe I should look into Mormonism. These are not the voice of your Good Shepherd. Run away from these strange voices. Don't listen to them. Follow only the voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Our confirmands will confess their agreement with the biblical teachings as explained in Luther's Small Catechism. They will promise to hold onto this faith even in the face of death. They will confess that they believe all of the Bible is God's word. It is all the voice of the Good Shepherd. So we hold to all of it as true. Therefore, as sheep under the protection of Jesus, we listen carefully and with discernment in Christian churches and even in our WELS churches. I am a little “s” shepherd, a pastor. If you hear something from a little “s” shepherd that does not sound quite right, it is your responsibility to compare it with what the Good Shepherd says. And if some pastor will not conform his teaching to the voice of the Good Shepherd even in one area, no matter how small it might seem, it is your responsibility to find someone, somewhere who will speak only the message of the Good Shepherd. You know his voice. Listen only to Christ Jesus.

And the Good Shepherd knows you.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When I see a flock of sheep, they all look about the same to me. I would just call them sheep number one, sheep number two, sheep number three, and so on. But a good human shepherd would know his sheep. He would know their strengths and weaknesses. He would know what they need and call them by name. Our Good Shepherd calls us each by name. He knows what we need before we even ask. He knows our weaknesses and helps us. And how special it is that he calls us by name. It makes us feel like someone cares when they are able to call us by name. Jesus cares about every one of his sheep. Several times today you will hear the names: Zane, Maleah, Jackie, Conner and Brett.

It is not so important that I know your names. I especially want you to remember that Jesus calls you by name. Remember this when you are faithfully following him. Remember this even more when you are lonely or scared. Jesus continues to call you by name when you have wandered away from his word, when your life doesn't line up with his commandments. Your Good Shepherd will not abandon you or forsake you. He will not forget your name. He purchased you with his holy, precious blood and will continue to call you by name until he brings you to your certain future with him.

The Good Shepherd Gives His Sheep a Certain Future

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The disciples thought their future was very uncertain when Jesus died. Who would protect them from their enemies, the spiritual thieves and robbers? Who would lead them to green pastures of the truth? Who would save them from sin and eternal death? Who would give them life into eternity? Easter provided the answer. Our Good Shepherd lives! He lives to give us a certain future. He continues to protect us from false teachers, nourish us with his true word, and he has saved us from sin and eternal death. Our future is certain because the Good Shepherd lives. Our lives now are full of faith and hope and because he lives, we too will live with him forever.

Amen.


 

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