The Fourth Sunday of Easter AD 2021
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt
John 10:11-18 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
“I am the good shepherd.” that’s what Jesus says to each and every one of you this morning. He doesn’t say “I am a good shepherd.” but “I am the Good Shepherd.” Why? He is the good shepherd, because He lays down His life for His sheep. Unlike a hired hand, a good shepherd would put his life in danger for his sheep. When he saw the wolf coming he would put himself between the wolf and the sheep, something even a Jewish hired hand was required by the Jewish Rabbis to do, unless there was more than one wolf, then he was allowed to run away. Yes, a good shepherd, even a not so good hired one, was supposed to put his life on the line for his sheep, as King David had done when he was a shepherd boy long ago.
Jesus is drawing on this truth when He talks about Himself to you this morning. He is telling you, that unlike some hired hand, who will run away before the wolf because He doesn’t care about the sheep since they don’t belong to him, He will be faithful to you because you are His - you belong to Him. He cares about you. Yes, beloved, that’s a very important thing to be reminded of, especially in these very trying days, when we are so cut off and isolated from one another and there’s something awful and scary stalking in the darkness. The Lord Jesus wants you to know, that He cares about you because you are His own. He has named and claimed you in the waters of your baptism.
Christ will never leave or forsake you, beloved, He is with you every moment of every day to watch over you and keep you. Not from far away, or even from a safe 6 foot social distance. No, He is as close as He can get to you. He is in you and you are in Him. Whatever you have to face, or are facing, He will be, and is, with you in it all, putting His life between you and whatever threatens you in this world. No, you can and never will be isolated from Him, even if you should get Covid 19 and end up isolated in an ICU somewhere. And no, He will not leave you at the door, like the rest of your loved ones have to do right now, if you have to go into hospital for some other surgery or treatment. Being the Son of God He can pass through those locked doors with you, as easily as He did on the first Easter so long ago.
All of this makes Him a good shepherd, a very good shepherd indeed, but what makes Him the Good Shepherd is the fact that He lays down His life for the sheep. Good Shepherds put their lives on the line for their sheep, but the Good Shepherd does far more than that, He lays down His life for them. He gives up His life for them. He dies for them. Regular good shepherds and even exceptional ones don’t do that. No, because if the shepherd dies, where would that leave the sheep? With regular good shepherds, if the wolf kills the shepherd, what does that do for the sheep? It makes them into dinner. A dead good shepherd is no good to the sheep, no matter how good he may have been. A dead good shepherd, leaves the sheep as harassed and helpless as they are with a no good hired hand.
No, a good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep is only good to them, if he can take his life back up again. This, beloved, is what makes the Lord the Good Shepherd. Yes, He cares for you more than anyone else ever could or would, he has loved you to death, His own death on the cross, so that He could save you from it. He laid down His life for You to pay for all your sins and destroy death forever. Any other good shepherd, who gave his life for you, would have still left death prowling around looking to get you, but when the Lord of Life gave His life over to death, He gave death a meal that doomed it to die. When death wolfed down the Son of God His belly was burst open three days later, when the Son took His life up again and rose in victory. Quite simply, beloved, death has no stomach left for you anymore. In Christ, death cannot keep you. With Christ, death has no choice but to let you pass through it and the grave to your joyful resurrection.
Yes, Christ is the Good Shepherd, who has fulfilled the charge from His Father and laid down His life and taken it back up again. The nail marks in His hands and feet and the spear wound in His side prove that beyond all shadow of a doubt. Yes, Christ wants each and everyone of you to hear this morning that He is the Good Shepherd, but more than that He wants you to hear that He is your Good Shepherd. He also puts that beyond all doubt by giving you His body and blood. You are His and He is yours. All that He has done, He has done for you. He has laid down His life for you and He has taken it back up for you. Your sins are forgiven and your life is saved. Death has no dominion over you, because it has no dominion of Him, and He is in you and you are in Him.
And so, beloved, receive Him with joy this day and boldly pray in the face of Covid 19 and everything else that death tries to throw at you in this world - The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever! Amen.