Sunday, April 25, 2021

John.10.1-10; Fourth Sunday of Easter; June 23, 2021;

John.10.1-10; Fourth Sunday of Easter; June 23, 2021; Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:1-10, ESV) Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. What’s the picture you have of the Good Shepherd? Do you see a man in the field bearing the weight of a sheep on his back? Do you see him rescuing a sheep from a dangerous rocky place? Do you see him sitting among the sheep embracing them and lovingly stroking their wool? Or like stained-glass windows you may have seen in churches. The Shepherd standing holding a little lamb gently to his breast. Those are all good pictures to hold. Those are all good ways to see Jesus our Good Shepherd. They are certainly part of who Jesus is. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. A Psalm of David. (Psalm 23, ESV) Today, I have a different image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, that I want you to think about. It comes from our text today, but it’s a little bit hidden in there and will take some teasing out. Once I got an email that said this was found on the internet. “Men fix their problems with duct tape. God uses nails.” And it fits, God solved the problem of human sin using the nails that pinned Jesus to the cross. So today along with all those other pictures of the Good Shepherd you have in your mind, I’d like you to add another one. It’s a nail about nine inches long. “Well, Pastor.” You say, “You’ve finally completely lost it. There is no way that we can connect that nail with the Good Shepherd. Shepherds don’t use nails. They aren’t a tool you’ll find in the sheep pen. We know that Jesus was crucified for our sins, but what does that have to do with Jesus, the Good Shepherd? Besides, that’s not the way we want to think about Jesus. The cross and its pain and suffering isn’t the thing we want to focus on, we want to focus on the good feelings of knowing that Jesus is here with us, whenever we need Him. One of my favorite hymns is "I am Jesus little lamb; Ever glad at heart I am; For my shepherd gently guides me; Knows my needs and well provides me; Loves me every day the same; Even calls me by my name.” No nails there. No pain and suffering, that’s the Good Shepherd we want to hear about. Well, I must admit there’s nothing more comforting than knowing that God is taking care of everything we need. But the image of the Good Shepherd isn’t just about hugs and green pastures and still waters. It’s also about the shadow of death. Jesus is talking about his own death here as he talks about gates and sheep pens. He is, in fact, obsessed with his death. He talks about it all the time, especially in the Gospel of John. It’s what has caused some people to say that the book of John is the Cruciform Gospel, the “Cross Shaped Gospel.” We like the image of the tender Good Shepherd because we so often find ourselves in need of comfort. But the comfort of our Shepherd is found in the fact that He did lay down his life for our sake. Through His death on the cross, he takes our sins and drops them in the sea of forgetfulness. There is nothing that stands between your Savior and you. He is there when you need comfort. Now, when is it that we need the most comfort? When is it most important to us that we have a Good Shepherd? It’s when we face death. I know it’s true because hardly a funeral goes by that we don’t have the Good Shepherd psalm read. That’s exactly why it’s a favorite. It speaks to us in the face of death. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has done something about our great enemy death. What we are talking about here is the Joy of Easter. Not only the joy of having a Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep but having a Good Shepherd who has also risen from the dead. Jesus says he leads us out through the gate. He leads us through death. He does it first. That’s why the nail is a good sign of the Good Shepherd. With his death on the cross, when he is nailed to the cross, he bears the punishment of our sins. The nails pierce his hands and feet, but they don’t hold him to the cross. He was mocked by the crowds when they told him to come down from the cross and they will believe. He could have come down. But the Good Shepherd willingly gives his life for the sheep. He loves them and cares for them. He bleeds and dies going through the gate of death first. There was a tourist to the middle east. She had been told that Holy Land shepherds don’t drive their sheep but walk before them leading them. But the first flock of sheep she saw was being driven. The man driving them cursed, pushed, prodded and beat them with a stick. She spoke to the tour guide. “I thought shepherds here lead their sheep. Look at that one he’s driving them.” The tour guide said softly. “Oh, I see. You don’t understand. That’s not the shepherd. That’s the butcher.” Our Good Shepherd leads us. He calls us by name. Just think of all the examples where he did that. Thomas stood in unbelief in the upper room after the other disciples had seen Jesus. “Unless I put my hand into Jesus side, where the spear pierced him, I’ll never believe.” Jesus calls him back to faith. “Thomas, see my hands and my side. Come over here and put your finger and you hand in the holes. Believe in me.” When the pressure was on, all the disciples fled from Jesus side. But Peter denied Jesus in public, even cursing to prove his point. When Jesus appeared to again, he said to Peter. “Peter, Son of John, do you live me more than these? Feed my sheep. Follow me.” When Mary was overcome with the grief, she didn’t recognize the Risen Jesus standing before her. She thought he was the gardener. She said to Jesus, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15). But when Jesus called her by name, she knew him instantly. Jesus calls you by name, too. In fact, he calls you by name and gives you his name in the bargain. When Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls you by name, you can be sure that there is faith given with his words. This Wednesday we’ll listen to the 8th graders confess their faith in Jesus. They’ll tell us all about baptism. What benefits does baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. The Good Shepherd calls you by name; through faith in him we follow him, even through the valley of the shadow of death. And there’s that nail again. There is a hymn that says it like this: In death’s dark vale I fear no ill With thee, dear Lord, beside me, Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, ESV) In the text for today, he says he’s the door. Through Jesus, we have a way to the God the Father. Through Jesus, we have a way to life. (Just so you know, the Greek word for life is Zoe). I came that they may have life (Zoe) and have it abundantly. He says though him we will “find pasture.” That’s a way of saying that even though we’ll have to go thorough death there’s life on the other side. I think it’s really what Psalm 23 is saying too. Think about the psalm as a journey. Before the shadow of death Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads us and cares for us giving us all that we need, green grass, still waters and rest. Right in the middle, he leads us through the deep dark valley. He’s right there with us calling us by name, through the fear. After that, we have the table prepared for us, and we live in the “House of the Lord” forever. The whole psalm describes the life that Jesus gives us, care and comfort on the journey, through even the dark valley of death, right to God’s very own table as an honored guest. I know this nail isn’t really a sign of the Good Shepherd. I don’t think I’ve started a new trend. But you can’t separate the Good Shepherd and all those pictures that we have in our minds of him from the death that he dies for us. Because it’s through that death that brings us into the pleasant pastures of life forever. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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