Easter 3 – May 4th, 2014 – John 10:11-16
Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) + Amen.
I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. How unlike the way of the world is the way of Christ Jesus our Lord. How unsearchible are His ways beyond the way of human knowing, how far He is beyond sinful thoughts. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. A Shepherd exchanging His life for that of a sheep? That doesn’t seem like a wise trade, a fair trade at all. Can you see it; a pastor consoling a grieving wife – I am sorry about your husband, but at least he died saving that sheep.
I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Why would you do that? Why, oh Shepherd! The sheep are not worth it. Dear friends, is there anything in you, that makes you worth being saved? Yes, I’m sure you who have cattle would protect them against dangers, but not knowingly at the cost of your own life. Better to let those cattle go – you can always get new ones. So why doesn’t God think this way? Do you not think that God has the ability to just start all over with Creation, that He couldn’t have just blotted out Adam and Eve and all their children and started again? Tossed this creation away into the trash bin like a discarded rough draft. There is no worth in you that would call for God to lay down His life – nothing in you that makes Jesus say, “Oh, I must save Him.” Why would you do that, oh Shepherd, why give Your life for mine?
I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Why? Because I AM. I AM the Good Shepherd. I AM Good. Dear friends, this text is about Christ. He is Good. He is the One by whom all things were made – who made all things Good. Who made man in His own image, made him male and female, and made them both good. You were made to be like, to look like God. When you saw Adam, when you saw Eve in the garden, simply by looking at them you would be pointed to God their Creator, God who made them good. They were the very image of God – if you wanted to understand the Goodness and Holiness of God – you needed simply look at His image – His Adam, His Eve, and you would see and understand and know how Good God was. Man reflected His image, His glory – just like a mirror reflects your image. And it was Good… because God was Good and what He does is Good.
He who does not own the sheep sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The wolf of all wolves came – entered the garden dressed as a snake. He whispered lying words and half truths to our first parents, spoke seductively, promised something more. Do not be content to be in God’s image, you could be so much more. And as they disobeyed, the image of God that was Adam and Eve was shattered. Satan snatched Adam and Eve, and He dashed that mirror that reflected God to the ground. And since then, what have you seen when you look man? What do you see now when you take a long, hard look in the mirror? Do you see someone who looks more like Christ, or who looks more like the Devil? How often are your words used to lead another astray? How often do you bring death with you – how often do you kill a friendship, how often do you kill someone’s reputation, how often do you kill them by “getting the better of them”, and how often, when this is done, do you slither away satisfied in your wickedness. Hear what Christ Jesus says of your broken, fallen nature. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. We heard that a few weeks ago – it was the charge leveled against the Pharisees, the “good, religious people” of Christ’s day. How often does that describe you? And be honest –does not Satan’s way often seem more appealing? Doesn’t it seem better, easier to hate your enemy rather than love? Doesn’t it seem better elevate and glorify yourself rather than show respect? When you think, when thoughts creep into your head, how often are they wicked thoughts worthy of Satan?
The wolf snatches and scatters them. That is what befell formerly fair Eden at the fall. Adam and Eve were scattered, sent of Eden, banished and condemned. With no power of their own could they be freed. With no power of their own could their children be freed. Sons after fathers and daughters after mothers, all bearing this tainted nature, looking like broken mirrors, like pale shadows of what they were created to be. What was made good had become wicked, and to be honest, quite often enjoyed it. And, if left to our own devices, that’s all we would see – a world where wickedness grows more and more and people call it good – call it “choice” or “freedom” or “profit” when it really is murder and lust and greed.
I AM the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Christ Jesus your Lord, the very Word of God that called you into being, that gave you life – He saw your fall. God beheld your wretched state, even before the world’s foundation. As He made Adam and Eve, He knew what Satan would do. He even knew that His Adam would fall. Before He even called Adam into being, before He had even breathed into Him the breath of life, He saw you. He saw and knew, knew you better than you know yourself right now. Now, if you were God, you might not bother – you might rethink this whole creation thing, if you know where it was going to go. But you, you don’t own the sheep, and by your sinful nature you think like a simple hireling – “I best look out for myself.” But God, mindful of His mercies great plans for man’s salvation even before creation. He is the Good Shepherd. The Sheep belong Him and He will not let Satan have them. So the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Adam had the image of God, and Adam threw it down. Cast it aside. Christ Jesus came into the world, came into flesh, was born of human mother. And what happened? Christ takes up your image – man’s image. The image of God in man was restored. Once again, when you looked at Man you saw God. Hear St. Paul from Colossians – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. When you see Christ, you see and understand God. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross. And what does Christ do with that image? I AM the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Jesus says, “Look what I do! You suffer and die according to your sin. Therefore, I will suffer and die – and behold, you look like God again.” Christ Jesus joins you, comes down from heaven and bears the consequences of your sin – He sheds His blood, sheds it upon you, covers you with it – even covers your lips and your tongue with His blood. In Christ’s death Christ established forgiveness – picked up the pieces of your shattered image, and drenched the shards of that shattered mirror in His blood, took those pieces into the tomb with Him for three days. And what happens on the third? Christ Rises, restored. Likewise, you are restored. When Christ raises from the dead, the image of God is restored. The New Man strides forth from the tomb, and Christ Jesus, the Living God says, “Once again I will make you live.”
I AM the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know Me. . . they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, there will be one Shepherd. Christ speaks, He sends forth His Word, and what does that Word do? It joins you to Christ – that Word makes you who looked only like the Old fallen Adam to look like Christ the New Adam. His Word restores you, forgives you your sin. It daily drowns the Old Adam, so that the New might emerge and shine forth. You are free to look like God again, to be His image. This is what St. Peter tells us – For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps. The sheep follow the Shepherd’s footsteps, they look like Him now. He Himself bore our sins in His Body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer [bishop] of your souls. Christ calls you unto Himself and He declares you righteous, proclaims you forgiven and holy. He declares your sin dead, and He declares you Good once again.
Now, in this life, when you look at yourself, you will only see this dimly. You will strive to do good, you will strive and fight to do God’s will, you will beat down the desires of your sinful flesh – but while your flesh is still sinful, until that day when you have completely followed the Shepherd’s footsteps through the grave and onto your own resurrection – your life will be struggle. But in this struggle, know this. Christ Jesus, Your Good Shepherd, has indeed lain down His life for you, He has won pardon and peace for all your wrong. The claims that Satan had upon you are done away with, and you now belong to Christ – He won you upon the Cross, and He claimed you in the waters of baptism, sealed His Name upon you, marked you with His sign, the sign of the holy cross upon your forehead and upon your heart. His resurrection is the proof of purchase, the sign that you do indeed belong to Him, that you are His sheep, and nothing can snatch you out of His hand. Thus, live your life, struggle against sin, and all this do without fear, for the Good Shepherd has gathered you into His kingdom, and He continually gives you forgiveness to keep you here. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia. Amen.