4/29/2012 – Good Shepherd Sunday

This coming Sunday is “Good Shepherd Sunday,” when we hear how our Good Shepherd, Jesus, laid down His life for us, His sheep.

Readings:  Psalm 23, Acts 4:1-12, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18

PSALM:  Psalm 23

Psalm 23 paints a beautiful picture of how our Lord and Savior loves and cares for us even in the midst of this world.  Even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death that we live in, He is with us guarding and guiding us by means of His Holy Word.

In that word he leads us beside the still waters of our baptism where He applied to us specifically all the mercy and benefits won through His death on the cross.  That is why these waters are called “still” or “peaceful,”  because through those waters we are assured that Christ Jesus has established peace between us and God.

In the Holy Supper, even as we live in this world among enemies of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, Jesus, spreads a banquet table that provides for us His body and blood to eat and to drink nourishing and strengthening our faith so that we may withstand all the assaults of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.

Through His Word, the baptism with which He washes us, and His supper through which He gives us strength and hope, He bestows upon us His goodness and mercy all the days of our lives.  He gives us His Holy Spirit and keeps us united to Himself so that we are ultimately led home to Him.

First Reading: Acts 4:1-12

In our reading from Acts we see the work of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, described as Peter speaks of Jesus’ death and resurrection before the rulers, elders and scribes gathered in Jerusalem.  Many in Jerusalem had heard the voice of the Shepherd, Jesus, as His under-shepherd, Peter, taught that through Jesus, we not only receive forgiveness but we are raised from the dead and turned from our wickedness toward God and are led in holiness.

Because God had miraculously healed the lame begger, Jesus shepherded Peter to stand before some powerful and influential people to speak.  Making a bold confession before the high-priest as well as Caiaphas and others of the high-priestly family, Peter is clear that “there is salvation in no one else,” but Jesus.  “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Epistle: 1 John 3:16-24

The Apostle John reminds us that “Love” is not a noun, but a verb.  It is not a feeling, but an action.  We know and can see love because of what love does.  We know Jesus loved us because He laid down His life for us.  Our acts of compassion and mercy for others shows the world what we believe to be true, namely, that God has loved the world by sending Jesus.  Such acts confirm in a concrete manner that we know and understand God’s grace and the mercy He has shown to us.  It shows forth the fact that we have been placed back into a right relationship with God.  It shows that we “fear, love and trust in God above all things” (First Commandment, explanation) because we carry out the purposes for which He created us – to tend and care for the world and our neighbors (Gen 1:26-28).

Gospel: John 10:11-18

Since the time of Abraham, God shepherded His people Israel in order to bring them to the promised land where through them, Jesus would be born.  He was born in order that He would lay down His life for the sheep.  This was all part of God’s plan to restore mankind to Himself.  Now, even though we are not of the sheepfold of Israel, we are able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.  Through His Word and Sacraments, Jesus shepherds us and leads us.  As His word is faithfully proclaimed by His under shepherds (i.e., “pastors”), we hear His voice and are able to listen to Him.  By that Word, we are made part of the one flock under the one shepherd.

We can tell “hired hands” from Jesus’ true under shepherds by the word they proclaim.  Hired hands care nothing for the sheep.  At the first sign of danger and resistance, the hired hand flees and runs away and leaves the sheep to be snatched and scattered by wolves.  Therefore, they are willing to proclaim their own thoughts and opinions and are more than happy to preach whatever the “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) of the sheep wish to hear in order to stave off danger and resistance.  Faithful under shepherds, on the other hand, apply themselves to the clear preaching of the words that the Good Shepherd has handed to them to preach.

The message that Jesus sends His under shepherds to preach is that our Good Shepherd has done everything to love, care for, and protect His sheep.  He has laid down His life so that we may be brought into His sheepfold.  He binds our wounds and gives us health and healing.  Within His sheepfold, that is, through the Church into which He calls us He provides for every need so that we shall not want.  He leads us beside the still waters of our baptism and restores our soul as He feeds and nourishes us at the banquet He spreads before us in the presence of our enemies.

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