The text for us to consider this “Good Shepherd Sunday” is from the Gospel according to St. John, where Jesus says to the Jews, “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.”
In the NAME of Jesus. AMEN!
The Lord may be Shepherd, but I still want – I want this, I want that, he never seems to supply everything I think I need. And, I’m not going to let him boss me around – making me lie down in this or that pasture – keeping me out of that pasture over that that I want to wander into – never mind the ravenous lions seeking to tear my flesh and devour me. And, by gum, if I want to drink from turbulent waters that may sweep me away, my Shepherd be there to keep me from being swept away!
And so it is for those trapped in worldly thinking. Some may profess to love the beauty and imagery of the 23rd Psalm, but they walk through the valley of the shadow of death – fearing everything. When trouble or hardship strike, they can’t trust or believe that He is with them – and through their lives and their words, they insist that they are on their own in the world – that there is nothing certain or sure.
Jesus doggedly pursues all such people. He has spread His Word to the four corners of the earth, through the teaching of the Apostles, but many won’t set foot in our Lord’s house – much less have a desire to dwell there forever.
Sadder still is the fact that many of us – we who would pray and speak the 23rd Psalm earnestly and honestly – often find ourselves behaving no differently. And this is why we need to hear the voice of Christ Jesus today and take to heart what He teaches in this text. – Namely – Jesus is our Good Shepherd who, by His voice, gathers His sheep into One flock.
And from this we see: (1) Jesus’ voice gathers His sheep because (2) Jesus is THE Good Shepherd. And we also learn that (3) Jesus has only One flock.
If we look honestly at our own actions – our own behavior, we may question whether we are Christ’s sheep. Like worldlings, we find ourselves bored with God’s Word, we find ourselves listening to worldly voices instead of the voice of our Good Shepherd. We struggle to be excited in worship, and we wonder if it would even be worth it to dwell in God’s house forever — “Oh, the Monotony!”– we think.
Believe me, I know how it is… I’ve been there… and when the world catches my attention, I’m often brought back there.
But what the voices of the world so quickly and easily distract us from is the fact that we are here because Jesus our Good Shepherd has called us to be here so that we may hear His voice.
Our Good Shepherd gathers His sheep so that they hear His Word purely proclaimed. Jesus said to His Apostles, “He who hears you, hears me.” And, the Apostolic Word which comes to your ears is the living voice of Jesus.
So as you hear that voice, you are called out of the world and into His flock. As you hear His voice, He gives to you all the blessing of peace and comfort talked about in the 23rd Psalm.
As you hear His Voice declare, “I forgive you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus removes your guilt. And this gives peace to your soul. This is how He makes you to “Lie down in my green pastures,” and leads you “beside still waters.” His voice removes your desire to dwell in other pastures and to drink from the rushing waters of the world’s streams.
His voice pours upon you the oil of gladness as you remember the anointing of your baptism and delivers to you the promise of overflowing mercy and grace, forgiveness, and peace with God.
By His voice, Jesus calls to you and welcomes you to His table where He gives to you a foretaste of the marriage feast of the lamb. He spreads a table before you, feeding you with His own body and blood, even while you live in this world among the enemies of Jesus and His cross.
So, you see, everything that happens here surrounds you with the voice of your Good Shepherd. This is the place that He makes true what He said, “My sheep hear my voice.” In the Hymns – in the readings – in the responses – in the songs – the sermon – in the words of institution and in the words of blessing, in all of it, we hear the living voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
And so with delight we ought to gather as sheep of our good shepherd!
At the same time, we ought be most frightened and concerned on behalf of those who keep themselves away. Not for our sake – as if the church will die without them. Jesus is our Good shepherd, He supplies our needs. We shall not want. We rejoice that He makes us apart of His work – caring for His sheep by doing everything we can to love and serve those whom He has called to Himself.
Including being concerned about those who stray and wander – because by keeping themselves from hearing His voice, they keep themselves separated from their Shepherd who desires to love and care for them. What their absence shows is that they are listening to the voices of strangers – thieves who seek their eternal destruction.
This moves us to warn them of the terrible danger they place their souls into by their absence. Each of us ought to be ready and willing to hold out to them the voice of the Shepherd who says, “Come to me, you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls.”
It is a rest He gives through His living voice. By his voice spoken into our ears, our Good Shepherd leads us through this valley of the shadow of death to eternal blessedness with Him because His voice delivers forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation.
By His living voice, Jesus reminding you that He is Your Good Shepherd who suffered and died to cover your sins. By His voice you are given faith and trust to believe that His blood makes your fleece whiter than the snow. Your faith is enlivened and strengthened. He gives you the ability to believe that He will raise your body from the dead and give you eternal life in blessedness and holiness. For by His voice, He gathers you into the ONE FLOCK that He calls together.
Now, I know, the idea that Jesus has ONE FLOCK can be difficult and confusing in our day. After all, what about all of the divisions we see in His church today?
First, we must be clear. In addition to us die-hard Lutherans in heaven, there will certainly be those who, in their journey through this life worshiped at Methodist churches, Baptist churches, Roman Catholic churches and any number of other churches where the words of Holy Scripture are read and heard.
But we cannot ignore the words Jesus spoke immediately before our text, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
The thief and the robber seeks to steal and kill and destroy what our Good Shepherd seeks to protect and preserve. And so, Our Good Shepherd warns against mixing truth with error. He calls us to hear ONLY His voice. He lovingly warns us that if we are His sheep, we ought not follow or listen to the voices of strangers no matter how well intentioned they are.
So when we hear voices which deny the plain teachings of Jesus – voices which reject would and condemn the truth that He taught we ought to run away – we ought to flee from the falsehoods and be where we hear only to His Word and His promises. Thieves and robbers deny that God justifies the sinner by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Some deny that Jesus cannot be taken seriously when He says, “This is My body, This is My Blood.” Some claim that Peter, the Apostle sent by Jesus Himself to teach was wrong when He says, “Baptism now saves you.” Some make our salvation dependent upon our own works or a choice or an action we make – as if we can turn our own lives over to Him. From any and all such voices, we must flee at the peril of our eternal lives! We ought not only flee from those who deny Jesus outright, but also from all who speak with a different voice than what we hear plainly and clearly in the Holy Scriptures.
For the stranger who speaks such lies even if you do hear other truths from their lips is one who comes to steal and destroy you. And, dear brothers and sisters, by such teachers many fellow sheep have been led back to the goat-heards of the world. They live in despair over God’s love and mercy in Christ because they have listened to such thieves and robbers who have destroyed their faith.
Though our tolerant, just get along culture demands that we ignore Jesus’ word of warning, this is a very real danger. When the voice of the Good Shepherd is mixed with other voices, we ought not treat those other voices as though they were sent by Jesus.
Jesus, Himself, says that when His sheep listen to His voice, they will not listen to the voice of a stranger. He says, they will flee.
Jesus sheep gather around His voice alone. They hear it willingly. They listen with great delight, because it is as we listen to His voice that He delivers to us all the blessings and promises He secured as He laid down His life and took it up again
Gathering around His voice, to lay beside the still waters of our baptism eating of the precious food on His banquet table, we sheep are strengthened and kept in faith, fearing no evil as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death to the end – when we shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.
May our Good Shepherd, who has laid down His life for us, His sheep, and has taken it up again, preserve His voice purely among us, and may He always give us discerning ears that clearly distinguish His voice from the thieves and those who seek to kill and destroy us. And may He guard and protect us as His lambs through this valley of the shadow of death until we shall join with the One Flock whom He shall lead forever.
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.