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Fourth Sunday After Easter
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Edward V. S. Moore, May 12, 2019

The Good Shepherd

Text: John 10:11–18

Jesus said, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Three weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, we came to the central point of the church year, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I would like to talk about resurrection a bit this morning. Among His many miracles of healing Jesus raised several people from the dead. There was his friend Lazarus; there was the son of the Widow of Nain, and there was Jairus’s daughter. All were clearly dead. Lazarus in fact had been dead and buried for days.

After first hearing the news Jesus waited two more days before responding to the call of Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha. Those who had lost loved ones all had great faith that Jesus could perform a miracle for them. And in each case Jesus used His divine power to effect a return to life of one who was decidedly dead. However, we should note that each of these people would be subject to death a second time.

What was different about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Who was this man who was dead and then alive again? He was a man, a human being, and a very specific one who walked this earth just as we do today. He was not a myth, not a character of fiction or legend, not a folk figure who somehow took on heroic proportions. We know his name, and a great deal else about him. His name was Jesus of Nazareth—a human being who was born of a woman, who grew through infancy, went through all the stages of childhood, and finally survived to become an adult. He experienced the delights of life on earth: the glory of a morning sunrise, the sweet smell of flowers, the clean taste of pure cool water on a hot summer day, the satisfaction of creating useful items from wood, a skill his adoptive father had taught Him. Moreover, he had godly parents who raised him in the faith of their fathers. He also experienced life’s inconveniences and discomforts: hunger, fatigue, physical pain, and finally death: a most excruciatingly slow and agonizing death.

He was a human being like us. He was born, he lived, and he died, just as every human being does. But something very different occurred after he died. He was dead and his body was buried in a tomb. He lay there for three days. After that period of time after death, something unexpected happened. He physically appeared to his friends and close associates. He physically appeared: not a ghost or an apparition, not a dream or a mass hallucination. He conversed with them; he shared meals with them; he invited them to touch him. They were able to see, to hear, and to feel that this Jesus of Nazareth was once more alive. Only one of them had seen it happen, apart from his mother a few other women, but it was certain that He had died, and now here he was once more among them, a living, breathing man, their close friend and teacher.

In most cases, there was never a question in their minds as to who he was. They had been with him for the last three years. They had seen the miraculous healings. They had witnessed his control over nature. They had received his teaching. At his direction, they had gone out and preached the kingdom of God. They had healed the sick, and cast out demons, just as he had taught them. At one point, they had been sure that he was the Messiah—the One who would set all Israel free from its oppressors. When he was handed over to the Romans to be crucified, they scattered in fear for their lives. When they heard of his resurrection, they came back together to be instructed, inspired, and commissioned by the only-begotten Son of God to perform a mission which would change the world and people’s lives forever. No one else in human history has had such a profound and enduring impact on mankind.

I would like to consider some ways we can respond to our Lord’s death and resurrection during this Easter season.

I believe God is calling us to reflect on what he has done expressly on our behalf through the death and resurrection of his only-begotten son, Jesus Christ. He has provided him as a sacrifice for our sin. He also provides us an example of godly life, in the words of last week’s collect.

How should we respond?

By receiving the gift of remission of sins God offers us. This is no small gift, and it requires no small response.

Next, we must have godly sorrow for our sins of both commission and omission, things done and things left undone, to receive God’s forgiveness.

Finally, we must determine to amend our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. This means the deliberate application of our will to resist the temptations offered by the world, the flesh, and the devil, always praying for the strength of the Lord to help us.

In summary, we must daily and diligently try to live as our savior Christ lived. In John’s gospel, Jesus uses sheep as a metaphor to describe individual Christians with the church representing His flock. He says that he himself is the door to the sheepfold. That is, no one enters the safety of the kingdom of heaven except through him. He is the only way to the Father.

Then he identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. He mentions several characteristics of the shepherd and of the sheep: the good shepherd (or pastor) knows his sheep and they know him. He is not someone who is aloof, but rather someone who is intimately acquainted with each individual. Because of this intimate relationship, the sheep know the him as thoroughly as he knows them. Jesus compares the intimacy of this relationship to that which exists between himself and his heavenly Father.

The shepherd dedicates his energies to protect his sheep. Whenever their lives are threatened by the wolf, he stays with them to protect them even to the point of sacrificing his own life to save their’s. Additionally, there are other sheep which belong to the shepherd, but are of a different sheepfold. Jesus was referring to the Gentiles, those who were not part of the Hebrew Nation. His intention is to include them also, so that there will be just one flock, all of whom hear and recognize his voice, acknowledge him as their shepherd, and seek the safety of being under his care.

His message is universal. It is not meant just for the few, but for the many for whom he gave his life. Are you listening for the Shepherd’s voice? Are you walking in His footsteps? Are you seeking the safety of His sheepfold, the Church?

It is only by God’s mercy that we receive faith to believe that Jesus is that Good Shepherd, the one whom God raised from the dead, the one He declared the Son of God in power over all creation. This is the essence of the faith by which we are saved and live in him. If we believe this, then we are compelled to do whatever we can to please our Lord and Savior and to be as much like him as we possibly can, just like little boys naturally want to be like their fathers, and little girls like their mothers. Do you want to become more like him? Pay attention to Him! Follow His instructions! Be obedient children!

In today’s epistle (1 Peter 2:11–25), St. Peter speaks of how we can please God. It is also by following Christ’s example. But Peter’s emphasis is on one particular aspect of our Lord’s life, His suffering. It is following Him by suffering for his sake, when we have done nothing to deserve punishment, suffering wrongfully he calls it.

Why is this? It sounds so counter-intuitive, so counter-cultural. It is because Christ suffered for us, even unto dying on the cross, specifically for our redemption. The Good Shepherd gave up his life so that his sheep might live, that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. What more abundant life is there than eternal life in God’s kingdom? None! Anything else is a counterfeit, just as the hireling in Jesus’ extended metaphor is a counterfeit shepherd. He promises protection, but when the wolf attacks, he flees and leaves the sheep defenseless. He gives up the lives of the sheep to save his own.

God has given us his Holy Spirit as Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples. He it is who empowers us to live a life pleasing to God. We have received the Holy Spirit in baptism. He is the Paraclete: the advocate, the Spirit of truth, the Comforter.

When we call the Holy Spirit the Comforter, we mean strengthener. He is like an inner divine fire, which inspires and strengthens us, much as a steel sword is hardened and strengthened by being heated in fire. The heat from the fire suffuses the steel. It is not just a phenomenon existing outside the steel, but is distributed throughout its substance and exercises a transforming effect on it. In the same way, we receive new life from the Holy Spirit—regeneration, new birth. God changes us from the inside out. But we must cooperate with Him and let Him continue to change us. This is a lifelong process in which we should be in constant prayer, daily self-examination and confession, and frequently receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

In conclusion, as we live our lives in the blessed light of Easter, in the power of the Holy Spirit, let us not quench the fire he has kindled within us. Let us rather run harder the race to attain the prize of eternal glory he has set before us. Indeed, when he comes on the clouds in glory with his holy angels, we shall rise to meet him and accompany him back to reign over all the earth. Think of that glorious future we all share. Think of Jesus who reigns right now on the throne of heaven in a glorified body. He died once for us all that we all might live in Him. As we approach the throne of grace this morning, let us lay aside anything which stands in the way of our total devotion to him. Let us ask him to stir up that inestimable gift he has given us, eternal life in him, the Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

©2019 Rev. Edward V. S. Moore

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