“Jesus is the Shepherd King who rules with goodness, truth, and love” Misericordias Domini 2024

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14. April 2024
Misericordias Domini
John 10:11-18

I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

What do you think when you hear that Jesus is your shepherd and you are His sheep? How far does Jesus’ picture extend? For example, the Shepherd is not one of the sheep. He is above them, governing them for their good. They are creatures below Him, unable to care for themselves entirely. They need His protection, care, and providence. This is the picture of the stained glass window next to the altar. This is the lovely and comforting image of Psalm 23, idyllic with rolling pastures and still waters.

But the image gives us more than a pastoral countryside. In the ancient world, kings and rulers were called shepherds. This was not unique to Israel but certainly true of them. Consider how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David were all shepherds, both of sheep and God’s people. The sheep provided for the nation its staples—milk, wool, and meat—while the leaders fulfilled the responsibilities to strengthen the weak, heal those who were sick, bound up the broken, bring back those who were driven away, and seek what was lost. But Israel’s shepherds are woefully inept at their vocation and instead exploit their “sheep.” We heard from the prophet how Israel’s kings ruled with force and cruelty, scattering the flock, giving them over to be devoured by other nations, and wandering over all the earth. 

You need a Shepherd King because no other shepherd will do. As Jesus says, “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers… the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… A hireling… sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.” Neither the false shepherds who fleeced the sheep nor the hired hands have what it takes to keep you from being devoured. There’s real danger living in this world. Jesus’s father, David, described it as walking through the valley of the shadow of death. There is evil in the world because this world has been given over to the Evil One. There will always be those who will rob you of your well-being, seek to devour your life, and destroy all that is good, beautiful, and true. The consequence of this sinful world’s rebellion is death, and it casts a long shadow. There is a pall of thick darkness over all this earth.

The only way through this life is to stick with Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of your soul. The only way to be without want is to look to Jesus alone for every need. The only way to see through the darkness and shadow is with Jesus, your light and path. The only way to live without fear is to be under Jesus’ rod and staff. The only way to dwell in the house of the Lord forever is to remain with Jesus now. Therefore, Jesus comes to you, opening the door to you, calling you by name, and leading you out. You hear Him and listen. He knows you, and you know Him. And if you didn’t hear Him here in this flock, you’d find a flock where His Word is proclaimed. You listen for His voice, and He gives you to follow Him by His Spirit wherever that leads.

Thus, the promise of Jesus as your Good Shepherd is far more expansive than the image suggests. He is the Shepherd King who rules with goodness, truth, and love. He will do what Israel’s shepherds had failed to do. He searches out you, His sheep, and delivers you from sin, death, and deceiver through His suffering and cross. He returns you to His good grazing land of His Word and the refreshing waters of His mercy. He brings you into His Israel, the Church. He disciplines you with the rod of his belt and defends you with the staff in His hand, His Word. He surrounds you with the promised ward of protection by His holy angels. He gives you rest in His sheepfold, and the bleating congregation gathers around His table for each Sabbath. With His manifold gifts of grace and mercy, He binds your wounds, heals, strengthens, and keeps you. 

And the Good Shepherd is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Unlike all the shepherds before Him, He gives His life for the sheep. He became one of us, taking our sinful rebellion in Himself, suffering the consequences of all evil, shedding His blood to mark us redeemed, dying our death, and rising to new life that we might never die. The Good Shepherd and the Lamb prepares a table even now before you, where He gives Himself to you to eat and drink. And receiving Him, He is with you, souls are restored and refreshed, and goodness and mercy follow. You are clothed in Baptism, fed with His Word, refreshed with Absolution, and strengthened with His body and blood. You shall not want ever again. Amen. 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin