Sunday, April 25, 2010

Your Shepherd, the Lamb

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Mark, Evangelist
April 25, 2010
John 10:22-30

So they wanted to know who Jesus was. If You’re the Messiah, just tell us. Don’t beat around the bush. Well, He had tried that and it didn’t work. They didn’t believe Him.

So He’ll try another approach. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Shepherd of the sheep, and, oh, by the way, you’re not part of My flock. Sheep know the voice of their shepherd and you’re not listening to Me. You don’t believe that I’m the Christ and you don’t believe that I’m the Good Shepherd. My sheep have eternal life.

And if that’s not enough He goes all the way and says He’s God: I and the Father are one. Now this is really the last straw, as all four Gospel writers tell us that the Jewish religious leaders couldn’t tolerate this kind of blasphemy. They sought to kill Him. And as we know they were ultimately successful.

We, of course, know and believe that Jesus is God. We rejoice and give thanks that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world. He is the Good Shepherd. He is our Shepherd.

But if we step back and see Him as He presents Himself to us we must ask if we really know Him. Do we know Him as well as we ought to? Jesus is all of those things, things we have no problem with, but He is also something else. He is something that doesn’t quite register with us.

Because, well, He’s God. He’s the Savior. He’s the Good Shepherd. He’s the powerful one. The one who can do anything. The one who’s going to get us through the valley of the shadow of death. The one who will prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies and feed us His Heavenly Feast.

He can’t be the other thing He says He is. Maybe He was. But now? No, now He’s the Almighty God and Lord. He’s our Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters and protects us.

So what is it that He is that we might have so much trouble with? He’s the Lamb. The Shepherd of the sheep is also the Lamb for the sheep. Our Good Shepherd is the Lamb. But not just a lamb. The Lamb. The Lamb who was slain.

He doesn’t say it here in the Gospel reading. He says that He is the Christ, He is the Shepherd, and He is God. He doesn’t say He is the Lamb, and furthermore the Lamb who was slain. But here’s what He does say: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” My Father, who has given to Me My sheep, I being their Shepherd, is greater than all, I having humbled Myself as a man to suffer and die, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. Why are the sheep of the Good Shepherd Jesus safe and secure in the Father’s hand? Because of Christ humbling Himself to His Heavenly Father. Christ the Good Shepherd not only sacrifices Himself by laying down His life for His sheep, He is the sacrifice necessary. He is the Lamb who was slain.

The apostle John wrote down these words of Jesus for us in the Gospel reading. He also wrote down His vision he saw in the book of Revelation. He says there, as we heard in our second reading, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd.” He is the Shepherd and we are the sheep. But He is also the Lamb. The Lamb who was slain so that we may be guided to the safe harbor of eternal life.

We must never forget that the Jesus is the Lamb. He is the Lamb who was slain. In a world that holds up glory and pleasure as the ultimate goal, Jesus offers Himself to you, the Lamb who was slain. Many in the Church want to take the path of the Pharisees. Jesus, what have you done for me lately? Why do those who don’t believe in you gain the wealth and the power and the glory? Why do we, Your sheep, so often suffer and struggle through trials? Where too often in the Christian Church the pursuit of glory is taken right from the pages of the world at large Jesus humbly submits Himself to you for your salvation.

Your Shepherd is the Lamb. You are sheep of the Good Shepherd, the Lamb who was slain. So if you hear His voice hear what He says to you: He is the one who was offered up and offers Himself to you in His Word and Sacraments. It’s true that as God He can do anything. Of all that He can do, of all that He does, He continues to come to you as the Lamb. He comes to you lowly and humbly as He did at Bethlehem, as He did in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He did in His suffering and death on the cross.

He is indeed your Good Shepherd. He leads you. He guides you. He protects you. He is with you always. He is your Good Shepherd because He is the Lamb who was slain.

He is never too powerful or almighty to be the Lamb whose blood was shed for the sins of the world. You hear His voice because His words rang out on Calvary, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. On the cross He was the sacrifice. He was the go between. Interceding for us so that we may make it through the valley of the shadow of death. He remains forever the Lamb who was slain even as He guides us through the darkest valley.

There is something dynamic about Christ being the Lamb who was slain. He is the Good Shepherd, and there’s tremendous and eternal comfort in that. But never forget that He is the Lamb who was slain. When you’re in the darkest valley know that your God, your Shepherd, is the one who was slain. The one who was slaughtered so that you may make it through.

We need to know that He is God. He is all-powerful. He is the One. He is the Everything. But without the one thing, the Lamb who was slain, the Everything is nothing. He is nothing for you if He is not the Lamb who was slain. Your Shepherd is your dynamic living God because He is more than just the one who can do anything for you. He has done everything for you in His suffering and death. In being the Lamb, the one who was slain, all things are yours and you are led through this vale of tears to eternity without sorrow or fear or hurt or sin.

Don’t listen to the voices that offer you a God who is gives you glory. Listen to the ones that offer you a God who is humble and lowly. One who was slain. One who shepherds His sheep by laying down His life for them. By being the very sacrifice for all their sins. Your enemies are worse than you can ever know. He knows them. He died because you face them. He suffered because they have a hold on you. You walk through the valley of the shadow of death because too often you listen to the voices that promise glory and a Christian life free from trouble.

Your Good Shepherd calls you by name. He Baptizes you and makes you His own. The Lamb who was slain gives you, as He did at Calvary, His very Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Hear His voice. He prepares before you a table in the presence of your enemies. He calls to you in His Holy Supper: take and eat, take and drink, this is My body and blood for you. I am the Lamb who was slain. Forever in glory as the Lamb who was stricken and smitten for the sins of the world.

Why would you want a Shepherd who offers you glory when you have heard the voice of the one who offers you simply Himself? Your sinful flesh will latch on to the glory, but you are a new creation in Christ. What you need is forgiveness. What you need is new and eternal life. The glory will come. It will be far greater than whatever glory you seek in this life. Your attempts to avoid pain or suffering in this life will give way to a humble and joyful magnification in heaven of your Good Shepherd, the very Lamb who was slain. Amen.


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