Shepherd

Second Sunday after Easter
April 10, 2016
Psalm 23
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

V   Alleluia! Christ is risen!
R   He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of + Jesus.

One of the most beloved and enduring images of the one true God first came from the pen of a shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. There have been countless shepherds throughout history; many of them featured prominently in the biblical narrative. But only One is the shepherd’s Shepherd. Only One leaves nothing lacking. The Lord of lords is also the Shepherd of shepherds. He is your Shepherd as well, and because of this, you lack nothing.

1.

The wind gently rustles the tall grace as the sheep find their pleasant pasture. On their own their own they would be lost in a wilderness, but a good shepherd knows where to find good food and rest for weary sheep. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. On your own, you would be lost in a wilderness of sin. But you have a Good Shepherd whose goodness consists in this: He lays down His life for the sheep. And so you can also lie down in green pastures. Your Shepherd, Jesus, leads you by still water, and when you drink from it you’ll thirst no more. It’s living water. You are member of Christ’s flock. He is your Shepherd; you have no lack.

2.

It’s said that the grass always looks greener on the other side. In green pastures, there are a number of paths that lead away to what looks to be lusher fields, and voices that say that green pastures and still waters still lack something: health, prosperity, emotion, excitement. The wrong paths offer all these things—for a cost. But what does it profit a man if he gains the world, but gives up his soul? He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Many paths lead away from safe pasture, but only one leads to it—the path of righteousness. You know this path because you know your Shepherd’s voice. The path that leads to destruction is wide, and is marked by the voices of hired hands, who invite you to trade something in return for something else. But only one Shepherd stands His ground when the wolf comes; the rest flee and leave you exposed. Only One did what was necessary to make you right again—He laid down His life for the sheep. This path is marked by the name of the Shepherd: Jesus. The name means salvation. And with the name is always the cross. In the name of + Jesus.

3.

A green valley is at times overshadowed by a dark mountain, and it doesn’t look so green. In fact, the danger lurking in the shadows can send chills down your spine. But a good shepherd is prepared. His shepherds’ tools are not only to guide the sheep, but also to subdue predators. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. There is no fear in love, and perfect love casts out all fear. The King of love, your Shepherd is, and there is no fear when He is near. He wields the rod of the Law to drive back the old sinful nature that still clings to you; and the staff of His Gospel comforts you when death’s shadow grows long. Because the Good News is that the Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep is also the One who takes it back up again. Christ is risen; He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

4.

To keep a flock of sheep productive and strong, it’s necessary for a shepherd to cull the flock. He identifies the weak, the old, the sick, and those are marked for destruction. But the Prophet Ezekiel says that the Lord’s shepherding is the exact opposite. I will feed My sheep and let them rest, says the Lord GOD. I will look for the lost, bring back what was driven away, bandage broken limbs and strengthen the sick, but I will destroy the fat and strong ones feeding them with justice (Ez 34:15-16). The Lord shepherds the weak, the old, and the sick, but the fat and strong ones are marked for destruction. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. The Lord shepherds with His Word, but He is superabundantly generous with His grace and doesn’t provide you with only one aid against your enemies of sin, death, and the devil. He seals you with the oil of the Spirit at your Baptism. He spreads a table before you each and every week. There, He is at the same time Shepherd and sacrificial sheep, host and food. These gifts are not for fat, secure, strong sheep, but for sinners. They are for you. Your cup runs over.

5.

A hireling will leave the sheep at the first sign of trouble. It’s not worth the loss of life or limb to protect a few sheep from danger. But a good shepherd doesn’t leave the sheep. He pursues and defeats the flock’s enemies, like the shepherd who first penned the words of Psalm 23, who pursued bears and lions and killed them to snatch the sheep from the jaws of death. Surely goodness and  mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. The Lord is your Good Shepherd, who pursues your enemies to their final defeat. Satan, that roaring lion, is under Jesus’ feet. Death’s dark shadow is overcome by the light of an open tomb. And your own sin is paid for by the blood of the Lamb who was slain. This goodness and mercy follows you your entire life. Your Shepherd, Jesus, leads you through death to life. By His Word, His Baptism, His Supper, you have a share in His death and resurrection. Your pasture is an eternal pasture. The house of the Lord, your Shepherd, is your dwelling place for eternity.

St. Peter writes, He offered up our sins in His body upon the tree so that having died to sin, we would live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep that were led astray, but now you’ve  been turned back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Pet 2:24-25). No other shepherd could do what the Lord Jesus did. He made Himself a Sheep to die for His sheep. To forgive them. He rose from the dead as a Shepherd to lead His sheep through death to life.

In the name of + Jesus.

V   Alleluia! Christ is risen!
R   He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jacob W Ehrhard
VD+MA