Easter 4—April 13, 2008
“The Loving Good Shepherd”
“I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the
In the Name of The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Amen.
What is your favorite painting of Jesus?
Is it Him praying in The Garden?
• Or maybe standing in the boat reaching out to Peter?
Or maybe it is one that depicts His death on the cross.
For many of us our favorite depiction of Jesus might be the one that
portrays Him as He describes Himself today—The Good Shepherd.
• Jesus with the children—his little lambs.
• Jesus carrying a lamb across His shoulders.
• Jesus with a staff with His little lambs following.
We love these pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. And what’s
more--He loves us!
Think of the many ways that He has shown His love for you. The
most important is by giving His life on the cross. In love the Good
Shepherd became a lamb and allowed Himself to be thrown to the
wolves. Why? So that you could be saved from the ravenous wolf
named Satan. Because Jesus has walked through that valley of death,
He promises that for all who walk with Him, they shall also pass
through that valley and see the glorious light of heaven in the
If that were all that Jesus did, it would be more than enough. But
He has done SO much more for you! The Shepherd King David
describes some of the ways the Good Shepherd has loved us in the
psalm WE all love—the 23rd.
He leads us in paths of righteousness. Sheep are prone to stray.
It’s our nature. Think of the times you have wandered in your life. Not
a pleasant thought. Now think of the gentle way that Jesus has guided
you back into the paths of His righteousness. That is pleasant!
He comforts you. He doesn’t use the shepherd staff to beat or
abuse the sheep. He doesn’t punish or mistreat the sheep. Rather, He
takes you into His arms and embraces you with His love, forgiveness,
He feeds us. He provides for you daily needs like clothing and
food and house and home. And He also provides for your eternal needs
by feeding you His precious body and blood. He provides a table for
you in the presence of your enemies. He makes your cup overflow!
He anoints your head with oil—a direct reference to baptism in
which you were anointed with the Holy Spirit—the heavenly oil of
“Wait a second”, you might be thinking, “I don’t remember Jesus
doing any of that to me.” Do you know why? Because Jesus does it
indirectly. The Good Shepherd bestows His love on His sheep through
means of His under-shepherd, who is called the pastor.
During the year my family and I lived in Scotland we worshipped
at St. Columba Lutheran Church—one of the few, if not the only,
Lutheran churches in Scotland. Scotland is the land of green pastures,
where you see the white forms of sheep looking like cotton balls dotting
the landscape. But the scenery isn’t what made St. Columba in
Scotland such a wonderful place. Nor was it the church architecture—it
wasn’t an old cathedral—rather a more modern building. Nor was it
that fact that because it was the only Lutheran church it had lots of
members and great programs and terrific music. It had a total of less
than twenty members, a couple of my girls were the only ones in their
Sunday school class, and many times there wasn’t anyone to play the
organ—or any other instrument for that matter. Nonetheless it was one
of the best congregations I’ve ever been in—other than Peace with
Christ, of course. With so few people it was very easy to get to know
everyone quite well. (Incidentally, though we live in a culture which
seems to believe that bigger is better, I am convinced that smaller is
best! One of the many reasons why smaller churches are best is because
you get to know people by name.) Anyway, back to St. Columba
Lutheran Church in Scotland. On one occasion we were talking about a
pastor who had recently studied to receive their PhD. And was now
known by “Doctor”. At the time I was studying at Glasgow University,
and had thoughts of continuing on for my PhD. I’ll never forget what
one of the members named Azania said—“Why would a pastor prefer to
be called “Dr.”? Being called “pastor” is the best title a person could
You know what? She was right! We don’t call our holy men
“father” or “Reverend” or “Doctor”—we call them “pastor”. Because
pastor means shepherd, and the pastor is working under and for the
Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The Pastor’s job—or calling—is quite
simple—to do for the sheep what Jesus did, does, and would do.
Remember what Jesus said to Peter after the resurrection? “Peter, do
you love me? Then feed my sheep.” It’s so important that He repeats it
three times! Ezekiel 34 gives us more specifics on what the pastor is to
do. Take time this week to read that chapter—it’s an oldy but a goody.
God is upset with the shepherds of Israel because they are not serving
faithfully. The words God speaks should be seared into the mind of
every man who is serving as a pastor. “You do not take care of the flock.
You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the
injured. You have not brought bck the strays or searched for the lost. You
have ruled them harshly and brutally.” What God DOESN’T say is
almost as important as what He does say. He doesn’t condemn the
shepherds for not being good administrators, or not growing a large
flock, or not building great big beautiful barns in which to keep the
flock. No, it is all about the personal care that is being neglected.
The job—the privilege—of the pastor is to care for Christ’s sheep.
To feed and comfort, to lead and guide, and most importantly to speak
to them—to you—the loving words of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ
who is the Good Shepherd.
And do you know what your job is? To listen to the Shepherd’s
voice, and to follow the Good Shepherd. Not to follow the under
shepherd. Too many people get that part confused—and that is why
when a “favorite” pastor leaves some of the sheep also leave—they have
confused the Chief Shepherd with the under-shepherd. You are to
follow the voice—of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Through the
voice of the pastor you should be hearing the words of the Good
Shepherd. And a good pastor will always direct your attention away
from himself and toward Christ. The church should never be a
personality cult. Let me give you an example—Confession/Absolution
—the pastor says “As a called and ordained servant of the word I
forgive you. . . “ It is the pastor standing there—but it is the Good
Shepherd Jesus Christ whose voice you are hearing forgive you your
sins. The pastor does not have the power to forgive sins—but he does
have the privilege to do so as he stands in the place of Christ and speaks
I am grateful that Christ has given me this privilege of serving
under Him—speaking His word, feeding and comforting and caring for
His sheep. And I am grateful that He has called you to be His sheep.
That you have heard His voice—and faithfully followed. And most
important, together we are all eternally grateful that He has sent the
Good Shepherd Jesus Christ to love us, and lay down His life so that His
sheep might live forever.