The Second Sunday after Easter, 2017
“Good Shepherd Sunday”
The Epistle – 1 Peter 2:19-25
The Gospel – John 10:11-16
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Christ is risen!
Today, this second Sunday after Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. It is designed primarily to highlight an aspect of Christ or a virtue of Christ or a role Christ performs in the salvation of mankind.
We find Jesus many times especially in the Gospel of John using the “I Am” title or indicator.
I am the Vine, you are the branches.
I am the door, If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
I am the Bread of Life
I am the light of the world.
I am the Resurrection and the Life…
Today, He says, “I Am the Good Shepherd.” This indicates that there are bad shepherds.
This lesson today comes on the heels of the long account of Jesus healing a man born blind. The Pharisees are there as usual and criticizing the miracle.
Some were saying the man was never blind.
Some were saying Jesus was a sinner, working on the Sabbath.
He seems to still be speaking to them and those around when He goes on this way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.
“This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”
Then He goes on with what we heard today. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
The continuity is fairly clear here. Jesus comes to the aid of a man born blind. He heals the man and immediately when the Pharisees hear about this miracle, they begin to make accusations.
“This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
This man who has been healed in fact tries to counter and does quite well by saying, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
The Pharisees answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.”
They cast the man out and he was only telling the truth about what Jesus did.
And these were the supposed Shepherds of the people of God!
So in what we get first of all for the Gospel this morning, is the reason why Christ came into the world.
He came, He said, so that those who believe in Him might have life and have it more abundantly.
He did not just come into the world to give us an example of a life of holiness, though that is important.
The holy life is how we both show our gratitude for Him doing what He did for us, but it also witnesses to others the source of our ability to live in this world with confidence in knowing that the price for sins has been paid for us and that eternal life is secured for us by His death and rising again.
He did not just come to be a teacher of new morality…though that too is true and important.
The life we live….the life of faith is demonstrated in a life that seeks to imitate Christ in life.
How we treat each other here.
How we treat our neighbors outside this building.
How we conduct ourselves when unchristian temptations come upon us.
Nor was He just a founder of a new way of worship….a founder of new ceremonies.
He did alter the way man accesses God.
He did alter the way man worships God.
The sacrifices of the Temple are replaced with the sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart… a humble spirit…that God wholeheartedly accepts.
He did see to it that by His death the Temple curtain was torn in two and the access to God, once veiled and obscured was now opened and opened only through Him.
He did away with Passover Feasts and by Him becoming the Paschal Lamb, instituted a new source of food…that of His Body and Blood spiritually partaken of in faith.
But He came also to procure eternal life for mankind. He would do this by His death. And by His rising again, He became unto us a fountain of living water to which we can come to again and again.
He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Some translations say that He came that we may have life and have it to the full.
The full life and the abundant life is obviously found in eternity. Life in heaven, with Christ, with God, is without any of the pain and suffering this life contains.
Yet this doesn't have to point us only to the life to come. To be in Christ is to be in Him now. It is to live in Him now….and He in us, of course.
And to have Christ now in this life as we do here, means also being able to live life more abundantly and to the full through perseverance.
Jesus was a Good Shepherd to the people around Him. He did not just drop down, scoop up His people and take them out of the world.
He came down, lived among His people. He healed them. He showed love and compassion to them.
He showed us how to live now in light of eternal security in the life to come.
Like a Good Shepherd, He knows we have a life to live out here and now.
Like a Good Shepherd, by His sustaining presence and power, He is everpresent.
Like a Good Shepherd, He knows everything about us.
He knows our names, our families, our situations, our jobs, our ailments, our struggles, our innermost thoughts, our secrets, our trials.
Peter writes that one line. 1 Peter 5:6-7
 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (ESV)
We HAVE to know this. We have to believe this and recall it to mind. He cares for us.
And He says at the end of John’s Gospel, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
He tells us that the world is full of tribulation. He says He has overcome the world. But He did not say, now lets get out of this world.
His exhortation there is that we are to get ready, and prepare and not be surprised and to persevere…because the persevering will pay off.
He provides (though it may not feel like it sometimes) He provides for all of our wants and needs.
So in knowing this, we can see why someone like Peter will write today to a people under sever persecution…more than we will probably ever undergo ourselves.
He says, “ For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, (Or we could say, mindful of Christ the Good Shepherd) one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called…”
To this end we have been called.
Though Peter is writing here specifically to servants and how they are to be subject to their masters, the passage doesn't have to be confined to just those two….master and servant.
He speaks also more broadly to all of us.
To this we have all been called as Christians…to endurance even under unjust conditions. This is the road to the abundant life….endurance under unjust conditions….or seemingly hopeless conditions.
To this we have been called. Though Christ has overcome the world, the world still is against us. But even knowing this, we can still live joyfilled, hopefilled, Christlike lives now.
And its all because of what Peter says next.
Remember, to this we have been called,…and then he says, “because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Christ suffered for us. He not only lived for us, but suffered for us. He knows exactly what we are going through.
He came unto His own people and His own people didn't receive Him.
He came into the world….the world that He created and the world did not know Him.
So it is looking to Him that we find not just understanding and sympathy, but enduring grace and strength….encouragement…hope.
This is what the Good Shepherd is and this is what He does.
He is taking care of the sheep. We are the sheep. All we like sheep have gone astray.
Not only do we follow our own devices and desires, but we encounter a world full of difficulties as well. Small and large.
But through it all we have the encouragement here from Peter. He tells us why we are to endure.
He tells us how to endure.
He goes on to say here, about Christ, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (ESV)
We were wandering and lost. These are the metaphors for sin and separation from God. This is the description of us before we belonged to Him.
But now that Christ has come and that we have placed our faith in Him and we have been baptized and we receive His grace at the Lord’s Table each week, Peter says to people like us, we have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop…the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
There was a great failure in the shepherds of Israel. The men whom God called out and separated out to care for and guide the people.
They had grown corrupt.
They had forgotten their first calling.
More in Jesus’ time, they had gotten so caught up in the letter of the Law; they had forgotten the spirit of the Law.
Israel knew this all too well, for the Kings of Israel were also designated to shepherd the people and they failed miserably at this as well.
They went after other gods. They intermarried. They built false gods, false temples and carried out false rituals.
This is the great burden laid on anyone who leads. Every leader is a shepherd.
Here is God speaking through one good shepherd from the Old Testament….Ezekiel.
Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.  So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered;  they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” (ESV)
This is extended here today by Jesus to the religious leaders of His day.
They too had failed at their calling. They had abused the people rather than cared for them.
From beginning to end, Christ is the True and Good Shepherd. Jacob on his deathbed said back in Genesis, 48:15
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, (ESV)
….to the last book, called The Revelation, Revelation 7:17
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (ESV)
That is the true abundant life we are ultimately called to…and it is only through faith in the promise to us from Christ, the Good Shepherd.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.