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    Rev. Cameron Schnarr

Beautiful Savior Lutheran School

Lutheran Church Canada - What do you believe?

LCC - Lutheran Church Canada

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, Canada
The Sleeping Shepherd

The Sleeping Shepherd

Based on John 10:11-15

Preached on April 22, 2018

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good Shepherd Jesus! He shepherds you. He’s anointed your head - with oil of His Spirit - in the quiet waters of Holy Baptism. He prepares the table of His Supper in the presence of your fiercest enemies: sin, death and Satan – and feeds you with the bread and wine of His Good Friday body and blood. He restores your soul by forgiving all your sin. He guides you in the paths of righteousness through His holy Word – the rod of His law and the staff of His gospel. He leads the way - through the dark valley of death - on to His Easterly resurrection – in order to lead you through your death to eternal life in Him and the resurrection of your body on the Last Day. He wants you to dwell – to stand – in the house of the LORD forever – so your shepherd is gonna make that happen.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Wait a minute. Sheep!?! Thanks a lot Jesus. Yeah, its not a compliment. Sheep are stubborn, stupid, self-centered, high maintenance creatures who essentially need 24/7 shepherding or they die of being sheep. Not exactly the way you want to view yourself, is it? No.

But take an honest look – the picture fits. Stubborn. Check. Straying. Check. Prone to wandering. Check. We’ll drink from every putrid pool, munch - on any deadly, poisonous weed, stray off into the wilderness. We butt heads with one another, stubbornly insisting on having our own way. And the isolated sheep - its as good as dead - the very one the predators look for – like the isolated Christian - easy pickings for the spiritual wolves.

Sadly, this happens all too often. Sheep cut themselves off from their Good Shepherd and try to live on their own apart from Jesus. They falsely believe that living apart from the Good Shepherd – is safe. They have no desire to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice – whenever He speaks in the preaching. So they listen to their own voice. Their own words are divine words. They listen to their voice as if it’s God’s voice. That’s when they are isolated, exposed, undefended, vulnerable, and they are readily attacked - devoured by wolves that take the place of Good Shepherd Jesus.

So I warn you. When you cut yourself off from Christ and the sound of His voice, you will easily fall prey to the siren song of other voices that will lead you to hellacious destruction. Idols or false saviours give you no Sabbath Day rest. They are relentless. Tyrannical. Your work, when idolized, will devour you. The endless pursuit of power and wealth will consume you. You will be wolfed down by your incessant desire to play. You will be polished off by your mindless pursuit of pleasure, materialism, sports, leisure, greed, intoxicants and immorality. You will be consumed by the ecstasies and excesses of false worship that set before you a different Saviour than Good Friday on the cross and Easter-ly risen from the dead Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

No – the picture of sheep might not be very flattering – but neither is a shepherd. Jesus joins us in our lowly picture – making Himself our shepherd. He takes the bottom of the social ladder – a position with no respect in His day. Shepherds were a nuisance, because their sheep wandered all over other people’s property. And shepherds were always hanging out with their flocks, not exactly the sort of people you’d invite to your next dinner party. You remember the shepherds who first worshipped Jesus in Bethlehem. They were the only ones outdoors that night, sleeping in the field with their flocks.

This is the role Jesus takes for Himself. This is what He will do for you. He abandons the high society and exciting circles of heaven – and comes to live out in the field with His filthy flock of stubborn sheep. Dwells with us – becomes one of us. And all the while – He calls this good.

He makes it clear. He isn’t the hired hand. Jesus is referring to the guardians of the Law, the religious leaders of His day who simply beat people over the head with religious rules and regulations - “do this and don’t do that” - who did nothing to guard people against the wolves of religion and that self-justifying way in us – that always thinks we are right, when we are totally unclean. In fact, the hired hands use the Law to accuse and condemn you. You’re the sinner. You break the law. You can’t possibly be a sheep of the good shepherd. You need to shape up, you need to become better sheep, you need to earn your way into the flock. A hired hand would never go running after the straying sheep; he’d just write it off as a dead asset and move on to other things. Moses and the Law don’t lay down their lives for you. Rather they demand your life from you. All of your life. But Jesus says – I am the owner – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for you.

It’s on your bulletin. In Jesus’ day, the shepherd lay down to sleep at the opening of the sheep pen. He made His body the door for the sheep. You literally get to the sheep over the shepherd’s dead body. The good shepherd falls asleep alright. Sleeping Jesus on the cross is the good shepherd laying down His life for the sheep. His very body hangs in the sleep of death – shielding His sheep – now their door to eternal life. The Law and all its accusations can only get to you over Jesus’ dead body. But now that’s never gonna happen, because - it is finished!

You - are died for. Your sins - are atoned for. And this self-giving love is what sets Jesus apart in the world of religion. Religion is full of examples to follow, paths to explore, ways to enlightenment. But there is only One who lays down His life even for those who were not following Him, for those who hated Him, yes, even for His enemies. Jesus hinted that His flock was bigger than His disciples expectations. Jesus had “other sheep” who were not part of Israel’s fold - Gentiles, the non-Israelites, - you and me. Yes, Jesus has you tucked in that little sentence too.

The good Shepherd lays down His life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is not simply Israel’s shepherd, but the world’s shepherd. He is not simply the Savior of the chosen few but of the inclusive many. His death on the cross, His rising from the dead, His ascension to the right hand of Majesty is His gathering of all of humanity into His humanity. He is the new humanity. And in His flesh and blood, Jesus takes all of humanity as one flock through death to resurrection and on to glory. Jesus isn’t only a one man Israel, He is humanity reduced to one man, a second Adam, one who embodies all men through all time and makes them one flock under one shepherd.

So some might say, “Ah ha, so all are going to heaven because they are one flock under one Shepherd,” and the answer would, of course be “No.” In the parable of the sheep and the goats, sheep and goats were one flock under one shepherd until the close of the age and the judgment. And even separated, they still are one flock under one Shepherd, the only difference is the damned goats refuse to recognize the only Shepherd they have.

He lays down His life. He does it intentionally, voluntarily, in obedience to His Father. He has been given authority, permission - to act by the Father, to lay down His life. Jesus’ death was no accident. It was not due to weakness on His part. Ever notice He had this knack for slipping through the crowd. Time after time, they tried to lay hold of him, but Jesus slips through the crowds as though He were covered in grease. They can’t seem to lay hold of Him. Even in the garden where He was finally arrested, His simply saying the words “I AM” caused the soldiers to fall to the ground. That’s the power He had that He was refusing to use at that moment.

Before Pilate, Jesus said that if His kingdom were of this world, the fight would already be over – angel armies would have mopped the earth in a moment. His own disciples were armed with swords. Peter drew his sword and cut of the ear of a servant of the high priest. But Jesus healed the man’s ear and chided Peter - put that away. That’s not how the good Shepherd operates. He lays down His life for the sheep. In the end, on the cross, Jesus dies on His own terms, at the moment appointed for Him when the lambs of Jerusalem were being slaughtered for the Passover. He lays down His life; He takes it up again. He is the Lord of Death and Life. He runs the show even of His own death.

You don’t. You do not have the authority to lay down your life or end it. You are a sheep, not the good Shepherd. Besides, we don’t know what we’re doing anyway. The very best thing for us is that our life is in the hands of our good Shepherd who laid down His life to save us.

Perhaps it isn’t flattering to think of yourself as a sheep. But the great good news of this Good Shepherd Sunday is that sheep have a shepherd, and you have a good shepherd, who laid down His life so that you might have life in Him and dwell in His house, His flock, His green pastures, forever.

The Lord is your Shepherd, and in Him you lack nothing. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Rev. Cameron Schnarr