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April 21. 2024

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:5-12

Psalm 23

1 John 3:16-24

John 10:11-18


Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

 grace and peace to you from the one who is our good shepherd. Amen

 

Jesus proclaims today

that he is the good shepherd.

 

This is an image that we are familiar with,

 take comfort in,

most people

even if they have only minimal familiarity with the Bible

are aware of the importance of Psalm 23

 

 but I think when they picture Jesus as the good shepherd

 they have something quite literal in mind.

 

 I’m imagining one of those old Sunday school illustrations

 of Jesus with flowing hair and robe

 slightly glowing

in a rolling green pasture

 with fluffy white sheep,

 

it’s all so idyllic

 but as beautiful as the image is,

it says almost nothing

 about what it means for Jesus to say

that he is the good shepherd.

 

As a good teacher

Jesus makes the statement

 then goes on to explain what he means.

 

 For Jesus,

being a good shepherd

means that he knows his flock and his flock knows him,

 it means that when one of the sheep is lost or scattered

he will go look for it

 

 and that when danger threatens the sheep

 he as shepherd will not abandon the sheep

 but face the threat head on,

even to the point of laying down his life for the sheep.

This is a shepherd

that that puts the sheep before himself,

gets his hair tangled and his robe dirty

and in this way establishes trust with the sheep

 for whom he is caring.

 

Trust is important in any relationship

but it is especially important

between caregivers and those they care for

because there is an imbalance of power

 

Part of building trust is knowing each other.

Jesus as good shepherd knows his sheep,

he knows which one likes the fresh green grass,

he knows who is likely to get distracted

 and wander away from the flock,

which ones like to butt heads,

 

knowing these things

shows the sheep

 that the shepherd is invested in them

and their well being.

 

And the sheep respond to this consistent loving care,

 learning the sound of the shepherd’s voice

trusting that when the shepherd says it is time to move on

 that it is in their best interests.

 

 What holds true for the sheep

holds true for us.

 

We respond better to people

who take an interest in who we are,

who show that they are invested enough in our well being

 to learn about the areas where we have a tendency to wander off

as well as our gifts and talents,

and in return

we follow their advice and guidance.

 

Take a moment and think about someone

who has been a good shepherd in your life,

 a teacher, mentor, guide.

 

Think of all the times they cared for you and guided you

 and what an impact they had on your life,

 

 Jesus knows you like your mentor,

he cares for you like a parent

he is invested in your well being.

 

This care extends

to when the we wander off and get lost.

 Jesus as shepherd promises to go and seek out the lost sheep,

 in fact he has already demonstrated this.

 

Jesus’ teaching about the Good shepherd

 that we heard today from the gospel of John

follows the story of the man born blind.

 

There is a man born blind from birth who Jesus heals,

this man, understandably excited

 about being able to see

 goes and tells people what has happened,

what Jesus has done for him

 

but in response

the Pharisees question him

calling into question his truthfulness,

even going so far as to ask his parents

 if he was really born blind,

 

and when the man insists

that Jesus healed him and is from God

they throw him out of the temple.

 

Jesus hearing that they have driven him out

goes and finds the man

 and reveals himself to him as the son of man

and the man believes

 and finds a place among Jesus’ followers.

 

Jesus saying that he will go and seek out the lost

is not a theoretical statement,

 it is already something he has done.

 

 And Jesus’ care for the sheep

 goes beyond getting to know them

and searching out those that wander off,

he will go as far as

laying down his life for the sheep.

 

In the face of danger

the hired hand will run away,

 his life means more to him than the sheep

 

but for Jesus the good shepherd

 the safety of his flock

 is worth more than his life

 and so Jesus gives it up willingly.

 

we witnessed this on Good Friday

 and Jesus in John

 wants to make sure that we know

 that no one took his life from him,

that he intentionally laid down his life for the sake of the sheep,

for our sake,

 

he has the power

and the father’s love on his side

and his love extends through death and resurrection.

 We have done nothing to deserve this extraordinary care

it’s just how much God loves us.

 

Jesus as our good shepherd

knows us intimately,

 seeks us out when we get lost,

 lays down his life for the sake of our own lives,

 

this is love beyond any other love we will experience,

this love is ours

 and so known, sought, loved

the question becomes, now what?

How are we to respond

 to this amazing love that God has first shown us?

 

 The author of 1 John writes:

“We know love by this,

that he laid down his life for us—

and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

 

Secure in the love of God for us

we are freed to love others

 with the same abandon that Jesus as shepherd loves us.

 

This looks like sharing material goods with one another,

 setting aside our wants for others needs,

 protecting the weak from danger,

searching out the lost.

 

You’ll notice that these are all actions,

 love is a verb,

that is the reoccurring theme of the Easter season,

 

 love is acts of service done on behalf of another

it’s getting our hair tangled and clothes dirty

presenting a less than idyllic picture

all for the sake of goodness and mercy

without regard for reward or self,

 

love is making hard decisions that positively impact our neighbor,

so that all may have life and have it abundantly.

 

Abundant love and life pervades our lives and our community

All because the Lord is our shepherd

we shall not want… Amen

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