ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Jesus says it twice. That’s a big deal. Jesus lays down His life for you. That’s how He saves you. When the satanic wolf comes to make a nice, tasty lamb chop of you, the Good Shepherd throws Himself before the wolf so that you are safe. When the devil comes to devour you in your sins, it’s Jesus the Good Shepherd that lays down His life for you and saves you. He is the one who chooses men to tend His flock. The fact is, we are surrounded by hirelings—plenty of false preachers who lead you to their own false Jesus. The preacher who is all about making your life better or easier? As soon as some disaster comes, he leaves you in his dust to be the devil’s dinner. The preacher who wants you to live a good life? As soon as your sins grab hold of you, he’s gone. How about the preacher who is so worried about love that he gives no attention to what Jesus teaches? He drives off the faithful preacher, and then he runs off when real conflicts over belief and teaching arise. There are plenty of hirelings; there is only one Good Shepherd, one true Jesus. And only faithful preachers—not hirelings—speak with His voice.
The Good Shepherd stays with you, guarding you, all the way to the cross where he lays down His life for you, His sheep. It’s not because you don’t wander off. It’s not because you wouldn’t let the wolf eat you. It’s not because you’re cute and cuddly. In reality, sheep are sinful and stubborn and stupid in sin! No. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for you because He’s not a hireling. You actually belong to Him. You are His sheep. You are His responsibility. And He lays down His life for you so that He can rise again and, having conquered death, lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to walk through that valley. If you were left to do it on your own, you’d never make it for the darkness and the wolves. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has gone that way. He’s been there. He knows how to get your through it because He’s walked it Himself. So when the time comes for you to take that walk, you don’t do it alone. He’s right there beside you, for He is the one who laid down His life for you. Preachers of the true Jesus, the true Good Shepherd, lead you to the Jesus who dies for you, for the true Jesus knows that you and your Old Adam have to die.
Let me say it again: the Good Shepherd lays down His life for you so that He can lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. He won’t let you be snatched by a wolf or some hireling. That’s why He gives you the still waters of your Baptism: to make you His sheep—just as He has made Briar, Eli, and Titus His sheep this very day—and to remind you that His death and resurrection are your death and resurrection. That’s why He gives you absolution and preaching: so that you can hear His voice from your pastor, telling you that the wolves—sin, death, and devil—won’t hurt you. He gives you the overflowing cup of His Supper, so that you can dine in the presence of your enemies and laugh at them because they cannot have you. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. That’s what He’s all about. Jesus being the Good Shepherd means that He keeps you safe from whatever could harm you as a sheep. His goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, until you dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.