Monday, April 20, 2015

Sermon for 4/19/15: Third Sunday of Easter

My ccomputer died. I have no way of editiing the audio of the service right now. I'll try to come back and post the audio when I have it available.

Shepherd and Sheep

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the words just after our Gospel reading, Jesus explains why He is the Good Shepherd. He says: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from my Father." The only One who ever was without sin, the One who seemingly could not die, laid down His life. His enemies killed Him, but only because He let them. Take note of this: no one takes His life from Him. He lays it down on His own. And only when the ransom had been paid in full, only when an eternity of hell had been suffered for every sinner ever, only when the sacrifice had been enough for the sins of the whole world, then, and only then, would He proclaim, "It is finished." 
The Good Shepherd, the loving, kind, gentle, providing, protecting Shepherd, was killed by the sheep! And, wonder of all wonders, the murderers were exonerated; the very crime itself declared them, and us, innocent. For He who laid down His life of His own accord also had the power to take it up again. He died the common death of men, but when the task was done, when all things were fulfilled, He rose back to life. The victory is His. And we, poor, miserable sinners, we murderous, rebellious sheep, are spared by the mercy of the Lord, our Shepherd, our Holy Redeemer, who loves us and names us as His own.
For this dying, His Father loves Him. Dying to save us was what His Father gave Him to do as the fulfillment of divine promise. He was born of the Virgin and became Man to be a sacrifice. God Himself has provided. There is no ram in the thicket for Him, no angel to hold back the knife. He takes our place and dies our death. His dying fulfills His Father's will by paying for our guilt with His life. He buys us back, and the angels rejoice! He redeems us, and all of heaven is overcome with joy! He crushed Satan's head and opened the gates of heaven to all believers. This is why He is the GOOD Shepherd. No one is good but God. Only God has saved us. He is the only sacrifice that is good enough.
If our Lord had not been true man, if He did not have a true human body and soul, human emotions, and all that it is to be man as man is intended to be, then He could not have acted in our place under the law and fulfilled it for us. Nor could He have been able to suffer and die for our guilt. But He was and is true Man. He kept the Law that we broke. He let that Law do to Him as it should have done to us, exacting its full punishment on Him who was innocent, for us who were guilty. But the One conceived in Mary's womb is also God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. He is equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, without beginning, uncreated. His fulfilling of the Law, His life, suffering, and death, is a sufficient ransom for all people. Because He was and is true Man, He could do it. He could die. And because He was and is true God, His ransom is sufficient, not just for one person, but for all people. Because He was and is God and Man, His death would be enough. And having paid the full amount, the Law being fully satisfied, He rose again. For He, our Good Shepherd, is the Lord of life. He gives and sustains life in all who live. By Him is all that lives and moves and has its being. He has the power and authority, for He is true God, who has overcome death and risen to life again!
By this great act, His death and resurrection, He is our Good Shepherd, our Redeemer, our King, our Lord, our Brother. We are His sheep. He was lifted up from the earth. He laid down His life, and there He has drawn us to Himself. We hear His voice. He speaks to us--not in the chirping birds, not in the rushing waters, not in the gentle breeze--He speaks to us in His Word. In the Holy Scriptures he beckons us into green pastures and still waters--not those of our imagination, but of His declaration. He reveals Himself to us in Words that enter our ears, in green pastures of bread that is His body and wine that is His blood. In Him we see undeserved kindness; perfect, undemanding love; a sacrifice for all who are without merit or worthiness. We know Him by His voice, the gentle Word of forgiveness He speaks to us. That Word of life changes us, cleanses us, and makes us new again; murderers and rebels no longer. Now, by grace, called again to life out of death, we are sheep as sheep were meant to be. We are His. So let us be what He has called us to be: His forgiven, His beloved, His sheep. 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.

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