The Voice of the Shepherd
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.
Do you remember a while ago, when we heard the account of Jesus calling that woman a “little dog?” Well, today He calls us “sheep.” And as cute as we think sheep are, and soft and cuddly, the truth is that sheep are dumb, stubborn animals, prone to wander off and get in trouble. This is not a flattering thing. To be a sheep means to confess that you are stupid, stubborn, obstinate, you like to wander off, and you wouldn't know a wolf until he took a took a bite out of you! But the news is not all bad. If we have to be sheep—and we do—then the Good News today is that Jesus, the Son of God, is our Good Shepherd. And with Jesus as a Good Shepherd, there's nothing to fear. Don't worry about being a stupid, stubborn sheep. Your Good Shepherd will take care of you and make sure no wolf eats you.
No matter how stupid they are, sheep have one thing going for them: sheep have very good hearing. Amidst all their bleating, a sheep can hear and recognize its shepherd's voice. From all the sounds around it, a sheep is able to pick out and follow that one voice that it knows is its shepherd. Jesus says the same thing: He knows His sheep and He is known by them because they know His voice. That voice of Jesus is His Word. What does the voice of that Shepherd say? He says, "I lay down my life for the sheep." How do we recognize the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd among all the voices we hear in this world? The true voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that speaks of what He has done for us. The voices around us all speak about what we should do, what we must accomplish, what debt we must pay, how we must find our way back if we get lost. But the voice of the Good Shepherd calls us to Himself: the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep, who goes to the cross and dies as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. The only true shepherd is the Good Shepherd.
Any voice which does not declare the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for you—run away from such a voice! That's the snarl of the devilish wolf. Though he wants you to believe that he’s your shepherd, he’s already got his grill fired up, ready to roast you. The devil, that big bad wolf, wants to snatch you up and scatter Christ's church. It's always his aim and goal to drag you away from faith and trust in Jesus alone. He wants you to believe that you can save yourself. He wants to divide and separate the church so that, instead of a congregation of those who hear the Shepherd's voice, everyone instead wanders off and does his own thing. A sheep on its own is in trouble, just as Christians on their own are in danger. When the wolf gets in, the flock is scattered and troubled! It's suddenly every sheep for himself, and we are done treating one another like fellow children of God. Beware that behavior! Repent of the desire to run away from your Good Shepherd and the rest of the flock! Instead, prick up your ears to hear the Good Shepherd's voice calling you back to Him and to the flock.
But again, what is His voice? How do we hear and recognize it? Remember: it’s the voice of the One who tells us what He has done for us. We recognize His voice through the preaching and the holy gifts which deliver His death and resurrection to us. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that preaches that the Lamb of God alone takes away the sin of the world by His death and resurrection. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that calls you to the still waters of Holy Baptism to wash away the grime and dirt of your wandering. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one that comforts you with the rod and staff of Holy Absolution, pulling you out of the pits and crevices into which you blunder in your sins. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one which calls you to the table prepared in the presence of your enemies, a table filled with the feast of the Lamb's own flesh, a cup running over with His own blood. The voice of the Good Shepherd is the one which declares to you that in these holy gifts, He lives in you and you live in Him, and He will carry you through the valley of the shadow of death to raise you up on the Last Day. Hear and learn that voice, dear little lambs! Learn what the voice of the Good Shepherd promises and directs you to receive. Learn that voice and always prick up your ears to listen for that voice and hear it! And run away from anyone who calls himself a shepherd but doesn’t speak with that voice! For it is the voice of the true shepherd that will call you to Jesus and rescue from the wolves! Rejoice that you have Good Shepherd who fends for you, keeps you safe, and will bring you to His eternally green pastures! 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.