4th Sunday after Easter (A)
May 7, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the first part of the Gospel which says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
If you were here last Sunday, you saw that our Confirmands did a good job last week with their questioning. They worked hard all year, for the most part, and it’s clear that they studied in preparation for questioning. I was also impressed that they seemed to be listening to me that last couple of weeks as we’ve been reviewing the material. I do have to say though that this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes they weren’t listening at all, especially when they were talking, doodling, picking their toes, giggling, or putting their heads down on the table. It was during these times that I had to work hard to get them to listen. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
So, I’ll see if you were listening. Do you, my dear students, remember what I told you was the most important thing for you to learn this year? Everything you’ve learned is important, but there was one thing that I wanted you to learn most of all. What I want you, and everyone here, to know more than anything, is who you are and who you belong to. I want you to know and always remember that you belong to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. You belong to Jesus because He gave His life for you. This is what I what all of you to remember all the days that God gives you breath on this earth.
You belong to the Good Shepherd because you need Him. You’re not a ferocious lion or a mighty ox or a powerful elephant. You might be, depending on who we ask (mom and dad), a stubborn mule, but the most fitting comparison to the animal kingdom is a sheep. To be compared to a sheep is quite fitting because you’re helpless. You don’t have don’t have powerful jaws or razor sharp claws to defend yourself from the Devil. You don’t have long legs to help you outrun sin and temptation. You’re just a ball of wool, living your life, and hoping not to be eaten. You need a Shepherd, you need someone to protect you, and that Shepherd is Jesus.
And this is what He does, He shepherds you. He protects you by giving you His Word which defends you from Satan’s attacks. He walks ahead of you and leads you around the dangerous traps that threaten your lives and salvation. He is the Shepherd of your souls, so He is the one who walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death. He’s the one who leads you to still waters. His voice speaks words of peace that remind you of His promises. And while, He has billions of sheep around the world, He knows each and every one of you as if you were His only precious lamb.
There’s not a sheep in His flock He doesn’t know! Jesus says, “The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” He knows everything about you. He knows your names, your fears and sorrows, your struggles and pains. He doesn’t push you through the things you face, He leads you through them. Take to heart when He promises you, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” He is the Good Shepherd and no matter what dangers threaten you, He will always be with you.
Over and over again I have told you about the Good Shepherd because you need to remember that you are the sheep of His pasture. It’s what I want everyone here in attendance and not here to take to heart; that Christ alone is the one who loves us, watches over us, and yes, forgives us for wandering off. You see, He doesn’t know just your fears or worries, He also knows you sins and your failings. He knows the sins you know and that you don’t know. He knows the sins you commit deliberately and unintentionally. But instead of letting the Devil, who is a roaring lion, kill and devour you, He steps between His flock and the lion and He gives His life for yours. He allows Himself to be struck down by the Devil so that you will pass through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. This is why He is not just a Shepherd, He’s the Good Shepherd.
I’ve tried to teach our confirmands to be able to identify His voice, it’s one of the things I try to do every time I preach and teach. I want you all to know His voice and to follow it. There comes a time though when we leave this sanctuary and find that there are strange voices coming from every direction. There are all these thieves and robbers who are calling to you, trying to lure you out of the safety of Christ’s flock. They want you to seek greener pastures, to sneak away so Christ won’t notice, so others won’t notice. This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”
These thieves and robbers are calling to you with their seductive voices, promising pleasing ideas and things that may sound good. They’re tempting you to listen to lies and false promises. They’re trying to lead you away from the Good Shepherd into the wilderness where they can devour you. Any thief or robber you hear in your life doesn’t give a flip about you. They don’t love you and all they tell you are lies leading to eternal death because they want to destroy your faith in the Good Shepherd.
So, what does Jesus say? He says, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Don’t listen to them! Don’t listen to the lies of the devil or this sinful world, instead, run from them as fast as you can. When you hear these voices compare them to what you have been taught by me, Sunday School teachers, parents and grandparents. Compare what you hear from others with what you have been taught and with what the Bible teaches and you will see that only the voice of Jesus sounds right. Hear His voice and follow Him and you’ll be lead to the one, true, perfect spot. And when you hear something wrong, run away. Don’t toy with it or any listen to part of it. Because if it’s wrong in one way, how do you not know that it could be wrong in others? Instead, listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd because He’s the only one who calls you with a voice of love, forgiveness, and the promise of green pastures and still waters.
The Gospel began with Jesus saying, “Truly, Truly, I say to you.” This is the equivalent of “Listen up! What I’m about to say can’t be missed.” So, Confirmands and all of you? Listen to me for I will always tell you about the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you. You’re His precious sheep and He’ll never leave you to fend for yourself. You can trust that He’ll guide you where you need to go because He has promised to. Listen to His voice, hear His promises and you will find rest and peace in the arms of your Good Shepherd.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen