Sermon for Sunday April 22nd, 2018, the Third Sunday after Easter
The Lessons: Psalm 23; Acts 4:5-12; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
The Text: John 10:14: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
The Topic: The relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his people
“The Lord directs me” is a possible translation of the Latin title “Dominus regit me” for Psalm 23. The idea of the Lord as shepherd is a familiar theme of the Bible, since kings, being the rulers of the nation of Israel, were compared to shepherds of a flock of sheep. Perhaps King David composed Psalm 23 to express God’s lordship over his life and direction of it, as well as the idea that he was the kind of king or shepherd who was himself ruled, guided and directed by God himself. King David, in writing this Psalm, gave us a timeless picture of God’s provision, guidance, protection and vindication of all who belong to Him, love Him and do His will.
The sad fact that many kings and rulers after King David did not worship God, but idols and false gods instead, and exploited their subjects rather than rule them justly, led to the Lord’s denunciation of such rulers through the prophets Jeremiah (23:1-4) and Ezekiel (34), and to His announcement that He Himself will shepherd His people righteously (Ezekiel 34:13-16).
The righteous Shepherd that God has sent is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, which is why He declares in John 10:7-11:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
(John 10:7b-11, KJV)
None of those kings who came before Jesus is righteous, in terms of God’s righteousness. The proof that these rulers were thieves and robbers is that they did not have either love for the Lord at heart, or care for His people. They came to steal, kill and destroy, whereas the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life that people might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
THE ROLE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
As we consider the Lord Jesus’ words in our Gospel Lesson this morning, we should realize that the Lord Jesus shows that he is the good shepherd by giving his life for the sheep. This refers to the salvation that he achieved for the world through his death on a cross, by which he reconciled the world to God. By receiving Holy Baptism and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians have come into a relationship with the Lord, so that He knows them and they know Him (John 10:14). This knowledge is eternal life (John 17:3), and it reflects the Son’s knowledge of and relationship to the Father, and the Father’s knowledge of the Son. All the Christians of the world Jesus brings into one flock with the Christians of Israel, and all are united in hearing His voice, believing in Him and receiving Him as Lord.
THE NEED FOR GUIDANCE
All of us need guidance in life, as this story illustrates:
In the aftermath of the death of John Kennedy Jr. in 1999, amateur pilot Stephen Hedges wrote about the difficulty of flying a plane by instruments alone — a necessary skill if you want to fly at night or in fog. Without this skill, it is easy for a pilot to fall into an uncontrolled bank and crash.
During one instrument lesson, Hedges noted, “I flew the headings and turns as instructed, but even with ten hours of instrument flying in my logbook, I was amazed at how quickly the plane slid into a banking turn if I diverted my attention for just a few moments. The first time it happened, a pang of panic shot through me, a momentary fear that made it even more difficult to comprehend what the plane was doing.”
But when he heard his instructor next to him calmly say, “Watch your bank,” Hedges quickly leveled the plane.
There are a lot of times in the Christian life when we’re forced to fly in fog or at night, when it’s hard to get our bearings, when we can’t see the horizon and get the perspective necessary to stay level. At such times it’s doubly important to keep our eyes fixed on God’s guiding Word and to stay attentive to his calming guidance.
— Mark Galli, “Guidance: Lesson from
JFK Jr. Crash,” PreachingToday.com
OUR ROLE UNDER THE DIRECTION OF CHRIST THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Though in this modern world, the role of the shepherd might not be a particularly meaningful one, we can see parallels in the roles of instructors, teachers, commanding officers, and others set in authority over us. The lordship and guidance of God is shown in the provision, direction and love of the Lord Jesus Christ for every believer, which is most effective when he submits himself fully to the direction which the Lord Jesus gives him for his life.
We do it by our love for the Lord which we are to express daily in our lives, and this is shown by our obedience to God’s will, and by avoiding those things that are contrary to our profession of faith and following all that agrees with the same (Collect for the Third Sunday after Easter, p. 173, Book of Common Prayer, 1928). All of our life must reflect a growing love for God and knowledge of His ways, and a growing love for others, so conforming to Christ’s character more and more. As it is the mind through which God so often speaks to us (St. Augustine, The City of God, Bk. XI, Chap. 2), we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind, to know by experience the good and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). Our minds are renewed by being filled with God’s word, the Bible, as we read it, study it, meditate on it and obey it, and as we spend time with the Lord in prayer.