July 21, 2013 A+D
St. Matthew 7:15-23
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The ravenous wolves come in sheep’s clothing. They are disguised and hard to recognize. They disguise themselves with prophecy, casting out demons, and mighty works in Jesus’ Name. They are sometimes delusional, not even knowing that they are wolves, thinking that their works are good enough. They think their works make them citizens of the Kingdom. They say: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ But He says to them: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
That is really something. Because they are bragging about keeping the Law, about doing good, and He calls them workers of lawlessness. In fact, their works, their prophecy, casting out demons, and miracles were sheep’s clothing. They did not do the will of the Father. They did not love His Law but substituted their own law in its place.
What then is the will of the Father? Faith and the perfect obedience of Christ. The good and gracious will of God is He keep us firm in His Word and Faith until we die.
Christ says that we will know the difference between a healthy and a rotten tree, between a real prophet and a pseudo-prophet. What is the good fruit if not works? It is a good confession, fruits of repentance, the reception of the Sacrament. It is not in doing good works, it is in having the good work of forgiveness done to you.
Herein is the problem. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We are His sheep. We aren’t His warriors, His leaders, His mighty men of valor. We are His sheep. That is what a Christian is. We are those whom He has bought and paid for with His own Bloody sweat, torture, and Sacrifice. We are not those who have overcome or endured or been strong. We are those who have been gathered as chicks under their mother’s wings.
And notice this: this is an insult to the pride of man. If you scour the internet for quotes, you will not have any difficulty finding plenty disparaging remarks about people being meek sheep. To call someone a sheep means he is weak and easily led, susceptible prey to wolves.
We don’t want to be weak. We want to be strong. We don’t want to be led. We want to be leaders. I know of no sports team that chooses sheep for its mascot. But I know lots of teams that choose the term “wolves” even though the Bible reserves that image exclusively for Satan and his minions.
Our synod perpetuates the primacy of leaders and warriors. There is not much mention of turning the other cheek in the locker rooms of our grade schools. We are forever having “leadership conferences” and talk non-stop about raising up leaders in the congregation. But Jesus didn’t call us to lead, He called us to follow. And He doesn’t speak of us as strong warriors of great integrity and honor, but as sheep.
Repent. Here is the simple truth, either you are a sheep or you are not a Christian. God sends pastors because whether the people are easily led or not, they are most certainly easily misled and are easy prey for wolves – often because they admire the wolves and want their approval. Wolves can’t be saved. Sheep can’t save themselves. But Christ dies for sinners and welcomes the unworthy, the ugly, the weak.
Again, what is the will of the Father, why all this sheep talk? The Father’s will is faith and the perfect obedience of Christ. That cannot be earned. No one deserves it. It can only come to the unworthy and weak and only as a gift. The good and gracious will of God is the He keep us firm in His Word and Faith until we die.
Being a sheep, led by Christ, weak and dependent, fed by Him, is good. The fruits of the good tree are passive. The branches don’t make fruit, the tree does. Thus the Christian is known not in his miraculous powers or success but in the hearing of the Word, in being absolved, in his constant prayer, and in the reception of the Sacrament. The fruit is seen not in doing good works, though they are done, but the real evidence of faith is in having the good work of forgiveness won on the cross for you done to you.
Not everyone who says to Christ, “Lord, Lord,” enters into the Kingdom, but everyone to whom He says, “I baptize you into My Name, I forgive you all your sins, This is My body, etc” enters in by grace. The good and gracious will of God is that He- who took our sins upon Himself and is risen, the Victor over death – keep us firm in His Word and Faith until we die. This He does through Word and Sacraments in perfect mercy and grace.
By all means then, let us be sheep.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.