Misericordia Domini Good Shepherd
May 1, 2022 A+D
St. John 10:11-18
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
No one is good but God. Jesus is more than morally good though. He is good at being a shepherd, a King. He provides for and protects His people. He does this to the extreme, even giving His life for the sheep, dying for their sins, in their place. No earthly king or shepherd does this. His goodness permeates His being and all of His actions. He is the Good Shepherd, the Good Priest, the Good Victim. He is the Good Father, Good Husband, and Good Brother. He is the Good Friend, the Good Advocate, anointed for our salvation.
The hirelings in this extended metaphor are the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They are shepherds but they are not good. They do work out of love or obedience. They work only for rewards. When it gets dangerous or difficult, they flee. They love themselves rather than those they were meant to serve. Religion can always be used by fallen men for personal gain. But we don’t have to look to the outside or exclusively to the clergy to find abusers. There is a little hireling in us all. The old man in us wants to use our wives rather than serve them. He wants gain fame and fortune rather than preach the Gospel or make sacrifices for the school. He wants to rest in leisure while others slave on our behalf and thus he flees from discomfort, pain, or danger even at the peril of those that he says he loves. Repent. We were too weak for that!
If we dare to examine ourselves, we will see that Satan is a real threat. He catches the sheep and scatters them with these temptations. If he can turn us to our own pleasure and away from one another’s needs, away from our vocations in the estates instituted by God, we will be scattered and vulnerable. He will pick us off one by one.
But we know our true Shepherd. We know His voice. We know its timbure and pace and tones. Heaven’s promises are sometimes coated in luxurious language: streets paved with gold, gates made out of giant pearls. But they are different from calls to self-indulgence and pleasure. Besides the fact that these are metaphors of goodness, most striking is the fact that their luxury is not describing private homes but community buildings. These things are not for the elite or built on the backs of the poor but are for everyone. Heaven is a good place, God’s place, a place of deep contentment and connection, a place of peace with others and mutual joy.
The Shepherd’s Voice is heard in the Scriptures. There we learn to distinguish His voice from Satan and His promises from Satan’s temptations. One promises that which is good, a wife with whom to share all things, who will require effort and sacrifice, and who will make us better and more by, in some sense, making us less, Meanwhile the accuser, the ancient enemy of our race, falsely promises bliss, physical, mental, and spiritual, without effort.
In Christ, God is knowable in the Scriptures. His will is knowable. He knows us, His sheep, and by His Word, we know Him. The Father knows Him and He the Father. He reveals the heart of His Father to us. He brings us into the inner counsel of the Holy Trinity. There the Spirit Himself prays for us with Christ and the Father Himself loves us. Thus we know that we have been reconciled to the Father, declared righteous by the obedient and faithful Sacrifice of the Son on our behalf. In this great sacrifice, by the living Christ, we call His Father Our Father even as He calls us by the names bestowed in Baptism. We follow Him as sheep follow a shepherd.
So do all the elect. Some of them are tax collectors, sinners, and Gentiles. No one can keep us from Him. Sins that would disqualify us are forgiven. Failures that would shame us are forgotten. Selfishness that would destroy us is undone. He seeks and He finds. He finds us. He snatches us back from self-inflicted danger, from foolish pursuit of pleasure, from Satan’s varied but singular traps. He brings us home. We hear His voice. By it, we, you and I, are one flock, brothers and sisters of the same family, with the same Father, with the same heart beating in us: Jesus lives. He is our one and only shepherd and together we are one.
He has laid down His life and He has taken it up again in order to find and have us. He is the Lamb who was slain who has risen in victory for us. By Him we have a home. By Him, we have a name and purpose. All of it is good because He is good and He does all things well.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.