Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

After the storm of two weeks ago blew through and hail damaged our church in Rockwall, the wind also bent steel poles blowing over my back fence. Several years ago, our family worked hard to put up this fence and I could just hire someone to fix it, but who can you trust to fix it for a fair price?  You might know that feeling when tax time came around—did you do your own taxes or hire your own personal accountant? Who can you trust? Can they trust you? During his vicar year, my son Joel was hit by a postman, and they didn’t pay to have his car fixed and I sure wish I had a personal attorney. Wouldn’t it be great on life’s journey to have your own personal physician, dentist, pharmacist, chef, maid or investment broker who could predict the future market?

Let’s go ahead and make a list of the top three people you’d like to work for you today.  Go ahead.  Dream a little bit and make your list, but I bet none of you would write down “Shepherd” on that list. And rightfully so.  I know you all pretty well and I don’t think any of you own any sheep, but perhaps a dog or cat! Actually, we live in the city and probably like it that way.  But, living in the city means that we may not get the vivid imagery that Jesus uses in John 9 & 10. But, if you’ve been to worship at Divine Peace more than once I certainly hope you noticed the window above the baptism font. It’s a picture of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  Look, you could hire lots of people to help you in your life from day to day, but I really want you to

Know Your Good Shepherd

So you know the difference between the truth and the lie

So you know security during your journey

Things are heating up during the end of Jesus’ life. Six months earlier Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles (Fall). It was during this time that conflict between Jesus and his enemies escalated between the truth of Jesus and the lies of the religious leaders. Just listen to this conversation from John 8:40-45

“You are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. … 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”   42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Jesus wanted the people to know the difference between the lie and the truth. To do that he used a parable/imagery which was common then, but not so common now, of a shepherd, sheep and a sheep pen.

Now, when you think of a sheep pen, don’t think of a nicely measured out barred wire fence with a nice gate on it. No, after the sheep were out grazing the shepherd would likely bring them into a yard surrounded by stones, or into a cave with one opening where the shepherd would sleep so no one got in or out. Now listen to Jesus’ words,

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him…”

A wealthy owner of sheep might have a chief shepherd, helpers and a watchman. Jesus serves as our multi-talented Shepherd. It’s exactly what he was doing for those people in Jerusalem when he pointed to the errant religious leaders and spoke the truth in love,

“All who have come before me are thieves and robbers,… 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;” The Pharisees were lying to steal people away from hope and forgiveness.

I know we’re tempted to shake our heads and wonder how those people could be so gullible to believe the Pharisees. Well, mistakes in teaching and believing occur in direct proportion to how close to or how far from a person is from the truth of the Bible. The same question Pilot asked at Jesus’ trial is still being asked by millions today,

“What is truth?”

John 18:38

Some argue that crime pays, and some argue it doesn’t. If I sold drugs and gave you a suitcase full of money, someone might say it pays! Or on the way to church you see a family packing their car for some wonderful family time. Who would disagree that family time is a bad thing?  Nobody! Except some sacrifice God on the altar of the family. Jesus a priority in their life, and other just squeeze him in when it’s convenient. But, here’s the truth of Scripture:  It will all be sorted out by death on the last day. Some to everlasting punishment and some to everlasting life all depending on faith in Jesus or not.  And as for their works.  They are fruits of faith that bear testimony to their faith or lack thereof.  I know, I know – many today are cynical and believe there is no such thing as truth. Really? If you break your leg you can either A) Go to the hospital and put it into a cast B) Go run a marathon tomorrow.  One is truth and the other is error.

Satan loves to attack the truth of Scripture. His ultimate lie hasn’t changed since the fall into sin: By doing something you can get closer to God. The truth is our relationship with God depends 100% on what he did for us by sending Jesus to pay the penalty of all our sins. Believe it! Your sins are all forgiven for Jesus’ sake! Now, there can be all sorts of drowsiness, clouds of doubt, temptations and ignorance surrounding this truth, but it doesn’t change or destroy the truth. Jesus said it like this,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”

John 8:31-32

Therefore, know your Good Shepherd and you will know the difference between the truth and the lie of Satan. And when you know the truth, then you can have certainty.

Know Security During Life’s Journey

I have a home security system. Simply Safe is awesome, until one of the sensors falls off the window and the alarm goes off. But, once I installed the sensors with the little screws and reset the system, now we’re secure once again…. Well pretty secure.  Even more importantly, I want to be made secure in my relationship to God. Here it is: It really is a beautiful word picture Jesus uses for us.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

I know, there are some people who accuse us of being narrow minded when we say Jesus is

“The Way, the Truth and the Life and that no once comes to the Father except through him”

John 14:6

But, for security in our daily life, isn’t the way narrow?  How much room is there for broad-mindedness when your fence is blown over, your taxes need to be filed, car repaired, tooth pulled or hungry tummy filled?  Add another “H” to H2O and you might blow up! Be broad-minded at a symphony blowing your horn and you won’t have a job for very long. Replace the piston rings in your car engine’s cylinders that are off by just a little bit and it won’t run! Why, then should we suddenly be broad-minded when it comes to spiritual things? Rather, shouldn’t we offer thanks to the Lord for revealing to us Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who is the Gate to heaven?  Yes!  Because when Jesus has us, we’ve got real security!

Yes, and much more! Look, is your marriage on the rocks?  Our Good Shepherd is the same God who created the world, including the rocks, so don’t you think he is able to give you security in your marriage according to his Word? So, you think he can’t guide you through some financially tricky paths or cliffs or obstacles in your life?  He’s the one who created green pastures and he can direct your financial affairs according to the principles of good management in his Word!    He is the Good Shepherd who green pastures and cool streams! So, you think he can’t easily provide your soul with nourishment through the promises of forgiveness in Word and Sacrament?  Do you think he can’t calm troubled souls with the refreshment of forgiveness granted to us in the waters of our baptism? Rejoice!  Our multi-talented Good Shepherd has got it!  He’s got you!

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

I know, it would be super awesome to hear Jesus’ voice.  But, more important than knowing if he has the voice of a tenor or a bass, it is this fact: Jesus gives us a better handle on all aspects of life by giving us input from God’s perspective. Listen to God’s Word and you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Jesus said he calls his own by name! That means he knows you. I’m sure you’ve been tempted to wonder if God really cared—especially when things are tough during your journey of life. But, stop and think about what Jesus has already done! How many shepherds would say, “Oh, Look!  Here comes a wolf.  I’m going to go and defeat that wolf and if I die doing it, at least I will have saved my sheep!”  A shepherd might do that for some really special sheep, but for sick, injured, wayward, disobedient, dying sheep who would rather bite the shepherd’s hand than follow it because of mad sheep disease???  Jesus laid down his life for such sheep like us and then rose again so he could continue pouring out his love, so we could continue to hear his voice and follow him. That is grace!  That is all about a Shepherd who works for our good, directs the affairs of our life and has already made plans for our eternal joy in heaven.

Listen to his promise!John 10.10

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What would enable you to have a full life? Someone to repair your fence so you could go fishing? Someone to do your taxes so you could go to the movies? Your own personal physician, dentist, pharmacist, chef, maid or investment broker who could predict the future markets so you could enjoy this life to the fullest?  That would be taking Jesus’ words out of context. The full life he is talking about is much more than breathing, eating and getting along with others, having a good job and a nice retirement plan. You might end up digging post holes, punching a calculator, having teeth pulled, cooking your own meals and no money to invest, or even an invalid, in a nursing home, missing parts after surgery, and yet you would have full life….in Jesus our Good Shepherd. That’s because he fulfills our greatest need—to know our Good Shepherd who speaks the truth and gives us security until we reach our home with him in heaven!  Amen!