“Your Good Shepherd Is the Way” / Misericordias Domini 2017 / 1 Peter 2:21-25Pr. Christopher Gillespie
Holy Gospel: John 10:11-16
Collect: O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
With these words, Christians throughout time have received great comfort. We are Christ’s sheep. He is our Shepherd and Bishop, overseer. And more than that: Christ is our brother and we are His Father’s poor children. Christ is our Lord and we are His servants. Christ is our Master and we are His disciples. We are the works of His hands and the sheep of His pasture. Christ is our carpenter and master craftsman, and we are the living stones for His building. Christ is the potter, we are the clay.
This is all Jesus’s doing. If anything good is to come of us, it must be the Lord’s work. He must prepare us, carve us, cut, polish, and mould us. Otherwise nothing holy would come of us. As St. Peter says, “You were straying like sheep.” This is not some distant past and now you’ve now moved on. No, as long as you remain sheep, you need your shepherd.
You need Him to watch, guard, guide, protect, and to call you back into the fold. Sometimes we forget we’re Christians and abandon our prayers and thanksgiving. Other times we live as if God didn’t matter and we mattered most. Other times we willingly and even openly engage in thoughts, words, and actions that are contrary to God’s holy Law. But the Good Shepherd never ceases to restore you.
He doesn’t abandon any of His sheep to be devoured by the wolves or hirelings. Christ, the Son of God, is your Shepherd and Bishop. He is the complete and perfect satisfaction for sin. He is your righteousness. He is your redemption. He is your salvation. The defeat of the devil, death, sin, and hell, is byHis merit and His alone. He alone is the canceler of sin, the slayer of death, and the harrower of hell.
“[Christ]… “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” He alone has done it. He alone has atoned for sin, defeated death, loosed the bonds of hell, and opened heaven. He is your only mediator, advocate, savior, and redeemer. He alone offered Himself into death and “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” of the cross. Through His stripes and wounds you are healed. Through His death and hell you have received heaven and eternal life.
Christ the Son was patient in His suffering, deceived no one, but committed His cause to God the Father. Consider this: what Christ taught in His Word He also carried out with His action. He was accused falsely and he kept His mouth shut. He suffered the flogging, mockery, and torture silently. And even while He hung on the cross dying, He prayed for those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 24:34).
To be Christ’s disciple, to follow Him as one of the sheep of His flock, means that you will suffer much temptation, persecution, sorrow, and distress just like Him. Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) Therefore, Indeed, the more violence and wrong you, as a Christian, endure for the sake of the Gospel, the more it benefits you.
“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13) We are conformed, molded, chiseled into the image of Christ, the Son of God, by living the life He lived, suffering in the way He suffered, and dying the death He died.
The pattern and path for the Christian life is given in Christ himself. As He says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29) and “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:44-45)
Straying sheep are saved, restored, and gathered in by Christ alone. He is the gate to the sheepfold. He is the only Way. We are justified in Him alone. His is the way of salvation. His passion, suffering, and death is the path of to eternal life. He delivered us and redeemed us from the power of the devil, death, and hell. He disarmed our enemies. He restored us by His righteousness and gives us His Spirit to keep us with him.
In this way we may understand what St. Peter says: “You were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” We have been delivered by Christ and given His Spirit. In Christ, we rebuke the lying will of the old Adam. In Christ, sin is overcome and cannot reign in us. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
To the praise of God and in thanksgiving to Him, we crucify our flesh daily in Baptism. We remain on guard against sin. If out of weakness you fall into sin, stand up again, remember the promise made by God in Baptism, turn from your sin, and return to God in repentance. In Holy Absolution, he returns you to the right way. Rather than return to the former way of sin, remain in Christ’s footsteps. Pray your faith be increased by the Holy Spirit and that He would show the fruit of this faith in your life, with love for your neighbor in works of live.
If in the meantime, God sends you a cross, trial, suffering, and sorrow, bear it with patience. And if you must die, d not fear death, for Baptism is your promise that your death is Christ’s death. And as Christ overcame devil, sin, and hell, rose again from the dead, and lives forever… so in Christ’s name, we, too, will finally overcome the devil death, sin, and hell, and rise again from the dead on the Last Day, and live eternally. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church