Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’

Pay Careful Attention!

Monday, May 13th, 2019

Easter 4-C
May 12, 2019
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,

to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Dear friends, I am not the Good Shepherd, I am just a called and equipped sheep from within the flock.  St. Paul is not the Good Shepherd, he is simply a called and inspired sheep from within the flock.  But Jesus is “the Good Shepherd,” [Jn. 10:11], because He alone is “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” [I Pet. 2:25]

This Sunday we celebrate “Good Shepherd” Sunday.  Today we remember that Jesus as our Good Shepherd is the author and perfecter of our faith.  We remember that Jesus is still very much in control of His church, even our own little congregation that we call Trinity.  In all of our readings we are reminded of this.  In our Epistle reading we are comforted with these Words: “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” [Rev. 7:17] And in our Gospel reading Jesus Himself reassures us with the words: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” [Jn. 10:27-28]

Friends, we are Christ’s flock; the sheep of His pasture.  We are His church, a united flock, who both hear and recognize our Good Shepherds voice. We are a fellowship of sheep who hear our Good Shepherd proclaim forgiveness of sins and we believe that our many sins are forgiven. As His sheep we also share in other spiritual and mutual gifts. God creates this common fellowship by calling us into a relationship of faith with His Son so that we share in all of Christ’s works, blessings, glory, and goods. This fellowship, this flock is a union of believers in Christ, and it transcends race, politics, social status, and even death.  And it is a fellowship that is to be ever growing and expanding as God wills and equips it.

In our first reading (Acts 20:17-35), Paul speaks Christ’s Words for all of His flock, His Church, but they are especially meant to be a warning to all of us sheep who are called to be pastors with these Words, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” [Acts 20:28]

Dear friends, when you call a pastor to serve this congregation, you are calling him to serve with you and among you as another sheep who has been equipped and well trained.  It is another of our Lord’s great mysteries; a sheep equipped by our Lord to shepherd other sheep.  My ministry as your pastor is in fact, your ministry… it is our ministry together following our Good Shepherd.

Paul’s ministry and our ministry here at Trinity, must be entirely open and known to all.  It must be subject to the judgment of friends and enemies alike. So like Paul, each pastor’s ministry must be transparent and centered on working tirelessly towards building up the saints within his own congregation and then together with the saints, focused on working towards gathering other lost sheep within the community.  Dear friends, each of you have been called to work beside me, Pastor Rick, and Pastor Shamburger within this ministry as God has equipped you.  

As your pastors, Paul challenges us and all pastors to lead the Lord’s flock “with humble-mindedness and tears and trials.”  These three traits marked Paul’s own “work for the Lord” and they should be the marks of every pastor who has been called to shepherd Christ’s flock!   But friends, don’t be fooled into thinking that the tears that Paul is talking about were tears related to his trials or the attacks of men.  Paul withstood these things without so much as a whimper! No these tears that Paul speaks of were the tears that were drawn out of a heart wrenched with pain over the repeated rejection of the grace of Jesus Christ! Just as Jesus wept over the sinful and continuous rejection of His grace by the people of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), Paul also shed many tears for those from within his community who refused to be saved!  We, too, by the work of the Holy Spirit will also find ourselves moved to tears, by the continual rejection of God’s love and forgiveness from those within our families and community, which we have been sent to seek and save.  

And yet we are continually moved as pastors and as a congregation to continue on with our best efforts, proclaiming God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Together we are moved to proclaim the gospel and support the ministry of its proclamation no matter the cost!  

The entire gospel, which we have been commissioned to proclaim is centered only in “the repentance of sins toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

Friends, you must never let anyone from within this congregation preach or teach any other message except Christ crucified and resurrected, because God’s favor and grace can come in no other way!  We must always teach that within the heart of every forgiven sinner is an actual turning away from a sinful life and a turning to a life of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Only then can God’s forgiveness and love come and save a person.  So, repentance includes all of God’s law, and faith includes His entire gospel.  

Now Paul adds one more trait of a true pastor who is being led by the Good Shepherd… he must not shrink from proclaiming the full counsel of God! (vs. 27)   

If Paul was looking for an easy ministry, he might have easily placed his best efforts on the rich and influential.  He might have focused his best efforts on activities that would serve his own personal needs.  He might have kept back some parts of his teaching, because they seemed to run against Jewish bigotry, accepted cultural practices or the ignorance and narrow mindedness of fellow Christians. But Paul always remembered who he must give an account to on the last day. So he proclaimed “the full counsel of God,” the entire will of Jesus Christ.  

Paul spelled out every doctrine and every Holy truth, and he never altered or toned down a thing. He had no hidden agenda or any strange personal views. He never neglected a part of God’s Word because it seemed to be out of step with the spirit of the times. He put justification by faith into the center of his teaching because that’s right where God puts it!  This morning, God calls upon each of us to examine ourselves to ensure that we believe this message and that we are both contributing to support it and always ready to protect it.  Paul did this very thing with boldness.  He could confidently say that he was innocent of the blood of any man, because He had obediently declared the full counsel of God. [v. 27] I pray that we as a congregation can be as bold!  

Now, in verse 28, Paul moves from using his ministry as an example for future ministries, to addressing current and future threats that each congregation must contend with.  Listen…

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” [v. 28] 

Pastors who have been tasked with caring for others must first be mindful of their own sinfulness.  Paul is telling those of us who are pastors to be clean ourselves before we try to cleanse others. We must remember that we too are sheep who are prone to wonder.  And because we are sheep we must remember that we have also been justified by grace–God’s  own blood. The blood of Christ was and is the price of our salvation.  Pastors along with all of the Lord’s sheep have been bought with a great price.  Because of this price we have truly become His own! 

Why must pastors pay so close attention to their own living; to their own beliefs?  Why must congregations be so careful in how they call their pastor?  Well in verse 29 we get our answer: “Because there shall come fierce wolves (from) among you, who will not (spare) the flock.”  But that isn’t all; Paul warns us about yet another attack of the enemy.  In verse 30 he writes: “And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”  Yes friends, the enemy, the devil, will attack from outside and from within the body of Christ.  Paul sees the wolves coming. He knows how easily people can be misled and he knows the times. But he also remembers Jesus own warning to the church: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.”  [Matt. 7:15-20]

Dear friends, Paul and our Lord are stating a certainty.  There will be wolves in sheep’s clothing who will invade the church. In fact, this has been the greatest battle throughout the history of the church.  Each generation brings its own false doctrine that must be defeated.  Every one of these false teachings tears at the very essence of Christ’s body. But Paul wouldn’t have us become paralyzed with fear; He would remind us that neither he nor your pastors are the good shepherd; Jesus Christ is the only Good Shepherd, and He Himself has built and protects the church.  This is a promise of protection that even the combined efforts of Hell and every demon cannot defeat.

And yet Christ calls us to join with Him in the work of building and protecting His kingdom.  So, like Paul, we are moved by God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit to pour our whole soul into God’s ministry here and throughout the world.  The love of Christ and the presence of God’s Spirit is compelling us to not only believe in His Word, but to ensure that it is proclaimed accurately to as many of our neighbors as possible. His living Word wells up from within our own hearts like a living stream. We don’t have to put our hearts into it; it comes out of our hearts. This is the very power of our congregation’s ministry here within our community.  And this is only possible through the mighty working of God’s Spirit.  God is with us, and He is protecting us!  Through His Word and Holy Sacraments He feeds us and teaches us.  He blesses us and leads us out into His mission field; out into our community.  

Dear friends, if we keep our hearts and minds centered on God and His means of Grace, then our Good Shepherd promises that we will not only be a congregation centered in Christ’s heart, but we will also be a healthy and growing congregation.  Here is a divine truth: Heavenly-mindedness does away with earthly-mindedness. It is the thought of our heavenly inheritance that waits for us, which continually leads us along with Paul to regard all material things as simply a tool to build God’s kingdom of grace here within our community.  With this common heart and mind, we will regard our time, talents, and treasure as a means to take care of the weak and the poor, and seek and save the lost!  And in order to help us remember this truth Paul shares with us the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ which are only found in this address of Paul: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Dear saints, through God’s work among us and within us, these Words amazingly become our heart’s desire; the desire of a congregation that is diligently working within the Lord’s kingdom.  Do you want to be truly blessed?  Then God says give!  Whatever the Lord has equipped and moved you to do for Him, that is your ministry! Are you a prayer warrior?  We all can pray, but some have that ability as a special gift.  If so, then give.  Be continually in the spirit of prayer for our ministry!  Do you have time and talents that would benefit our ministry?  Then give!  But what about your treasure?  Certainly God moves us to dedicate our money to ministry here in this church!  Do you see what a great calling you have in the ministry of this church? 

I know that however God leads you to support this ministry you will be blessed.  If you decide to pray for those of us who are here speaking and demonstrating God’s Word and love here in ministry, you will be blessed.  If you are led to volunteer and get involved with our ministry here, you will be blessed.  And if you decide to give towards this ministry above and beyond what you normally give you will be blessed, because “It is more blessed to give than to receive!  I pray that each of us will be made bold by the Holy Spirit to live out this truth, in Jesus name… AMEN!

Can You Hear Him?


Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Easter 4B, April 22, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Sorry, no audio for this message

In the early 1900’s a man was traveling by steam boat.  While standing on the deck of the ship he began to sing our sermon hymn, “Savior like a Shepherd Lead Us”.  When he had finished singing, a rough looking stranger approached him and asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union army during the civil war?  “Yes,” answered the singer.  “I joined in the spring of 1860.”  “Were you doing picket duty on a bright moonlit night in 1862?” asked the stranger.  “Yes” answered the singer.  “Well, so did I,” said the stranger, “but I was serving in the Confederate army.  When I saw you standing at your post I said to myself, “This guy is as good as dead.”  I raised my musket and took aim.  I was just about to pull the trigger, when you raised your eyes to heaven, and then you sang that very same song.  That song had a very great power over me, and I took my finger off the trigger.  “Let him sing this one song to the end, and then I can shoot him when he’s finished.”  But the song you sang then, just as now stirred up great emotions within me.  Back then, I heard the words plainly and perfectly in my mind and in my heart: “We are Yours in love befriend us, be the guardian of our way; keep your flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.”  When you had finished your song it was impossible for me to take aim at you again.  I thought: “The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty (and able to save me)” and my arm dropped limp at my side.”

“And (Jesus said) I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)  This is our text this morning.  Jesus calls out to all of His sheep.  Can you hear Him?  Perhaps you hear Him even now, but at times you find it hard to follow?  This is understandable, because after all, you are just a little sheep and sheep are prone to wander.  This morning by looking deeper into our gospel reading we will allow our Good Shepherd to bring us back into the safety of His love which can only be enjoyed within His flock…the universal Church of Jesus Christ! To do this, Jesus gives us illustrations that if learned will ensure that we not only hear His voice, but listen and follow it as well.  

First let’s look at the Good Shepherd in contrast to the hired hand who is not a shepherd at all.  

In the verses preceding our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus said that anyone who enters the sheep pen by climbing the wall or fence isn’t a shepherd, but a thief.  He also said that the true shepherd is one who enters by the door.  OK, this sounds reasonable, but then He said something strange, He said that He was the door!  Now, if you follow this logic, then you must conclude that true shepherds or pastors are only those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to lead Christ’s church as Jesus leads or directs them.  In this sense, the pastor is an under-shepherd, who can only lead the flock of sheep as Jesus directs.

In Israel sheep weren’t herded with dogs or by men who walked behind them.  The shepherd led his sheep.  He had a name for each of them…he knew each one by name, and the sheep recognized his voice.  At night several different herds of sheep might sleep in the same pen.  As they slept, a shepherd would act as the door of the pen by sleeping in the opening in order to prevent a predator or thief from entering and doing harm.  In the morning, when the door was opened, each shepherd would call out to his own flock, and each member of that flock would be able to distinguish his shepherd’s voice from the others.  

Just as the sheep would not follow a stranger, so God’s people are able to recognize Jesus as the living Word of God.  In this way, God has allowed a sure and certain way for His Children to distinguish between a true pastor and a false teacher.  A true pastor will only proclaim what is in the Bible… Law and Gospel!

A traveling minister was walking along a road one day headed to a church that he heard no longer had a pastor.  He thought He might be able to offer his services as their new full time pastor.  As he approached the church, he saw a crowd of boys surrounding a dog.  “What are you doing with the dog?” asked the traveling minister.  “Well” said one of the boys, “Whoever tells the biggest lie, will win the dog as a prize.”  “Oh, that’s terrible,” exclaimed the minister, “when I was a little boy like you kids, I never told a lie.”  There was a moment’s silence. “Here,” said one of the little boys as he handed him the leash, “you win the dog.”

Today, just as in Jesus time, false teachers are everywhere.  They impose themselves on God’s people and have only their own benefit in mind.  God’s truth… His love and mercy is not what is leading them.  These false teachers, whom earlier Jesus called thieves, He now calls hired hands, or mercenaries. [vs. 12] They have no direct, specific call from God through a congregation to care for His little lambs.  They received and held onto their position through deception and their desire for self gain.  These type of men were then and are now in ministry for the money and the prestige.  When trouble comes they abandon their flock and look only after their own personal benefit.  And now…

Jesus shows us, by pitting Himself against the Wolf, why He alone is the Good Shepherd.

First, please understand that the word “good” in the Greek means something of excellence, something that sets the standard for everything else.  If we follow this meaning, then what Jesus is saying is that He alone is the “Supreme Shepherd”.  While there are other shepherds that perform their duties in a loving and careful way they are not the “Good Shepherd”.  Why?  Well Jesus answers that for us in verse 15, when He says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Many years ago a young Canadian man, his wife, his two children and a young law-man were traveling in the wilderness in a horse drawn wagon when they were pursued by a very large pack of wolves. Just as the wolves were about to attack, the law-man shot some of the wolves. This stopped the pack for a short time, but soon they renewed their attack. Once again, just as the wolves were about to overtake them, the law-man acted quickly and cut the lead horse loose and the wolves devoured it, but soon they were right back on their blood thirsty attack. The travelers were trying to reach a government fort, a place of safety, and they were almost there.  But the wolves were relentless and it seemed impossible for them to out run them.  The young law-man said that their only hope would be for him to buy them some time by giving himself to the wolves.  After he said that, he immediately jumped from the wagon, right into the pack of wolves. Of course he was attacked immediately, but the family was able to enter the fort just before the pack caught up to them.  Once safely inside, they said “Our protector sacrificed himself for us. We are living because he is dead.”  

Now this sounds noble and good.  But anyone with a good heart and the love of Christ might be able to accomplish the very same thing.  Any shepherd that loves his sheep would most likely risk his life for the good of the sheep.  No, if this act can be accomplished by any true shepherd, this can’t be what makes a shepherd good.  This can’t be the work of the “Good Shepherd”.

In verses 17 and 18, Jesus gives us the mark of the only “Good Shepherd” when He says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. 

Jesus, like any true shepherd, faces the wolf and risks His life in defense of the sheep. But, that would not help the sheep once the wolf finished with the shepherd.  Obviously, after the shepherd is dead, the poor sheep would be completely at the mercy of the wolf without any other source of help. No, the only way the sheep could be eternally safe would be if the shepherd could kill or drive off the wolf, and keep his life for the benefit of the sheep. Friends, Jesus is the one and only shepherd, who can save the sheep by laying down and then taking up his life again.  Jesus died for the sheep, for you and me, but He took his life back again when He rose from the dead.   

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and the Wolf that He has overcome is sin, death, and the devil.  By Jesus sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, He came so that the sheep (you and I) may have life and may have it in abundance (v. 10).

Friends, in order for this truth to be of any benefit to you, Jesus says that you must hear His voice and believe that He is YOUR Savior…YOUR Good Shepherd.  

We must hear His Word and know that He is calling us!  Faith comes only by hearing His Word, which is the message of the gospel, the voice of Jesus Christ!  When we hear His voice and shut out all other messages we will find comfort.  When we hear and listen we will find obedience as God helps us follow our Good Shepherd where ever He leads.  And when we listen and follow, Jesus will show us other sheep who are also listening.  And here is the amazing part…He is asking you to help Him bring them into His flock—into His church, where they too can find comfort and safety from sin, death, and the great wolf, the devil.

Perhaps this morning you’ve been shown that you too have wandered from the flock?  Maybe you have been following the voice of someone other than your Good Shepherd.  He is calling you now.  Can you hear Him?  Are you listening?  He has opened the door, and He calls out to you… “Follow me!” 

Behold, Your GOOD Shepherd!

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Easter 3-HL, April 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message
NOTE: This is the recorder message as delivered at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

I am not your Good Shepherd, and neither are Pastors Shamburger nor Falemao Esera!  This may seem a lot like stating the obvious, but nevertheless, it must be stated, for you see, all we (including pastors) are like sheep who are prone to wander, but thanks be to God Who does not punish us for our tendency to wander off into the wilderness, but rather He has laid the iniquity of all of our sins upon this Supreme Shepherd, Jesus Christ!

The truth is, our little word “good” does not do justice to what Jesus refers to Himself as this morning in our gospel reading. In the Greek, that little word we call good in English, is actually to be taken more as the source of all goodness.  In other words, Christ is saying that He is the Supreme Shepherd.

Christ proves His supremacy as the Ultimate Good Shepherd through the Easter truth that we still celebrate and proclaim this morning, “Christ has risen!”  You see, it is Christ resurrection that declares that His goodness as the Shepherd of our souls, of our eternal lives, is above all other shepherds. Because God has “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep,” He has become the Shepherd of us all.

God the Father has raised His Son and Servant from the dead, and He has sent Him to bless all of us who have been drawn by the Holy Spirit to relate to God by faith.  And now this Good Shepherd is everywhere, throughout our world, and He is seeking His lost sheep.  He has compassion upon the crowds in the streets, the people in the business world, the crowds that flock to some churches seeking entertainment and amusement instead of forgiveness; He is even with the broken hearted and discouraged who sit with us in the pews here at this church.

Why?  Because He cares for you; because He sees us as “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”  He seeks to gather us all together that there may be one fold and only One Supreme Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for the sheep, and therefore He is still our shepherd today, and He does this very thing “by the blood of the eternal covenant,” a covenant of redemption and forgiveness, which promises that all of us can be whole again.

Do all of us today who are being saved by God’s means and gifts of grace still need that work of the Good Shepherd?  Yes, absolutely, because “All we like sheep have gone and are still going astray,” but remember, like I stated earlier, God has laid the iniquity of us all upon the Supreme Good Shepherd.  He alone bore our sins upon the tree.  It is for this reason that we can confidently look to Him and trust in Him to be “the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls,” and this is true even for the most pitiful, ragged, and lost of us.

But how does all of this happen?  How can it even be possible?  For many people, all of the statements and promises of forgiveness and redemption found in Holy Scripture seem to good to be true.  Does this seem strange to you, that some refuse to believe, that they see no need for a Supreme Good Shepherd in their lives?  It shouldn’t.  You see, a lot of folks have experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment  at the hands of people who proclaim Christ as their Good Shepherd.  And because of this hurt, they keep themselves just out of reach of both “church people” and their Good Shepherd, simply because they don’t want to be hurt again.

Because of this hurt and disappointment, they can’t see how what they perceive to be an invisible Savior can help them.  They call Him invisible because they reject the means of grace that God has given to sinners to see with eyes of faith, and then they judge the “invisible” Shepherd by His very visible sheep, or even by His under shepherds.  They don’t understand that the sheep and the under shepherds are just like them, so very prone to wander off… lost and afraid, seeking direction and shelter from the evils without and within.

But Jesus’ Word is spoken today and always, so that we can all see Him as a very visible Shepherd who created each of us, even you, for Himself, to be a very visible church, a church with all of its issues that seem to define wandering sheep, yet together we are still called to be and to become His Church.  This church, this place you call “Trinity” is really Christ’s church, His voice, and His hands His feet that are used to seek out and save those who appear to us to not yet be part of His flock.  So, I hope that by now you can see that there is a very necessary relationship between the Great Shepherd, His under shepherds, and His sheep.

When Christ returned to heaven He had installed the apostles as His messengers and ambassadors. They were to continue His work, speak in His name, and forgive sins on His behalf.  And today, the Good Shepherd continues His work through the many shepherds; men whom He has called and commissioned, not only the apostles but also the countless number of men who have followed them as called and ordained pastors.

St. Paul speaks of how Christ has given us shepherds and teachers for the building up of His church, until we all attain the unity of the faith. [Ephesians 4:11]  He says to the “elders” or pastors at Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which He obtained with His own blood.” [Acts 20:28]  Peter likewise admonishes the pastors to be shepherds for the flock of God which is under their care in such a manner that they may have their reward from the Chief Shepherd. [1 Peter 5:2]

So it is not a little thing if a called pastor seeks to get along through life as a Lone Ranger-sheep who does not need the help of his brother pastors.  And it is also not a small matter if the entire flock begins to wander from each other and the very means of grace that the Supreme Shepherd has put in place to hold them together as one, and protect them from the attacks of that wolf, the devil.

So it is also, a very important thing, that we constantly pray that the Supreme Shepherd would send us laborers into the harvest field, properly trained and called pastors, and that He would create in us both clean hearts and a desire to help our pastors go out into the mission field, seeking the very large abundance of wandering sheep, who are also frightened and lost.

These lost and wandering sheep are part of us too, whether they see that truth or not.  We know that our God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should repent and have eternal life.  It is not an easy mission that our Good Shepherd has asked us to join Him on.  You see, there are false teachers, hirelings popping up every where, and they are spreading their false teachings, teachings which simply confuse and scatter the wandering sheep even further; further from their Good Shepherd and His church.

So this morning, Christ is renewing His call to you the gathered sheep to be strengthened by His means of Grace, called and equipped in His Word, washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism, and fed abundantly at His very table of mercy, to go out and gather.  Go out and invite any and all who are lost, found, or somewhere in between to come just as they are and be recreated, renewed, and restored.  We do this because Christ came for them too, and so shall we!

Can You Hear Him?

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

In the early 1900’s a man was traveling by steam boat.  While standing on the deck of the ship he began to sing our sermon hymn, “Savior like a Shepherd Lead Us”.  When he had finished singing, a rough looking stranger approached him and asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union army during the civil war?  “Yes,” answered the singer.  “I joined in the spring of 1860.”  “Were you doing picket duty on a bright moonlit night in 1862?” asked the stranger.  “Yes” answered the singer.  “Well, so did I,” said the stranger, “but I was serving in the Confederate army.  When I saw you standing at your post I said to myself, “This guy is as good as dead.”  I raised my musket and took aim.  I was just about to pull the trigger, when you raised your eyes to heaven, and then you sang the very same song.  That song had a very great power over me, and I took my finger off the trigger.  “Let him sing this one song to the end, and then I can shoot him when he’s finished.”  But the song you sang then, just as now stirred up great emotions within me.  Back then, I heard the words plainly and perfectly in my mind and in my heart: “We are Yours in love befriend us, be the guardian of our way; keep your flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.”  When you had finished your song it was impossible for me to take aim at you again.  I thought: “The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty (and able to save me)” and my arm dropped limp at my side.”

“And (Jesus said) I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)  This is our text this morning.  Jesus calls out to all of His sheep.  Can you hear Him?  Perhaps you hear Him even now, but at times you find it hard to follow?  This is understandable, because after all, you are just a little lamb and lambs are prone to wander.  This morning by looking deeper into our gospel reading we will allow our Good Shepherd to bring us back into the safety of His love which can only be enjoyed within His flock…the universal Church of Jesus Christ! To do this, Jesus gives us illustrations that if learned will ensure that we not only hear His voice, but listen and follow it as well. 

First let’s look at the Good Shepherd in contrast to the hired hand who is not a shepherd at all.  In the verses preceding our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus said that anyone who enters the sheep pen by climbing the wall or fence isn’t a shepherd, but a thief.  He also said that the true shepherd is one who enters by the door.  OK, this sounds reasonable, but then He said something strange, He said that He was the door!  Now, if you follow this logic, then you must conclude that true shepherds or pastors are only those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to lead Christ’s church as Jesus leads or directs them.  In this sense, the pastor is an under-shepherd, who can only lead the flock of sheep as Jesus directs.

In Israel sheep weren’t herded with dogs or by men who walked behind them.  The shepherd led his sheep.  He had a name for each of them…he knew each one by name, and the sheep recognized his voice.  At night several different herds of sheep might sleep in the same pen.  As they slept, a shepherd would act as the door of the pen by sleeping in the opening in order to prevent a predator or thief from entering and doing harm.  In the morning, when the door was opened, each shepherd would call out to his own flock, and each member of that flock would be able to distinguish his shepherd’s voice from the others.  Just as the sheep would not follow a stranger, so God’s people are able to recognize Jesus as the living Word of God.  In this way, God has allowed a sure and certain way for His Children to distinguish between a true pastor and a false teacher.  A true pastor will only proclaim what is in the Bible… Law and Gospel!

A traveling minister was walking along a road one day headed to a church that he heard no longer had a pastor.  He thought He might be able to offer his services as their new full time pastor.  As he approached the church, he saw a crowd of boys surrounding a dog.  “What are you doing with the dog?” asked the traveling minister.  “Well” said one of the boys, “Whoever tells the biggest lie, he wins the dog.”  “Oh, that’s terrible play!” exclaimed the minister, “when I was a little boy like you kids, I never told a lie.”  There was a moment’s silence. “Here,” said one of the little boys, “you win the dog.”

Today, just as in Jesus time, false teachers were everywhere.  They impose themselves on God’s people and have only their own benefit in mind.  God’s truth… His love and mercy is not what is leading them.  These false teachers, whom earlier Jesus called thieves, He now calls hired hands, or mercenaries. [vs. 12] They have no direct, specific call from God through a congregation to care for His little lambs.  They received and held onto their position through deception and their desire for self gain.  These type of men were then and are now in ministry for the money and the prestige.  When trouble comes they abandon their flock and look only after their own personal benefit.  And now Jesus demonstrates this truth.

With His next illustration, Jesus shows us why He is the Good Shepherd, by pitting Himself against the Wolf.  First, please understand that the word “good” in Greek means something of excellence, something that sets the standard for everything else.  If we follow this meaning, then what Jesus is saying is that He alone is the “Supreme Shepherd”.  While there are other shepherds that perform their duties in a loving and careful way they are not the “Good Shepherd”.  Why?  Well Jesus answers that for us in verse 15, when He says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Many years ago a young Canadian man, his wife, his two children and young law-man were traveling in the wilderness in a horse drawn wagon when they were pursued by a large pack of wolves. Just as the wolves were about to attack, they shot some of the wolves. This stopped the pack for a short time, but soon they renewed their attack. Once again, just as the wolves were about to overtake them, they acted quickly and cut the lead horse loose and the wolves devoured it, but soon they were right back on their blood thirsty attack. The travelers were trying to reach a government fort, a place of safety, and they were almost there.  But the wolves were relentless and it seemed impossible for them to out run them.  The young law-man who was accompanying the family said that their only hope would be for him to buy them some time by giving himself to the wolves.  After he said this, he immediately jumped from the wagon, right into the pack of wolves. Of course he was attacked immediately, but the family was able to enter the fort just before the pack caught up to them.  Once safely inside, they said “Our friend sacrificed himself for us. We are living because he is dead.”  Now this sounds noble and good.  But anyone with a good heart and the love of Christ may be able to accomplish the very same thing.  Any shepherd that loves his sheep would most likely risk his life for the good of the sheep.  No, if this act can be accomplished by any true shepherd, this can’t be what makes a shepherd good.  This can’t be the work of the “Good Shepherd”.

In verses 17 and 18, Jesus gives us the mark of the only “Good Shepherd” when He says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”  Jesus, like any true shepherd, faces the wolf and risks His life in defense of the sheep. But, that would not help the sheep once the wolf finished with the shepherd.  Obviously, after the shepherd is dead, the poor sheep would be completely at the mercy of the wolf without any other source of help. No, the only way the sheep could be eternally safe would be if the shepherd could kill or drive off the wolf, and keep his life for the benefit of the sheep. Friends, Jesus is the one and only shepherd, who can save the sheep by laying down and then taking up his life again.  Jesus died for the sheep, for you and me, but He took his life back again when He rose from the dead.   Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and the Wolf that He has overcome is sin, death, and the devil.  By Jesus sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, He came so that the sheep (you and I) may have life and may have it in abundance (v. 10).

Friends, in order for this truth to be of any benefit to you, Jesus says that you must hear His voice and believe that He is YOUR Savior…YOUR Good Shepherd.  We must hear His Word and know that He is calling us!  Faith comes only by hearing His Word, which is the message of the gospel, the voice of Jesus Christ!  When we hear His voice and shut out all other messages we will find comfort.  When we hear and listen we will find obedience as God helps us follow our Good Shepherd where ever He leads.  And when we listen and follow, Jesus will show us other sheep who are also listening.  And here is the amazing part…He is asking you to help Him bring them into His flock-into His church, where they too can find comfort and safety from sin, death, and the great wolf, the devil.

Perhaps you find yourself this morning in the wrong flock?  Maybe you have been following the voice of someone other than your Good Shepherd.  He is calling you now.  Can you hear Him?  Are you listening?  He has opened the door, and He calls out to you… “Follow me!”