"Love for the sheep" / Sermon / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Season of Easter / April 22nd 2018 - / John 10:11-18
Text: John 10:11-18
Theme: “Love for the sheep”
Intr – Good Christian friends: I invite you today to walk along with me through St. John’s Gospel for today, assimilating some important teachings from the Word of God we find in it.
The first thing we should notice is that John 10 is enshrined between chapter 9, where we see the Jews questioning Jesus’ authority, and John 10.31, where they pickup stones to throw at Him. That is, while the words of ch.10 are really comforting, they are also strong, unveiling a very important point about Jesus’ ministry and work. Also, it is worth taking notice here of something that is a constant in our lives: In the midst of turmoiled, difficult times we always have a comforting word from the mouth of our Saviour straight to our hearts. The Good Shepherd never leaves us alone; He walks and fights with and for us.
1 – The hired hand
Let’s start with the hired hand which Jesus talks about:
First, The hired hand is someone who is looking after the sheep only for money. He is there for the money, not for the sheep.
Have you ever worked in a job like that? A position in which you are just for the money, not for the job, for self-realization, for personal growth. Now, do you remember how it feels, how your attitude was towards it? Then you can get a grasp of how this hired hand looked like at it here. How different our attitude is when we work in a job we really like, in the calling of our life, and not just as a hired hand.
Another aspect: the hired hand doesn’t love the sheep. He possibly doesn’t even like them. So his care goes as far as it is not a problem for him.
And, the hired hand flees and abandons the sheep. He doesn’t care for them, He cares for himself. This is somehow a message to the religious leaders.: if they think they are in the right side of leadership. How far can they go for the sheep?
2 - The loving hand
Now Jesus says He’s The Good Shepherd. He is not a hired hand, He is The loving hand. Let’s recap the context: the religious leaders of the time wouldn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, the Leader of the flock. We hear from John 9:20-22: “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Bottom line: it is either Him or us.
Now, listen to what Jesus attaches to the Good Shepherd truth: He lays down his life for the sheep.
How many shepherds would give their life for the sheep? Not many. Actually, I think only one would. Shepherds look after sheep, but I don’t think they give their life for them, Let alone for only one – like Jesus mentions in the parable of the lost sheep. If that poses a life threatening situation to a regular shepherd, he will possibly be content with his 99.
The Good Shepherd though lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus Repeats 2 times He is the GS and nothing less than 5 times He lays down His life. Two things stand ou here:
_He was showing the pharisees and Jewish leaders why He is indeed the Good Shepherd, the promised Messiah, the Saviour.
_He shows the main reason we call him GS. This is not because He gives us a house, or money, or family, or health. The main reason is because HE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US when we were still sinners. Like no one would or will do. Only Him.
Jesus was not looking to be the chairman of the synagogue, the High Priest in the next term or even the powerful King who would deliver Israel in a political way. He is the Good Shepherd, who is willing to, and will, lay down His life for the sheep.
3 – The loving voice
Another paramount feature of Christ’s speech is the “Voice recognition system” He says each sheep is provided with. We are now familiar with speech recognition systems have been around for a while now. In cell phones for example you can ask for a name and it’ll fetch them for you. Someone from the family, a friend, your physician. Your lawyers. The big problem is if for any reason it would’t recognize our voice, or get it wrong. You need a counsel of a friend and it calls the Funeral home. You need an urgent doctor appointment and it calls your bank manager. You need to loan some money and it calls your boss’ house. If the speech recongnition system doesn’t identify your voice anymore it may bring you trouble.
Similarly, the sheep identify the voice of the GS – and only His. No fake or hired voices allowed. Also, as Luther states, the sheep as they listen to the preaching of the Church, as they listen to their undershepherds need to pay close attention if they are actually hearing the GS’s voice. If not, they must come up to him and say: “Sorry, but we don’t recognize the voice of the Shepherd in your speech”. Here is the great responsibility of the ministry. People need to recognize the voice of their Good Shepherd from the mouth of their undershepherds, from the teaching of the Church.
4 – The love for the Sheep
I am the Good Shepherd, says Jesus, who lays down His life for the sheep. This is Gospel; comfort; blessing. Where else in the Scripture do we find the verb to be so closely connected to Christ’s comfort, life and hope? Yes, in the Holy Supper. This is My body. The verb to be does not mean symbolize. Never. The bread is the body, the wine is the blood. In the same way, Christ surely is the Good Shepherd – not an illustration or a symbol of one. He, who is the GS, is really present in the Sacrament for our comfort. Applying to us what His laying down of His life on the Cross has achieved – Forgiveness and new life.
The Psalm for today, Psalm 23, beautifully illustrates how the GS comforts us. It talks about Belonging to Him. We all like to have the sense of belonging; to our family history, to our Church, to a club, to a group of friends that share a common interest. From Psalm 23 we learn that “The Lord is my Shepherd”, which means that by faith we are His sheep. We belong to him. It addresses Care and Comfort – The still waters and green pastures the Shepherd provides us with, how He anoints our head with oil, how He prepares a table with an overflowing cup. He cares about us. Who doesn’t like to receive care and comfort from a loving hand? It verbalizes Goodness and mercy – In these rough and complicated times we live in, it is reassuring to hear Psalm 23 promising us that “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. We are reminded that in Christ we have God’s promises to our hearts. And, Life – We still go through death in this life. The wages of sin is death. But the promise of God to all of us today, and always, is LIFE. By faith we believe in the after life.
Now, does the laying down of life and the love for the sheep apply to the Church, to the pastors, to the congregation as well? Yes, it does. Whereas we cannot say that John says it here, he does it later (in his today’s epistle.) He connects Christ laying down his life to the congregational life, when if needed one gives the life for the other (we know from History how many times it has happened). That is, the congregation, the Church, is also called to show and to live the love for the sheep. So, we could also say, if someone is attending church, even though enrolled as a member, or outwardly posing as a Christian, or even as a minister, and they don’t love the sheep, they are there for reason other that the Love of the GS and the love for the sheep. Whatever their reasons may be. Hired hands.
My friends, the Church exists because The Good Shepherd gathers His sheep. We are here because of this love, and to reflect it. St. John is pretty clear in his first epistle. We are here drawn up by the love of the GS to practice love of the sheep as well. The ones who are already here and the ones mentioned by Jesus, “I have other sheep who are not from this fold”. As a congregation of believers, we are called to love each other, to love our neighbour, to share the love of Christ with many. In many ways, in all possible ways. If we do not love sheep, we are nothing more than hired hands. Remember, the hired hand looks after sheep for the money. When the wolf comes, we will most certainly run away. The Church looks after money(or material belongings) for the sake of the sheep. We come here, we bring our offerings, and talents, and time – our whole life – because of the love of the GS, and the love for the sheep, and because we want it to be shared as far as we can go.
Loving the sheep - is that easy? Not at all. Hence we see how important it is to be here in the House of the Lord, being fed by Word and sacraments and exercising the ability of loving the sheep. Also, having it present in our daily life. It is really hard. I picked out this line I saw online the other day: “Jesus loves you only because he doesn’t have live with you.” That rings somehow true when we realize we human beings are easy to like from a distance, but hard to like from upclose. We are sinners who need Him. We need to be fortified by Him as we aim to keep acting in love toward one another, and to keep communicating His love to the sheep who are not from this fold, and that are yet to hear the Gospel of Hope. Because to us there’s no doubt whatsoever who is the Messiah, the King, the Leader – and also the Lamb, the Good Shepherd of our Souls: Jesus, the Christ.
After all, if this is too much information at once to be stored, think of this Bible lesson as broken down in 3 main paragraphs:
1 – Jesus and the Hired Hand
2 – Jesus and us
3 – Jesus and the Father
Jesus’ words leave no room for doubt: He has love for his sheep.
Cc – And, as we said in the beginning of this sermon, remember: In the midst of turmoiled, difficult times we always have a comforting word from the mouth of our Saviour straight to our hearts. The Good Shepherd never leaves us alone.
 Source referred to: Dr Vilson Scholz’s exegesis of John 10:11-16 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbQhCY4094U
 Many Bible translations have “The Good Shepherd” as the title right from the beginning of the chapter, whereas uo to verse then Jesus is talking only about “The shepherd”. The Good Shepherd is introduced only from v.11 on.
 Btw, here we can take in how powerful – and also the pain in the neck – that Jesus’ words used to be to them. Would the so called leaders of the people be willing to lay down their life for the sheep? For many for them? For several? For only one? Jesus, the Good Shepherd was.
 Also, here we see another great responsability of the Ministry: the undershepherd gathers sheep, he doesn’t scatter them. The one who does this is the hired hand – which does not love them.