Blog / Book of the Month / Your Good Shepherd / Psalm 23 & John 10:11–18 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 21st 2024 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Your Good Shepherd / Psalm 23 & John 10:11–18 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 21st 2024 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Your Good Shepherd / Psalm 23 & John 10:11–18 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 21st 2024 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday April 21st 2024: Season of Easter / Psalm 23 & John 10:11-18 “Your Good Shepherd”

       The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

               He makes me lie down in green pastures.

        He leads me beside still waters.

               He restores my soul.

        He leads me in paths of righteousness

               for His name's sake.

        Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

               I will fear no evil,

        for You are with me;

               Your rod and Your staff,

               they comfort me.

        You prepare a table before me

               in the presence of my enemies;

        You anoint my head with oil;

               my cup overflows.

        Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

               all the days of my life,

        and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD


Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Psalm 23 was written by King David, he lived a long life for his day and age. David was an old man when he died and it was age that finally caught up to him, not the thousand other life threatening situations he’d often found himself in from his youth throughout his entire life. This is the same David who squared off with the Philistine giant Goliath armed only with five smooth stones, a slingshot and his trust in the good LORD. After that dramatic moment in his youth David as an adult continued to face many troubles and sadly even some very difficult and dangerous family situations with his own children. And while he died a king David wasn't born in the lap of luxury, he started out from humble beginnings, he was a shepherd boy, sort of like being a farm boy, and in his work he had to fight off lions and bears to protect his father's sheep.[1]

King David wrote Psalm 23, in the midst of real trouble, it was not the sharp teeth of the lion or the strong claws of the bear that worried him, no when David wrote Psalm 23 he had people circling him who wanted him dead. Everything was falling apart all around him while to the world, David as a king, looked like the very picture of independence and resourcefulness, capable of defending himself against any attack, but when David wrote this Psalm he wasn’t so deluded to believe this about himself. It shows great faith and wisdom for a man in his position to sit down and writes this prayer of trust: “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” In the ancient world there was a widespread concept of the King as shepherd, very few if any apart from David would have actually worked as a shepherd in real life before becoming a king for the most part this was an analogy: ‘As a shepherd protects and provides for the flock so to the king is charged with protecting and providing for his people.’ For centuries farmers would seed and pray to the Lord placing their trust in Him, so too would ranchers and shepherds in their work, David was no different. This is why David the anointed shepherd king of Israel writes that the Lord is his Shepherd. For David this picture of life was not simply an analogy, this was a necessity, this was reality; even as king he saw himself as one of the little lambs amidst the children of Israel whith God as his Shepherd. People undoubtedly looked to him as king for protection and provision but he himself did not consider himself a God or one above everything and everyone else. This is why David acknowledges that it’s the LORD who “makes [him] lie down in green pastures.” It's the LORD who “leads [him] beside still waters.” It's the LORD who “restores [his] soul.” He doesn’t do these things for himself.

Jesus in our Gospel Reading from the Gospel of Saint John says this about Himself, He says, “I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”[2] What does this all mean? It means that Lord and Shepherd of King David is none other than Jesus Christ. This means Jesus is your Good Shepherd too and you are His sheep. In fact Jesus is the Good Shepherd whether you believe in Him or not, but for those who do believe they can find comfort in the LORD.

King David knew that it was the LORD who was his Good Shepherd not because he grew up as a shepherd and figured it out, but rather because David was a man after God's own heart[3] and in Psalm 23, by the gift of faith, David was prophetically pointing to Jesus. This was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 23 David pointed to the one in whom a person can always truly put their trust, a protector and redeemer who will not let you down, a Shepherd who will guide you through the hardest times to bring you home to Him. One who will walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death to paradise. The person who believes in Jesus has this, and not just this, they also have these words of encouragement from Jesus, a promise from the one who keeps His promises: Jesus, a little past our Gospel Reading for today but from the same passage, says “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.”[4] This is why King David can write in Psalm 23 these words, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

When David says “goodness and mercy shall follow me” What does he mean? Jesus is the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the LORD and the Bible says that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” When David writes “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” he's saying that God will follow me all the days of my life. Jesus follows us, leads us, walks beside us, and carries us in the palm of His hand in the good times and in the bad times, in the happy times and in the times of trouble and all the while Jesus is bringing us to the day when we will “dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

As baptised children of God Jesus is your Good Shepherd. Now even as a Christian you may not think of Jesus every day but as your Good Shepherd Jesus is always thinking of you. It was His love for you that brought Him to walk through the valley of the shadow of death Himself carrying His cross. He struggled through the valley of the shadow of death to the place where they nailed Him to the cross and He died. So Jesus knowing that the cross is coming when He says “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”[5] The bad shepherd does not do this, of the bad shepherds of the world they care nothing for the sheep, they care only for themselves, when danger presents itself they run away to save their own life.

Now it’s one thing to be willing to die for the sheep, David was willing to bravely risk his life for his father’s sheep and later for the lives of the children of Israel David was likewise willing to bravely risk his life in the face of death, yet with Jesus there is something more. The Easter promise Jesus makes in our Gospel comes true on that first Easter Sunday, Jesus said, “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. This charge I have received from My Father.”[6] By His death on the cross we see that Jesus as the Good Shepherd did as He promised to do, He did not run away like a hired hand, He wasn’t in it for Himself, even though He was above us in His perfection He didn’t stay removed from us; He got his hands dirty, priced with nails, running with blood. And when like a bear or lion Death came threatening the sheep, seeking to eat us whole, desiring to claim our eternal souls, Jesus our Good Shepherd wrestled death to the ground, at the cross, and He died in your place, protecting you: Offering His life to save yours. And because Jesus your Good Shepherd didn’t stay dead neither will you.[7] This victory in the face of defeat is for you and for all Christians: Jesus victoriously snatched Eternal Life out of the broken jaws of death? The jaws of death are broken because while Death could swallow Jesus as one covered in your sin, death could not hold Him down in its belly because of Jesus’ personal sinlessness and innocence. Death and the Devil prowled around like a bear and a lion but their victory fell apart when it became clear that with the Good Shepherd Jesus they’d bitten off more than they could chew. Jesus’ victory as the Good Shepherd is now your victory. This is why we can sing as we did, “O little flock, fear not the foe Who madly seeks your overthrow; Dread not his rage and pow'r. And though your courage sometimes faints, His seeming triumph o'er God's saints Lasts but a little hour.”[8]  

When your life is falling apart and your days don’t feel victorious: Remember King David wrote Psalm 23 in the middle of his trouble, not after the trouble was past, but while he was in his trouble. He wrote it trusting in the LORD, knowing that God would follow through on His promises. Psalm 23 is a prayer prayed in a time of trouble. When you find yourself praying at your mother or father’s side while they are dying, when you find yourself praying at your grandparent’s side while they’re dying, when you find yourself praying at your husband or wife’s bedside while they are dying or tragically at your child’s side while they are dying who are you praying to? To God, to the LORD, you may not us the words Good Shepherd, but your prayers go to Jesus, your Good Shepherd, and in the middle of your trouble Jesus hears your prayers. He loves each and every one of His sheep and no one can snatch them out of His hand. I leave you with this short parable, its familiar you’ve heard it before. When you hear it remember that each of us are lost regardless of what the world thinks of us, whether we are kings or shepherd boys or anything in between, regardless of what we think of ourselves, regardless of our outward spiritual or religious life, we each need the Good Shepherd to rescue us.

From the Gospel of Saint Luke Chapter 15 we have these words: 

        “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So [Jesus, hearing their complaint about who He chooses to associate with, the complaint about who He sits down to eat with, tells] them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”[9] For His part Jesus the Good Shepherd was trying to get this across to the Pharisees and Scribes and to each and every one of us what He’d previously taught through the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;” Before the prophet Isaiah was inspired to write this David himself understood this by the grace of God as he wrote Psalm 23, he didn’t let his kingship cloud his eyes on this, Jesus would have you and me understand this too, and then He would have us understand the next part where Isaiah writes “and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”[10] Your iniquity was not laid on the shepherd King David, but on Jesus your Good Shepherd who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

So you can think of Psalm 23 as the same story that Jesus taught in parable only told from the point of view of the lost sheep who has been found and who is being lead back home by the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd who is Jesus the LORD. Psalm 23 then isn’t just a Psalm for King David in his trouble; it’s also a Psalm for you and for me in ours. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] 1 Samuel 17:36
[2] John 10:11
[3] Acts 13:22
[4] John 10:27-28
[5] John 10:11
[6] John 10:17–18
[7] 1 Corinthians 15
[8] "O Little Flock Fear Not the Foe” Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, 666
[9] Luke 15:1-7
[10] Isaiah 53:6

Photo Credit: montage of Jesus as Good Shepherd from rawpixel flanked by bust of king David colour tinted from rawpixel.