Today is unofficially known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Right smack dab in the middle of the Easter season we break from the Easter Gospels and this text shows up. Jesus is proclaiming to be the Good Shepherd who looks out for His sheep at all costs.
It must not be an easy thing having all these sheep in His care. Sheep are not known to be the brightest creatures, and seem to have a mind of their own. Jesus talks quite a bit about being the shepherd of the sheep, the One who goes in search of the one sheep, leaving the 99 to fend for themselves while He brings the wayward sheep back to the fold.
I wonder if this is what it’s like for Jesus when we go off on our own without Him. (Video was played)
I couldn’t resist using this clip! It’s pretty popular on the internet, and it really fits in to our lesson’s theme today. I think it says something about Jesus and us as well!
We are known for going off on our own and then finding ourselves in a jamb, and calling out to Jesus for help. We are known for having a mind of our own, thinking we know what’s best, and not paying attention to Jesus. We’re known for letting the Old Adam take over and lead us into ditch after ditch.
It’s gotta be frustrating for Jesus.
But Jesus doesn’t give up on us. Time after time we go off and get stuck and He comes to rescue us, only to have it happen again. Or, we get caught-up in something and totally lose our way. Or someone or some group catches our eye and we go off totally forgetting our Lord and His guidance.
Isaiah says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (53:6) We have followed our own path, our own ideas of what we think we should be or what we should do, and we do not take time to consult with God or read His Word. And Jesus, the Good Shepherd, bears the burdens of our transgressions—our sin.
It’s not just our own sin that steers us away from Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The ways of the world, our broken self, or someone else’s issues can find their way into our lives, and cause hurt and pain. Sickness, mental health concerns, chronic pain, grief, losses of one kind or another can all come between us and the Lord.
The text from 1 John 3 today really draws upon this and shows us a way to find healing and relief from what we are struggling with. John calls us to bring our issues to God, and “whenever our hearts condemn us” we can know that God’s Holy Spirit is actively working within us to bring us to repent and change our ways. And, in loving and caring for one another, bearing one another’s burdens with them, showing them how to bring those cares to the Lord, we love as Christ loves us.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the only one who is able to give us new life. Jesus is the One who sees the wolf coming and stays with us, never abandoning us or letting us fall into the hands of the Evil One. The sentence, “I know my own and my own know me” reassures us that in all things Jesus never loses track of us. He knows us inside and outside; He is aware of our sins; He knows our hearts; and He loves us more than we can ever imagine. Jesus calls us His own; He makes us His children in baptism and creates a bond that is not broken. There is no ‘cancel culture’ with Jesus. He knows all about us, yet Jesus loves and forgives us over and over. He calls us His own and never lets go of us—even when we wander away from Him and get caught in our own trenches or those that others have created for us.
We can face the struggles that are happening all around us on so many different fronts knowing that when we take the time to open ourselves up to the Word of God, the Good Shepherd is leading us, informing us, and loving us. We can have the courage to act in love for others as 1 John calls us to do.
Having the text of the Good Shepherd squarely in the Easter Season reminds us of Jesus’ love for us. It also reminds us of the power of God at work among us. Jesus willingly laid down His life for us, it was not a surrender without victory. Jesus’ death was all a part of God’s plan of salvation for humanity, and the only defeat suffered was on the part of the devil. The power of God defeated the devil and the power of evil through the cross and as Jesus was raised from death, New Life has broken in upon all Creation. Because of the faithfulness of the Good Shepherd in laying down His life, and because of the power of God in raising Jesus to Life, we too shall live. We live as Easter people and death no longer has the last word. There is New Life among us transforming us and giving us the strength to go on despite all the strife and turmoil in the world. We have hope in the face of death because of Jesus Christ and His willingness to give His life for us. We can rely on His strength when we are faced with illness, tragedy, and death because Jesus is faithful. We can live as people of hope, bringing hope and comfort to others, and finding that hope ourselves in our struggles.
Peter boldly pronounced to the Jewish rulers who questioned him about the healing of a sick man, that there is salvation in no one other than Jesus Christ. He proclaimed that “there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” than the name of Jesus Christ. His death was not surrender to the forces of evil, or a succumbing to worldly powers, His death was for us and for our salvation.
Jesus’ death was victory and His resurrection is life for all who believe and follow the One who calls Himself our Good Shepherd.