Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our theme for today is the Good Shepherd. In our text, Jesus clearly says, "I am the Good Shepherd." This statement had profound meaning for the disciples and others who heard it the first time. The culture of Israel was based on livestock. Like the figure of the cowboy in the culture of Venezuela, the figure of the shepherd was part of the national identity. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had their cows and sheep. In addition, the figures that pointed directly to the Messiah, the promised Savior, were shepherds.
God sent Moses to free the people from slavery in Egypt and with the help of God, Moses led the Israelites on their journey from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai and from Sinai to the Promised Land. Moses learned to run a large crowd in the desert as the shepherd of his father-in-law's sheep. And the Lord promised that the Messiah would be a prophet greater than Moses.
God sent the prophet Samuel to seek the next king of Israel among the sons of Jesse. Jesse had many handsome sons, and each one walked before Samuel in a sort of beauty pageant. But, the Spirit of God told Samuel that none should be king. Finally, Samuel asked Jese if he has other children. And Jesse replied that he had a boy in the field tending the sheep. Samuel anointed David as king. Then David overcame Goliath with the sling he used to protect the sheep from the wolves and bears. And the Lord promised that the Messiah would be a greater king than David.
The Messiah would have three roles: Prophet, King and Priest. The high priest in the Old Testament had the task of sacrificing a lamb to propitiate the sins of the people, and Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah will suffer like the lamb for the propitiation of the sins of the people. Then everyone understood what Jesus said when he said, "I am the Good Shepherd." The Good Shepherd was a title of the Messiah.
The shepherd guides the sheep on the safe path to the green pastures. As Jehovah says in our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 34: 11-16), "I will feed my sheep." The shepherd also protects the sheep against wolves and other predators. At that time, the shepherd relied on his sheep for his livelihood as the sheep depended on him, so the shepherd was ready to put his body between the sheep and danger. Jesus Christ does not depend on us as we depend on Him, yet He loves us. That is why He gave his life to protect us against the malice of the devil and the wrath of God.
How should we think of the hireling? "But the hireling, who is not the shepherd, whose sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters the sheep. So the hireling flees, because he is hired, and does not take care of the sheep. "
In our Lutheran churches, he who stands before the congregation to preach the Word and administer the sacraments is called the pastor, which is Latin for shepherd. Are we hirelings? In 1 Corinthians 9:14, St. Paul says thus: "Thus saith the Lord to them that preach the gospel, that they should live by the gospel." Which means, God ordained the pastor's office, and also commanded that the pastor should live by His preaching. The pastor called and ordained by the church and by Christ must dedicate himself to his duties full-time and the church must support him in his work.
On Good Friday, St. Peter denied our Lord three times. After the resurrection, to restore Peter to the apostleship, Jesus asked him three times, "Peter, do you love me?" Peter answered each time, "Lord, I love you." Jesus said to him, "If you love me, feed my sheep ".
We understand each Christian as a saint and priest of God. Every Christian can pray for others and offer praises and sacrifices of thanksgiving to God. However, not all are called to the public ministry. The Augsburg Confession, Article XIV, says that in our churches no one can preach the Word or administer the sacraments without a legitimate call.
In our churches, no one can preach by his own authority, but must be examined and approved by the church. In addition, he should dedicate all his time and his entire life to the ministry. The apostles received their calls directly from the Lord, but He gave the church the right and authority to call their successors.
When the Lord says, "The hireling, and not the shepherd, whose sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters the sheep. So the hireling flees, because he is hired, and does not take care of the sheep, " this is a warning to the called and ordained shepherds of the church. We have no authority over the congregation on our own account, but because Christ and the church have given us the authority to care for the sheep, not to rule over them. We must teach the teachings of Christ and nothing else. On the other hand, the congregation should receive the words of Christ from our mouths as from the mouth of Christ. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1: 10-31, it does not matter if the preacher is Paul, Peter or Apollos, the message is the Word of God.
In addition, we find in our text for today another form of the great commission of the church. In Matthew 28: 19-20, the Lord said to his disciples, "Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to keep all things Which I have commanded you. " Our text reads: "I also have other sheep that are not of this fold; They also should bring me, and they shall hear my voice; And there shall be one flock, and one shepherd. "
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the scattered sheep of Israel, that is, those outside the Promised Land. According to the new covenant in Christ, the Lord calls his sheep from all nations, as St. John says in the book of Revelation. The mission of the church is to gather the sheep of all nations into the flock of God until the final judgment. This is the meaning of this passage for us. Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd. We also give thanks for the gift of the shepherds called and ordained by Christ to care for their sheep. And by the Holy Spirit who guides and helps the church in its mission. In these things we have the peace that passes over all understanding. Amen.
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