Miscericordias Domini
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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
April 22, 2012
Central Passage
John 10:11-15
Description
+ John 10:11-16 +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

We all know people who are fun to be around when things are going well.  When things are going well they have good and kind things to say.  They’re enthusiastic about life and what’s happening.  When things are going well they’re all smiles and handshakes.  But when things begin to go poorly these fair-weather friends bag out. When the going gets tough fair-weather friends get going.  Then they have nothing but complaints and aches.  They know nothing but how you’ve messed everything up and how others caused this to happen. They, of course, never do anything wrong.  They’re always the victim.

Moses knew people like that.  The entire company of Israel, in fact.  When things were going well and their enemies were fleeing from before them and water was gushing from the rock and manna and quail were fresh and abundant, the Israelites were all smiles and atta-boys for their shepherd, Moses.  But when things went wrong, when Pharaoh began to pursue them, when the desert’s heat proved too much for them, when they’d had nothing but manna and quail for 40 years, when life was hard and burdensome, when God appeared in the darkness of fire and thick smoke, then they gripped and complained.  Then they let Moses know – their God-appointed shepherd and care-taker – what they really thought of him and his God.  When they thought hell was breaking out, then they staged rebellions and revolts.  When Moses’ plans and ideas seemed to be working, the Israelite went right along with him. But when Moses’ plans and ideas became difficult or costly, then the people questioned his authority and rebelled.  The sheep turned on the shepherd and they paid for it dearly with their lives.

But that’s what happens when sheep don’t follow the shepherd.  They rebel and go off in the wrong direction.  They head for cliffs and get stuck on high rocks and die of exposure. Or else they fall into a deep crevasse and ravine and die there, unable to get themselves out.   They go hungry for want of pasture.  They die of thirst because sheep cannot sniff out water.  They must be shepherded lest they go astray.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He leads you His sheep.  He leads you to safe pasture and to quite waters.  He guides you through this valley of the shadow of death that you would fear no evil.  For only the shadow of death remains; the substance belongs to Christ who conquered death.  The Good Shepherd leads His flock and His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

Every Christian knows this.  Every Sunday school child – provided they actually go to Sunday school – can tell you who the Good Shepherd is; and if shown a picture of a man with a lamb on His shoulders, the children can tell you that this man is Jesus and that we are His little lambs.  Every Christian knows that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

But not everyone hears His voice and follows Him.  Like the Israelites to Moses, many would-be sheep listen to false voices and wander off when the Shepherd of their souls would lead them down difficult and seemingly dangerous and costly paths.  And when the wolf comes to kill, steal, and destroy, the hired hands are of no help and the sheep are slaughtered.

But who are the hired hands of whom Jesus speaks? And who hired them? Are they pastors?  Yes, to be sure, some pastors are hired hands.  But the hired hands aren’t so much a “who” than they are a “what”.  The hired hands are any who lead the sheep away from the narrow path of life.

Pastors who are hired hands are people-pleasers.  They find it more expedient to listen to the sheep rather than to the Good Shepherd.  Pastors who are hired hands think they are shepherding when they do what the sheep want without considering the costs.  They are like fathers who buy whatever their children want without caution. Eventually they are out of money and their children are spoiled rotten and good for nothing. But the father who cares for his children does what is best for them even when they think he is being mean and difficult and even unloving.

People-pleasing pastors quickly learn that you can lead a lot more sheep, a whole lot more sheep, if they but go down the broad path where a lot more sheep can fit.  But the faithful pastor – a Latin word meaning “shepherd” or “one who feeds” – knows that it is better to follow the narrow path that leads to life than the broad path that leads to destruction, even if it means his flock is smaller.

But unfortunate pastors aren’t the only hired hands.  From time to time, and far more often than we’d like to admit, we are all hired hands whose guidance and words are of no value when the wolf comes to devour.  Such as parents that refuse to teach their children the way of the Lord but let them run hither and yon, following the passions of this life. They are hired hands. And when the wolf comes for their children – and he will come for them – their children are like lambs to the slaughter.  So, too, are useless Christians who do not care to learn how to discern good and evil, right and wrong according the law of God, but are content simply to keep worldly peace.  Rather than preach repentance and faith they preach good works so as not to offend anyone that might come to their church.  They convince their hearers that God is little more than an old grandfatherly guru of spirituality rather than an all consuming fire.  They’re hired hands, too.  And when the wolf comes their peace is useless because it is not God’s peace but the world’s.

But so is the Christian who talks a lot about the love and mercy of God, but never turns to warn a brother who is sinning but lets his brother keep on sinning a hired hand. Again, they are more interested in having friends in this life than storing up treasures in the life to come. They forget that the kindness of God, the love of God, is meant to bring them to repentance.  Even the food on your plate is meant to bring you to repentance, to acknowledge God and give thanks to Him.

The hired hands aren’t any specific group of people.  But just as the Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, just as He is the way, the truth, and the life, so a hired hand is the wrong way, a lie, and leads to death.

None of the Israelites that rebelled against Moses, the Lord’s anointed, and taught others to do the same, thought that they were rebelling.  None of them thought that they were in the wrong.  They all thought they were doing the right thing.  They all thought they were standing up for themselves and for others.  They were simply demanding to be cared for.  That is, after all, why God sends His shepherds, isn’t it?  But they were not demanding to be cared for according to God’s way but according to what they thought best.  But the kingdom of heaven isn’t about rights and privileges. It’s not about being fair and just in the eyes of men.  It’s not about being popular or having a lot of friends.  The kingdom of heaven is about listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.

So what does the Good Shepherd say?  He says that He came to lay down His life for you.  He came to give you life by His death and to lead you to eternal life by His resurrection from the dead.  He says He came to give you abundant life, life without end. By this word of promise that just as He is risen from the dead, so shall you be raised from the dead, and that just as He is the beloved Son of God, so shall you be called the sons of God, by this word He leads you through this valley of the shadow of death.

And you shall fear no evil, for it is He that leads you.  Where He leads you may not want to go. It may look like the desert where there is no water and no food; where your enemies are plenty and your defense seems wafer thin and the hired hands are whispering terror on every side.  But your Good Shepherd leads you.  The overseer of your soul is out in front.  He is forging the path and making straight the ways of God.  He is the leader on the narrow way.  Hear His voice, O sheep, for He calls you to feed on His flesh and to drink from the river of life that flows from His side.  Hear His voice, O sheep, He will not lead you astray but will guide you in the way of life, in the way of truth, in the way of true peace.

You will find rest for your soul in His righteousness and find respite in His absolution.

In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +