Summary: In what way the Good Shepherd knows His sheep.
I KNOW MY SHEEP
I preached this @:
o Arbor House 04/25/04
Occasion: Easter II
John 10:11-16: I am the Good Shepherd.
I Pet 2:19-25: Christ, our example.
C.S. Lewis, perhaps the greatest Anglican of our time, described his father in his autobiography, "Suprised by Joy", by saying that on the whole, he had fairly reasonable ideas when he initially thought of something. Then after he had wrestled w/it in his mind, working hard to resolve all the problems that might arise, and considering all the alternatives, he almost invariably decided on the worst solution. In many ways this is the story of us all. It is for me. When we come to the subject of God, what He requires, and what we can do, we almost always get it backwards.
In today’s readings we hear two major themes: Christ our shepherd and Christ our sacrifice. This is reinforced in our collect:
Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life, etc.
Consider first Christ our shepherd or example. Our Lord spoke to many different groups when He was here on earth in the flesh. As a kind of early WWJD one particular group which He addressed took this concept of living righteously very seriously. They disciplined their bodies so that their passions would not rule them, they gave to the poor, they diligently read the Scriptures, and so on. Who could find fault with this? He also addressed another group, those which lived an immoral lifestyle, stole from each other, and were not diligent to keep the commandments. Of these two, which do you think would find Jesus’ favor and more likely to end up in heaven? Jesus addressed the first group, the one that kept the commandments and said:
Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him. (Mat 21:31-32)
The first group that I mentioned earlier, the holy group, were the Pharisees, while the second were the harlots and theives. Just like C.S. Lewis’ father we hear about these two groups and get it backwards. We think those that strive to follow the righteous example are the the ones that Jesus accepts, while the "sinners" are those that He rejects. Yet this is not the case. How can this be?
Well, obviously, following Jesus’s example is not wrong. He commands us to do it, as in the passage in I Pet that we read this morning. However, neither is it primary. Everyone who thinks it is has gotten it backwards. Just like the Pharisees, we can follow His example of conduct with our greatest diligence and not come one whit closer to heaven. What is necessary then? What can we do? In a word, nothing. Is there no hope for us? No, there is hope.
This hope, this great assurance, is found in our Gospel passage today. Listen to what Jesus says:
I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep (John 10:14-15).
What command is given us here? None. Who does all the work? Jesus. What does He do? Lays down His life for His sheep. Listen closely people: what is there left for us to do? Nothing! His death isn’t this great bank account that we can tap into if only we will. What use is money to a dead man? His death is not a medicine that revives us from our sick bed if only we will take it. It’s too late. We’ve already passed from sickness to death. No, Christ’s death actually accomplished our salvation. He knows His sheep. When were you saved? Not when you made a decision, not even when you were baptized. If you trust Christ, then you were saved almost 2,000 years ago on a small hill outside a town on the edge of an empire. His death satisfied God’s wrath against you. How can we say this? Because Jesus knows His sheep; He died for them. And who are they. Listen to whom Jesus died for:
Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Luke 5:31-32)
So I was wrong earlier when I told you there was nothing you have to do to receive God’s favor. There is something - you must sin. Jesus came not for the righteous, but sinners. To each of His sheep for whom He died he gives the gift of faith to trust Him. It is thru faith, and faith alone, that the benefits of His death become ours. When Jesus is describing the two groups, there is only one thing that the thieves and harlots have that the Pharisees do not. And that one thing makes all the difference. Jesus said: