Summary: God promised his people a leader who would lead them faithfully, giving them a righteousness that would make them right before God.
Jeremiah 23: 1-6 Pentecost 9 Date: July 21/24
Slaughterhouses sometimes find it difficult to direct sheep marked for slaughter up the ramp to the place of their execution. They will mill about in confusion, desperately looking for someone to follow and show them the way home. To overcome the problem, some slaughter houses use what they call a "Judas-goat." This diabolical creature will mill about the sheep boldly and confidently until he has gained their trust. Then he will walk up the ramp to the place where the slaughter takes place. When the sheep are well on their way, this goat will turn a corner and quickly find a hidden door on the side of the ramp and push his way out, while the unsuspecting sheep keep going to their death.
Over the centuries, our world has seen its share of "Judas-goats." Some come in the form of national leaders like a Hitler or a Stalin. With their well polished speeches, they have led millions to follow godless philosophies and bloody and ruthless policies. Others come dressed in the robes of a preacher - like the not even close-to-reverend Jim Jones, who convinced hundreds of faithful followers to drink kool-aid laced with cyanide.
It is no different today than it was in Jeremiah’s day or in Jesus’ day. Political leaders cared little for right and wrong and did little to lead their people. Religious leaders didn’t teach people the truth about God and the plan of salvation. There always have been and always will be Judas-goats who look for sheep who are confused and ready to follow the first person who looks like they know where they are going.
Our gospel this morning says, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Jesus came to be our Shepherd. He came to be our King. We can follow him without fear.
Follow Jesus - Our Shepherd-King
I. he brings leadership to the leaderless
I have to confess that for years I don’t think I understood what it meant when we say that Jesus is our King. I could give the classic catechism answers. There is the kingdom of POWER. Jesus is the King of all and rules over the whole world for the benefit of his Church. There is the kingdom of GRACE. Jesus is OUR king because he rules in the hearts of those who believe in him with his Word. There is the kingdom of GLORY. Jesus rules from his throne in heaven and will someday gather all his people to himself in heaven and rule his heavenly kingdom for all eternity.
Then one day I was teaching a seventh grade child a make-up confirmation lesson. I was questioning him about what it means to say that Jesus is our King. "What does Jesus do as our king?" I was expecting something with the word "rule" in it. Instead, he said, "As my king, Jesus is watching over me." Suddenly lights began to go on in my head. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for shepherding a flock could also be translated to rule or govern when it was used in connection with a king or prince. A good king was not one who ruled his people for his own benefit. A good king was one who watched over his people and looked out for their benefit.
Isn’t that the reason David made such a good king? He grew up in the fields as a shepherd. He was not afraid to risk his life for his sheep - even if it meant a battle with a lion or a bear. When he became a king, David kept his shepherd’s heart. He cared for his people. He watched over his people. And this was not only in physical ways - like taking his army out to defeat the Philistines. It was also a spiritual ruling. He lovingly lead to the children of Israel to serve and worship the true God.
Again, it says in our gospel lesson for today: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Jesus was and is the Son of God. He was also David’s Son and had David’s heart - the heart of a shepherd. Because his people were being taught wrong by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus taught them the truth. Because they needed someone to rescue them from the hands of their enemies - from sin, death, and the power of Satan - Jesus gave up his life for his people. Yes, Jesus is my King. He is also my Shepherd. He is my Shepherd-King.