Summary: On Easter Evening Jesus "opened the minds" of the disciples to see that He was fulfilling the O.T. prophecies. Ezekiel 34 is one of those passages.... Jesus is telling the Pharisees that He is the Lord. Some thoughts are from a sermon by John Piper

In Jesus Holy Name April 21, 2018

Text: John 10:11 Easter IV

“God Promised A Shepherd…… Himself”

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The Good news of Easter is not that Jesus lived and died but that “Jesus Died and Lives” and He will return again. (read the text)

On September 11, 2001, 343 firefighters and paramedics as well as 60 police officers from the NYPD and New York’s Port Authority were murdered when the World Trade Center Towers came down. Not one of those brave souls intended to give their lives trying to put out a fire or save a building. If those in authority had had any idea that those structures were going to collapse, they would have, without hesitation, ordered everybody out.

A fireman may die at a fire, but dying wasn’t part of his job description. Yes, a police officer may die in the line of duty, but that was never the intent. A lifeguard may be killed in a rescue operation but he doesn’t go out with the idea of giving up his life. People don’t die for a job.

When I read this wonderful passage, listening to the words of Jesus…. “I am the good shepherd… I know my sheep”. I wondered how I had overlooked one phrase. “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!” Jesus said it four times. No body dies for their job.

Is there anything which can make a lamb, no matter how cute it is, worth the life of a shepherd? The answer is: “Of course not.” Bowlers don’t die for their bowling balls. Golfers done die for their drivers. Painters don’t die for their brushes. Insurance salesmen don’t die for their accounts. Organist don’t die for their organs and shepherds should not die for their sheep. Yet, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does just that.

When our sons were in 4-H raised sheep for their projects. It was work getting 14 head of sheep ready for the fair. They had to be washed, then kept clean. They had to be trimmed….that worked out to about 3 to 4 hours per sheep. Just to make them look nice for the fair. Do you think the sheep were thankful? Sheep are not appreciative. Sheep are not going to give an award on “Shepherd’s Day.” Sheep may not even realize they have a shepherd on duty caring for them. Shepherd’s don’t die for their sheep.

Jesus said… I’m not a hired hand. When danger comes. When wolves threaten the flock…the hired hand runs away. No, I have come as the Good Shepherd. I am the gate. I willingly lay done my life for my sheep.

That’s what Jesus was born to do. Go with the shepherds of Bethlehem and look into His manger. You may see a cute and cuddly Child, but long ago Jesus’ job and His ending had been foretold by the prophets, written in the Psalms.

From His birth Jesus was the designated Good Shepherd. When Jesus walked the earth, most of the sheep He encountered didn’t thank Him. When He healed ten lepers, nine forgot to show any kind of appreciation. His Boyhood friends and neighbors didn’t give Him the keys to the city of Nazareth. They wanted to throw Him off a cliff.

The pillars of the religious community never gave the Savior applause or accolades for healing hundreds, or raising the little boy from the dead in the village of Nain. The best they could do was to call Him names and complain that he and His disciples failed to respect Jewish laws written in the Old Testament.

They refused to give Him a classroom in the temple and encourage Him to share the wisdom of God. If He challenged their own failures to keep the Old Testament laws…. They substituted man made rules and said they were just as important.

When Jesus came into the world to save his sheep from sin and death and judgment, he came with a commandment from his Father in heaven. The commandment was that he should die for sinners and rise again. And with the commandment came the authority to do it. "I have authority to lay down my life, and I have authority to take it up again."

This passage is based on God’s promise in Ezekiel 34. Remember last week in our Gospel lesson when Jesus “opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures. Remember how they pointed to His coming and His death on a cross and resurrection….. well Ezekiel 34 is one of those passages. (Read selected verses)

God Himself came as the Good Shepherd. What were the words God told Ezekiel to speak? “I the Sovereign Lord…. will judge the religious leaders because…. They had not strengthened the weak, healed the sick. They did not bring back the strays nor search for the lost. Jesus sought out Zacchaeus, the blind beggar, the Samaritan woman at the well. They ruled harshly. They were willing to stone the woman caught in adultery, but where was the guilty man?

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