Summary: While the primary purpose of the Good Shepherd/Sheep image in Scripture is our comfort and peace, people might think that’s dull. But there’s excitement in being Jesus’ sheep!
May 2, 2004 — Fourth Sunday of Easter / Good Shepherd Sunday
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
Sheep Thrills: The Exciting Life of Jesus’ Little Lambs
I. False Concepts
II. Where the Real Excitement Is
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The Word of God for our study this Sunday is found in John 10:22-30, as printed in your bulletin & already read:
[ Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one." (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord. ]
Dear Fellow Members of our Good Shepherd’s Flock:
Well, between the psalm and our two hymns so far this morning, it shouldn’t be too hard if I ask you to picture in your minds the perfect pastoral scene — green pastures, a babbling brook, sheep grazing, lambs prancing in the sunlight, and a happy shepherd keeping a watchful eye over the entire scene. Got it? Add some classical music if that helps. OK.
That picture is an attractive one for those of us who are stressed out, overworked, or even just itching to get outside more, but it’s especially appealing for those who are fearful, or worried, or who feel that their lives are spinning out of control. And that is exactly what God had in mind with the words and images he gave us in John 10 and the 23rd Psalm and everywhere else in the Bible where he describes the Lord as our Good Shepherd and we believers as his sheep. These ideas of comfort and peace are what we most associate with the image of the Shepherd and his flock — and if that’s the only message your heart and mind and spirit need this morning, please hold on to it.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. As attractive — and true and biblical — as that perfect and peaceful pastoral picture is and is meant to be, for many people it’s not enough. Sure, it’s good for maybe a short little break from the daily grind — a place to retreat to, to recharge, maybe — but beyond that they try to imagine themselves as the sheep in that picture and they think, “BOORRINGG! What’s there to do, but sit around and eat grass?” And you have to admit, even if you’d never think of it as boring, you’d have to consider it at least “uninteresting” or “unchallenging”, if that’s all there is to the life of a Christian.
But of course that’s not all there is. Quite the opposite, in fact — life as Jesus’ little lambs is full of incredible excitement if you’re ready for it and looking for it. Live your life as one of Christ’s followers and you can’t help but know plenty of “sheep thrills.”
I. Now that’s going to be news to a lot of people, even some Christians. There are some false concepts floating around about what it means to be a sheep. Some people think that all the fun stops when you become a Christian — or at least try to live like one. And looking at some Christians — even as they worship their Lord — you might even think that being a part of Christ’s flock is a very unhappy state to find oneself in — their faces pucker up as though the quiet streams they are led to are full of vinegar, and from their posture and attitude you’d think their Shepherd makes them lie down in a brier patch.
And, of course, there are plenty of people who think that Christianity is basically just like all the other religions in the world: nothing but another set of rules to live by — and a particularly restrictive set of rules at that. Following Jesus, they think, is all about obedience and doing one’s duty, and so happiness and enthusiasm really have nothing to do with anything. The Shepherds’ rod and staff are there to threaten the sheep, and those who don’t follow closely enough will be abandoned to the valley of the shadow of death. It’s truly sad how mistaken some people are about what the Christian life is all about.