Good Shepherd Sunday May 5, 2019
210, 628, WS 783 (alt. 648), 51
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)
Dear fellow sheep of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, dear friends in Christ,
“Are you in good hands?” Ever heard that commercial before? Since 1950, the insurance company of Allstate has had as their slogan, “You’re in good hands with ALLSTATE.” It has stuck around for 66 years because it is so simple to understand. This insurance company wants you to know that if you have their coverage, you’ll be protected and taken care of if disaster should strike—whether that be a car accident, a house fire, a flood, or tornado—“You’re in good hands.”
From early on in life, we like to know that we are in good hands. As toddlers we would grab onto the firm hands of our parents as we took our first steps or picking us up when we fell. When we dropped our kids off at school, we wanted to know that they were in good hands. When we went to the doctor, we wanted to know that we or our loved ones were in good hands.
What better hands are there to be in than the hands that made you, the hands that formed the sea and dry land, the hands that healed the sick and raised the dead. In our sermon text for this morning, we learn that we are in the best of hands with the Good Shepherd. In John 10 we learn of the good hands chose you, lead you, and keep you. Hear now the comforting words from the Good Shepherd section of John’s gospel, John, chapter 10, verses 22 through 30—
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
So far the Word of God.
As our text begins it is winter time in Palestine. The hostility against Jesus is reaching a peak and the cross is only a few months away. At the time of our text, the Jews are celebrating the “Feast of Dedication,” or as it is more commonly known today as “Hanukkah.” This festival was a celebration of the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC after the Greeks had defiled the temple and offered pigs on the altar. Though not required, Jesus, the light of the world, was at the Temple for this “festival of lights.”
While walking among the great columns of the temple, He was confronted by a group of Jews. “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works (or miracles) that I do in My Father’s name bear witness (or testify) about Me, but you do not believe, because you are not part of My flock.” Jesus didn’t hide who He was. He had plainly told them that He was the promised Messiah, but they didn’t listen to His words. The many well-known miracles that He had done proved that He was from God, but that wasn’t good enough for them. It wasn’t good enough because they were not members of His flock—they were not His sheep. No matter what He said, no matter how great the miracle, they refused to believe in Him.
“My sheep,” Jesus says, “hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Lambs and sheep are known to trust only the voice of their shepherd. If a stranger calls out to them, a voice they do not recognize, they will not follow it. So it is with the Good Shepherd and His sheep, the believers. They listen to His voice and follow Him.
That’s you! You who listen to Jesus’ word and follow Jesus. You are His sheep! And you are His sheep not because of your decision or your choice, but because of God’s grace—His undeserved love for you.
In verse 29, Jesus says that His sheep were GIVEN to Him. These words take us back in history. Back to before the “in the beginning” of Genesis 1:1. Back before “let there be light.” In eternity, Almighty God looked ahead in history, and chose you to be a sheep of Jesus. You did not reach up to God and grab onto Him, He reached out to you and took hold of you. The Good Shepherd says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you.” (John 15:16)
Paul writes of this to the Ephesians—“(God the Father) chose us in (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5) The reason you follow the voice of Jesus as your Good Shepherd is because God chose you and predestined you to be a sheep of Jesus. It wasn’t your worthiness or a particular quality of yours. Rather, He chose you according to the good pleasure of His will. He chose you out of His grace—His undeserved love for you. His loving hands reached ahead in eternity and took hold of you! The only reason you are a believer in Jesus Christ today is because the hands of the Good Shepherd took a hold of you!
Do you ever feel like no one really knows you or understands you? That nobody really gets your deep-down struggles and needs. Or maybe there are times you don’t even know your deep down needs. What does the Good Shepherd say? “My sheep hear My voice and I KNOW THEM and they follow Me.” The Good Shepherd that chose you, says that knows you. And this knowing isn’t some vague knowledge about you that you just exist. It is a personal, intimate knowledge. He gets you. He understands you, maybe even better than you understand yourself. He “knows my need, and well provides me, loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name!” You are in good hands with the Good Shepherd that chose you!
Little children needs the guiding hands of their parents because they don’t know where they are going. My daughter has been going to kindergarten classes for almost a year now, but she still likes to be taken by the hand and lead to where she needs to go.
The hand of the Good Shepherd is leading you too! Listen again to these amazing words of comfort in verses 26 and 27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” As we follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, where is He leading us? To eternal life!
In Psalm 23, the shepherd-king, King David, talks about the Good Shepherd taking him by the hand and leading him. In this world of tumultuous waters and instability, the Good Shepherd takes you by the hand and leads us to “still waters.” Because we are sheep that like to wander onto the wrong path, the Good Shepherd takes us by the hand and leads us “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The Good Shepherd leads us on the RIGHT path. And even though the shadows of death are all around us, with the Good Shepherd leading us we need not fear, for He is with us. As the Good Shepherd leads us, “goodness and mercy shall follow me (literally “pursue me”) all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
But as the Good Shepherd takes us by the hand to lead us to everlasting life, we notice that there are nail holes in those hands. Nail holes that remind us of two things. They remind us that in order for us to have eternal life and not perish, it cost our Good Shepherd dearly. He had to perish that we might have life! Those nail holes in our Shepherd’s hands remind us of the cost AND of His love for us, because He laid down His life willingly—in order to save His flock.
Even though we may be passing through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear—for our Good Shepherd has passed through this valley before. He emerged alive on the other side of this dark valley. The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, took it up again. And now He takes us by the hand to lead us through this dark valley, to eternal life in heaven. You are in good hands!
Do you ever wish you had a better grip? In our youth our hands were not that strong. In our old age, we have trouble holding onto things like we used to. Maybe we have trouble opening jars. Maybe arthritis has weakened your hands. It seems that everything we try to hold on to we usually end up losing, no matter how hard we try to hold onto it. And what could be more precious to the sheep than to hold onto their Good Shepherd as they follow Him to heaven. Yet we are so weak. One day we feel like we are on fire for Jesus and the next day we feel like we are a million miles away from Him. Our grip on the Lord feels so weak.
Well, listen again to what your Good Shepherd says to you. He says it’s not about YOUR grip on HIM, it’s about HIS grip on you! “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” You are in good hands! Hands that were pierced with nails to save you from your own sin. Do you think those hands that loved you that much are just going to let go? NO! NO ONE can snatch you or pluck you out of Jesus’ hands! And if you needed further reassurance that no one can steal you from Jesus’ flock, Jesus says that the Father, who is greater than all, has you in His hands and NO ONE can pry loose His grip on you!
Paul knew how secure the hands of the Good Shepherd and the Father are. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39) What comfort! What re-assurance for the trembling and timid lambs of the Lord! You are in good hands! The good hands of the Good Shepherd will keep you!
Recent Allstate Insurance commercials ask the question, “Are you in good hands?” Next time you hear that commercial, think of whose hands you are in. You are in the hands of the Marker of the heavens and the earth. You are in the hands of the Redeemer whose holy hands were pierced with nails to save you. You are in the hands of the Good Shepherd who lives to guide you to living fountains of water in heaven! His hands chose you. His hands take you and lead you to heaven. And until you pass all the way through the valley of the shadow of death, He will keep you! Praise be to our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.